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

Brynna Boyd (she/her) is a third-year student pursuing majors in Communication & Leadership as well as Plan II Honors with a Minor in Educational Psychology. Prompted by firsthand insights and observations, her research interests include the experiences of historically underrepresented students in relation to cultural taxation, overall wellbeing, and academic success. 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. She intends to continue devoting her time and research toward pursuing educational equity. 

Libby Carr

Libby Carr is a Plan II Honors and Theatre & Dance (Playwriting/Directing Emphasis) double major with a minor in Women's and Gender Studies. Mentored by Dr. Lisa Moore, their research focuses on theatre and dance adaptation of literary texts. Using the work of Augusto Boal and Paulo Freire to argue that all theatre is necessarily political, Libby's work explores ways to mitigate barriers to representation in theatre for marginalized identities. Libby intends to pursue a PhD in Performance Studies, where they hope their research will inform the heteronormative and binary nature of both theatre and academia.

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. Lilia Rosas, 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. 

Zaria El-Fil

Zaria El-Fil is a Psychology, African & African Diaspora Studies, and Humanities Honors triple major with a minor in History. Under the guidance of Dr. Daina Ramey Berry, Zaria is analyzing the biometric technologies of surveillance that documented black mobility in all facets of plantation life in the port city of Galveston, Texas (1700s-1800s). Her work places the experiences of enslaved women at the forefront in order to acknowledge the symbolic violence, social injury, and forms of cultural domination and oppression that have reduced enslaved women to asterisks in the telling of history. Consistent with her commitment to becoming a public historian, she lends her talents to dramaturgical work, historical exhibitions, and curriculum building throughout Austin, Texas. At the graduate level, she hopes to earn a doctoral degree in History and continue her quest to love and care for the experiences of enslaved women.

Demorick Green

Demorick Green Sr. majors in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures. As a Mellon Mays Fellow, under the instruction of Dr. Jonathan Kaplan, Demorick is researching the migration patterns of people from the Kingdom of Israel after the 8th century B.C.E Assyrian Invasion. He plans to enroll in a graduate program in Archaeology. His main interests explore Ancient Israel's 8th century B.C.E and relations between people from the regions of Palestine to Egypt and throughout wider regions of Africa.

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.

Orlando Ochoa

Orlando Ochoa, Jr. (they/them) was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. They are a fourth-year African & African Diaspora Studies and Women’s & Gender Studies candidate. Orlando is broadly interested in critical theory, anti-colonial thought, poetics, cultural geographies, time, and questions and elaborations of what it means to be human. Under the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Mónica Jiménez, Orlando’s Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship thesis asks questions of pleasure, domination, and performance in a genre of pornography that represents policing and border patrol violence. In a parallel project Orlando meditates on the violence of border landscapes and asks how we might think of the manipulation of the natural world for terror (in and as the afterlife of racial slavery and coloniality) as ecological catastrophe

Mariana Rivera

Mariana Rivera (they/them) was born and raised on the southern side of the U.S.-Mexico border, in the city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas. At the University of Texas, they are completing majors in English and Mexican-American & Latino/a/x Studies and researching the function of Día de los Muertos in the Chicano/a/x imaginary, under the supervision of Dr. Julie Minich. Their work highlights the dual roles of Día de los Muertos, which operates both as a cultural performance that honors deceased loved ones and as a site of reconnection and nostalgia for Chicanos/as/x living in the US. They intend to pursue a Ph.D. in Mexican-American & Latino/a/x Studies.

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. 

Alison Villasana

Alison Villasana(she/they) is pursuing majors in Urban Studies, Black Studies, and Mexican American & Latina/o Studies. Their research interests focus on issues relating to urban spaces and social justice, more specifically, the nuances of gentrification and the displacement of marginalized individuals. With the mentorship of Dr. Miriam Solis, Alison is currently studying the role of policing within gentrification in Austin. She intends to attain her PhD in Urban Studies and Planning and to produce scholarship based on the racial legacies embedded within urban development. Ultimately Alison hopes that her work will reform modern planning practices and lay the foundation for creating more equitable urban spaces.