Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies
Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies


University of Texas Mellon Mays Faculty Director

Dr. Jacqueline Toribio

Dr. Almeida Jacqueline Toribio (Cornell University PhD, 1993) is Professor of Linguistics in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, with affiliations in African and African Diaspora Studies, the Center for Mexican American Studies, and the Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies. Her areas of research include language contact, bilingualism, sociolinguistics, raciolinguistics, and Afro-Caribbean and U.S. Latino studies. She has served as faculty director of the UT Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program since 2017.

Current University of Texas Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows


Brynna Boyd (she/her) is a senior majoring in Communication & Leadership, African & African Diaspora Studies, and Plan II, with a minor in English. Prompted by firsthand insights and observations, her research interests include the experiences of historically underrepresented students and the formation of protest movements in various spaces. Under the guidance of Dr. Minette Drumwright, she plans to explore these issues and how they are influenced or perhaps amplified by national movements, through analyzing the communication structures of student organizations and university entities in relation to the Black Lives Matter Movement. She intends to continue devoting her time and research toward pursuing educational equity and understanding the most effective and meaningful avenues for social change.


Victoria Canales (she/her) is a Psychology and Plan II Honors double major. Determined to blend these two passions and create meaningful social work, her research interests include mental illness and substance abuse rates among musicians, and DIY and indie music cultures, specifically within disenfranchised groups, throughout modern history. Under the mentorship of Dr. John Morán González, she hopes to develop resources and strategies for targeting mental illness in musicians and help cultivate local music scenes, especially in her hometown of Laredo, TX. She plans to pursue graduate degrees in musicology.


Lesly Chávez (she/her) is pursuing a Sociology major alongside a certificate in Applied Statistical Modeling and Children & Society. Inspired by firsthand experiences, her research interests include educational policy and sociology of education, more particularly, its impact on minority youths. Under the mentorship of Dr. Angela Valenzuela, Lesly plans to examine the impact of educational policies on migrant and indigenous students using qualitative and quantitative data. In the future, she intends to attain a PhD in Sociology and devote her efforts to widening educational opportunities for marginalized children.

Luisana Cortez

Luisana Cortez (she/her) was born in the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas and raised in its sister city of Piedras Negras, Coahuila. Heavily influenced by her transnational experiences, Luisana is interested in the necropolitics of the US-Mexico border and how such gendered and racial violence arouses poetic creativity in its inhabitants. Under the guidance of Dr. Chad Bennett, Luisana is examining contemporary (1980-present) Latinx poetry and its portrayal of the death(s) of the body, soul, land, collective identities, and beyond. She is pursuing a degree in English and Plan II, with a minor in Mexican-American and Latina/o/x Studies and a certificate in Creative Writing. 


Claire Harper is a third-year Sociology, English, and Neuroscience triple major who participates in the Polymathic Scholars Honors Program. Her research interests include the minority stress model, the relationship between minority status and the pathology of mental disorders, intersectionality, and the sociolinguistics of minority dialects. Under the mentorship of Dr. Stephen Russell, Claire intends to analyze the intersectional social determinants of mental health in individuals that hold multiple marginalized identities. Claire intends to pursue joint PhD programs in Sociology and Public Policy, which will enable her to continue exploring her research interests while influencing legislation that affects marginalized communities.

Aisha Mahama-Rodríguez

Aisha Mahama-Rodríguez (she/her) is a Government and English major pursuing minors in French Studies and Political Communications. Her research interests include racial capitalism and the U.S. carceral system. Under mentorship from Dr. Peniel Joseph, Aisha is analyzing how the criminalization of poverty and minorities is perpetuated by the socio-legal aspects of the United States carceral system. Aisha plans to pursue a joint J.D. & PhD program that will allow her to further research the socio-legal mechanisms of carceral systems while simultaneously working against these systems.

Sebastián Mancha

Sebastián Mancha (he/him) is completing majors in Linguistics and Iberian and Latin American Languages and Cultures. His interests range from the areas of formal syntax to Tejano culture and colonial/post-colonial history,  all of which inform his current study on vestigial Spanishes of the southwestern United States. Under the mentorship of Dr. Sandro Sessarego, he plans to conduct sociolinguistic interviews in West Texas to document and analyze the language of communities that have little representation in the academic literature. He aims to consolidate his findings on the Spanishes of the Southwest within the larger field of Spanish dialectology. Sebastián intends to pursue a PhD in Linguistics, with aspirations to contribute to research in theoretical frameworks in syntax and morphology.

Luis Roa Santoyo

Luis Roa Santoyo was born in Irapuato, Guanajuato and raised in Arlington, Texas. At the University of Texas, Luis is completing three majors— Plan II, Mexican American & Latina/o Studies, and Race, Indigeneity & Migration—alongside a certificate in Social Inequality, Health & Policy.  His firsthand experience with community care and healing in Mexico and the U.S. has nurtured his interest in medical structures in uninsured immigrant communities. Under the guidance of Dr. John Morán González, Luis is studying informal medical practices within and across physical spaces. Luis hopes to pursue a PhD program in the Medical Humanities. 


Elyssa Sefiane (she/her) is a second-year Liberal Arts Honors student pursuing majors in Middle Eastern Studies and Religious Studies and a minor in Arabic. Influenced by the anthropological, religious, and historical implications of what it means to be North African, her interests include the Amazighist movement’s effect on the recognition of pre-Arab, pre-Islamic indigeneity in Tamazgha (North Africa) and the impact of taʻrīb (Arabization) and European colonization on the religious practices of North African communities. Under the mentorship of Dr. Benjamin Claude Brower, she plans to study religious syncretism in Tamazgha as an expression and extension of both decolonization and Amazigh resistance to taʻrīb. In the future, Elyssa aims to earn a doctoral degree in Middle Eastern Studies in order to contribute to redressing the discipline’s stark lack of focus on North Africa and non-Arab ethnic groups within the MENA region.


Dalia Vazquez (she/her/hers) is a Dallas, Texas native pursuing a Major in Geography and a minor in Informatics. Growing up, she witnessed first-hand the unmet needs and paucity of resources in her low-income community. These experiences have guided her to engage in research focusing on minority communities that are affected by climate change and the lack of sustainable resources near them. She is interested in understanding the attitudes and initiatives that young and elder members of minority communities are embracing in response to such situations. Working in partnership with Dr. Paul Adams, Dalia will analyze the intergenerational communication in the Hispanic communities in central Texas on the topic of climate change and sustainable resources.  Dalia aspires to further continue her education and pursue a PhD in Human Geography with a focus in Mexican American Studies with the intention to better understand the necessities of historically marginalized communities combating environmental racism.