Claremont, Calif. (April 27, 2022)—Pitzer College students Angel Barraza-Estrada ’24, Emily Kim ’24, and Alé Rodriguez ’24 have been selected for the 2022 Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) Program. The MMUF program is the centerpiece of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s initiatives to increase diversity in the ranks of institutions of higher learning.
With support from the Claremont Colleges MMUF program, Barraza-Estrada, Kim, and Rodriguez plan to undertake a wide variety of research projects:
Angel Barraza-Estrada ’24, a sociology major, plans to study the academic writing of first-generation low-income bilingual Latine students in high school and college and how the disruption in their bilingual development affects their English writing. “The structured English system not only serves as a way to push out bilingual Latine students but also prevents them from accepting their own identities, accepting their full language repertoires, and limits their capabilities as writers,” says Barraza-Estrada. He is a first-generation student from Pomona, CA, where, according to Barraza-Estrada, a majority of students are Latine and low-income, and many are learning English as a second language. He plans to interview students and teachers about bilingual education and will create workshops to encourage students to interact with both languages, especially in their writing. Barraza-Estrada intends to eventually get his doctorate in sociology. “Because of my experiences and the community that I grew up in, I’m able to provide a different perspective to this field,” says Barraza-Estrada.
Emily Kim ’24, who intends to major in critical global studies and minor in data science, plans to research the voting motivations of college students of color in Texas and California. Kim, who is from Texas, is fascinated by the historically high voter turnout for the 2020 US presidential election, especially among college students. According to Kim, Texas and California have large populations of color, and their political climates are very different. “I’m looking at what brings people to the polls and why,” says Kim. “Since I will be doing this research for 2022, it’s also a good reminder to not forget to vote.” Since Kim and her research adviser are from Texas, they already have many connections to college students in Texas for the project. Kim does not yet know what she will get her doctorate in, but she is currently interested in geography and population studies.
Alé Rodriguez ’24, a sociology major, will study how medical disparities travel starting from the classroom and ending at the clinic. Rodriguez also hopes to understand how those disparities disrupt self-perceptions of health among marginalized communities, particularly Black and Indigenous people. Rodriguez has a passion to “build a home for future Native students,” including the Native Indigenous Student Union at Pitzer. Rodriguez considers the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship a way to develop their own perception of research and what is considered knowledge beyond publishing papers or books. “I don’t like to make a PhD the end-all be-all of Mellon Mays because it is about a lot more than that,” says Rodriguez. “Being able to assert and reclaim space that was historically used to further marginalize and cause the assimilation of people like myself is important to me. As someone who is positioned in society the way that I am, it needs to be known that everything I’m able to produce and touch—that is decolonial work. I plan on continuing to develop an ancestral path for everyone who is going to be coming after me and for those who I haven’t met yet.”
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program was established in 1988. MMUF fellows are selected for their demonstrated academic ability and their aspirations to pursue a doctoral degree in humanities and select social and physical sciences. The program continues to support fellows during their graduate and postdoctoral careers through grants, close mentoring, and training. The name of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship honors Benjamin Elijah Mays, former president of Morehouse College and mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Claremont Colleges became members of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowships program in 2015 and received a $1 million grant to implement measures designed to create a more diverse faculty for America’s colleges and universities. The Claremont Colleges MMUF program selects a new cohort of 10 sophomores each spring for an annual cohort size of 20 juniors and seniors from across The Claremont Colleges.
At Pitzer, Shelva Paulse, assistant dean of faculty for academic affairs, has served on the MMUF Steering Committee since the 2017–18 academic year. Assistant Professor of Sociology Jessica Kizer served as the 2021–22 MMUF faculty representative, a role that rotates every year.