Undergraduate Cohort IV
The fourth Cohort of Undergraduate Engaged Scholar Initiative Fellows was selected in Summer 2021.
Velta Brenya is a fourth-year, first-generation Sociology and Health and Society double major. Her research interests broadly encompass mental health, health equity, neurodiversity, race, the impact of stereotype threat theory, and cultural competency. She wants to focus her research on the intersections of clinical psychology and mental health of Black youth. For her capstone, she hopes to develop a form of scholarship that highlights the cultural nuances of mental health in the Black community. Additionally, she wants to explore the implications of mind-body dualism and its connection to the high incidence of chronic illness in the Black community. She plans to add a creative twist to her project by using art to tie in the research.
Kelly Choi is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, pursuing a degree in Government and a certificate in Creative Writing. Kelly was one of the lead organizers for the 2018 March for Our Lives Houston protest against gun violence. After the march, she joined young people from Parkland, Chicago, New York, and more on ‘March for Our Lives Road to Change,’ a nationwide tour that promoted youth civic engagement and gun violence prevention. The stories and experiences from her work as an advocate showed her the power of storytelling, inspiring her to make sure stories today are intersectional and intentional. Through ESI, she hopes to intertwine Korean history with her passion for storytelling and create a project that educates the public on untold narratives that deserve to be heard.
Kisara Dang is a third-year, first-generation Business Honors, Humanities Honors, Sustainability Studies, and Geography quadruple major. Her Humanities degree specifically is focused on the spatial and social implications of environmental policy. Her research interests relate to the intersection of public policy, sustainability, and corporate interest. In addition, she is fascinated by geospatial applications, corporate accountability and transparency, environmental law and policy, and intersectional environmentalism. Outside of Mellon ESI, Kisara has traveled to Jordan to implement a Green Fund through the President's Award for Global Learning and is currently developing a project through UT's Green Fund. Through the Engaged Scholar Initiative, she hopes to explore the ways in which to facilitate sustainability initiatives for small to mid-size companies using environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. Her graduate plans include a Master's or Ph.D. program in sustainability studies or public policy to research and implement positive policies that consider dimensions beyond financial viability for firms and institutions.
Nina Habib is a first-generation senior International Relations and Plan II Honors double major pursuing a certificate in Global Management. Her personal and research interests include racial disparities in study abroad, diversity and inclusion, identity politics, and media censorship. As someone who considers herself a global citizen, Nina is passionate about traveling the world, increasing her cultural awareness, and expanding accessibility to those who have not been abroad due to lack of resources or confidence in identity and cultural knowledge. Through the Engaged Scholar Initiative, Nina hopes to write a thesis that will include research on, and tackle many questions surrounding the ambiguity of being an international Black traveler, and how this ambiguity can possibly be eliminated. Additionally, Nina hopes to produce a creative outlet, like a website or a workshop, that will include the research in her thesis, as well as everything regarding resources on money, building confidence abroad, and raising one’s own cultural awareness. Nina believes that conducting research is an important tool for solving issues of ambiguity and creating more outlets for advocacy in programs that do not necessarily benefit those that are underrepresented. Her graduation plans involve pursuing a Master’s degree in International Business, traveling the world, and serving the communities she identifies with.
Jasmarie Hernández-Cañuelas is a first-generation college student at The University of Texas at Austin majoring in Government and Latin American studies. Her research interests include Latin American decolonial theory and action, US and Latin American relations, nationalist movements, identity politics, and community organizing. She is most passionate about Puerto Rico, the island she considers home. As an Engaged Scholar Initiative Fellow, Jasmarie will be conducting research on the education system during COVID-19 in Puerto Rico and the experiences of teachers and students. In addition, she will be writing a thesis about Fidel Castro's influence over and relationship with Puerto Rican independence movements. Jasmarie is passionate about community oriented and community led research that empowers Latin American communities. She believes that ethical decolonized research produced with and by the community can be a source of progress for the community. After graduation, Jasmarie intends to move to Puerto Rico, attain a PhD in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and continue conducting research.
Adrienne Hunter (she/they) is a Radio-Television-Film, Anthropology, and Women’s and Gender Studies Senior with certificates in Creative Writing and LGBTQ+ Studies. She has completed theses for Creative Writing and Screenwriting, and is in the process of working on a Media Studies thesis. Her research interests revolve around trans narratives and the dialogue that those narratives have with community, as well as looking into how the HIV/AIDS epidemic has impacted the generation gap unique to queer and trans communities. As a trans woman themself, they are interested in working towards centering trans voices as a way to combat the violence faced by trans communities. Through ESI, she hopes to collect a series of interviews from trans identifying folks over the age of 60 in Austin, with the goal of working towards accessible inter-generational dialogues within the trans community.
Madison Liao is a fourth year Sociology honors student pursuing a double major in Philosophy, a minor in Informatics, and a certificate in Digital Humanities. At its broadest, her research and interests center around the irrationality of human rationality, and the contextual overlap between economic/social rationalization and philosophical absurdism and irrationality. More concretely, she focuses on research on surveillance and its sociological and philosophical implications, and the historical and social determinants of individual outcomes with a focus on reparations, restorative justice and the generational wealth gap. She hopes to work on a capstone project centering around our modern conceptualization of work and how to better connect workers to meaningful, fulfilling, and ethical work. She hopes she can use her future research to detract from the typical researcher/subject relationship, and use empirical research in a way that steps away from pathologizing and paternalism towards subject-guided, ethical research.
Meghan Nguyen (she/they) is a Senior triple majoring in Sociology, Journalism and African and African Diaspora Studies with a BDP certificate in Human Rights/Social Justice. Her research interests include critical race and digital studies, policing and abolition, media, and cultural memory. In the past, Meghan has done organizing, community engagement, and research work for One Fair Wage, the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, the UT Center for Community Engagement, and the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis. They have also produced editorial and multimedia work for Orange Magazine, the Daily Texan, Silk Club, and the Food Network. For their ESI Capstone project, they hope to use oral histories to create a “time capsule” of past and present student activism at UT and to develop educational materials to inform and encourage students to engage in future activism. Ultimately, Meghan’s scholarship, creative practice and aspirations are grounded in the idea that we must and can radically reimagine and rebuild a world made for us.
Oluwaseyi Odufuye (Seyi): Amongst a plethora of other things such as being a people person and musician, Seyi is a fourth-year, Nigerian-American student at the University of Texas. She has many interests - too many to state in this short biography. Most recently she has been very interested in behavioral economics, advertising and consumer behavior, such as the effects that messages, images, and symbols in mass communication have on society. She is also interested in the role this plays in how we interact with each other, as well as nudge theory and choice architecture. Seyi is an all around creative who loves working with people, problem solving and is always open to learning. Some issues she is passionate about are environmental sustainability, education, and intergenerational cycles of imprisonment and poverty. As a previous student in the College of Fine Arts at UT, Seyi believes that art and healthy dialogue are powerful means of conveying ideas, stories, and information/research. With that being said, she is interested in creating participatory experiences and museum exhibitions as places to present ideas and have effective dialogue about social issues. In the past, Seyi has been a part of two projects: The Color Complex and The Black Yearbook.
Aloysie Umutoniwase is a first-generation senior at the University of Texas pursuing a double major in Economics and Women’s and Gender Studies with minors in English and Anthropology. Her research interests lie at the intersection of labor, immigration, and citizenship. In her thesis, she plans to analyze the drivers behind changing gender role attitudes among East African immigrants in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. As a subset of her research, she hopes to explore the relationship between immigration and privacy and note the ways that bodies that are stripped of privacy (re)define home. To that end, she intends to focus her capstone project on the migrant homemaking experience.
Alejandra Zuñiga, or Ale, is a first-generation Liberal Arts Honors Senior at the University of Texas at Austin pursuing a double major in Communication Studies and Government with a minor in Philosophy of Law and a certificate in Public Policy. Her interests lie in the intersection of social justice, media, and the fine arts. Her ESI research focuses on the ignored and untold stories, narratives, and desires of the non-DACA undocumented community. She hopes to portray these aspects of the undocumented community in a visual and impactful way that incorporates different types of media and artistic expressions. Outside of ESI, Alejandra is the Service Director of Texas Orange Jackets, a Rapoport Service Scholar, a DJ for KVRX and host of “Karmic Hours,” and a silks member of the Longhorn Band. Previous community work done by Ale includes community organizing for United We Dream, the largest immigrant rights organization in the country, immigrant friendly curriculum and policy development for the Texas State Teachers Association and its member teachers, the Coalition Against Sexual Misconduct during the 2019-2020 school year, and the UCLA Labor Center.