McNair Scholars


Keynote Speakers

Day 1 - Tracy Hilliard, PhD, MPH

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Director, MPHI Center for Culturally Responsive Engagement and Seattle Office

Clinical Assistant Professor, UW School of Nursing, Department of Psychosocial and Community Health

Conference Welcome and First Keynote Address, Thursday, Apr. 22: 10 – 11:15 am

View Tracy Hilliard, PhD, MPH Bio

Dr. Tracy Hillard is Director of Michigan Public Health Institute’s (MPHI) Center for Culturally Responsive Engagement (CCRE). In this role, she directs culturally responsive engagement to advance racial equity through organizational development, strategic planning, measurement, learning, and equitable evaluation. She is also Director of the MPHI Seattle Office. She is a graduate of the inaugural cohort for Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity (LEEAD) program designed to produce doctoral-trained evaluators committed to advancing equity and social justice for children and families. She has led equity-focused projects as a learning and evaluation partner for clients across the nation, including W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Kansas Health Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Public Health Seattle & King County, University of Washington (UW) School of Public Health, City of Seattle’s Information Technology-Digital Equity Initiative and Office of Economic Development, and City of Lynnwood. As a member of the Executive Team in the City of Seattle Human Services Department, she led implementation of a new data-driven strategic plan for measurement and evaluation to address racial inequities and ensure improved outcomes for those served through the department’s investments in over 200 of Seattle’s health and social services agencies. Dr. Hilliard also was previously principal investigator and project director at Public Health Seattle and King County’s Assessment, Policy Development and Evaluation unit. Her work as a Public Health Systems and Services Research (PHSSR) consultant to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) set the national agenda for PHSSR at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and RWJF and was published in a special supplement of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. She enjoys leadership and service in national and local service organizations. She is Past-Chair of American Public Health Association’s Health Informatics Information Technology Section, and she was selected as an inaugural member of the US Department of Health and Human Services Regional Health Equity Council for Region 10. She has a clinical faculty appointment in the UW Department of Psychosocial and Community Health. She is also an Affiliate Researcher at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment. Dr. Hilliard has a BA with Distinction in Sociology, a MPH in Maternal and Child Health, and a PhD in Health Services, all from the University of Washington.


Day 2 - Tam’ra-Kay Francis, PhD

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Founder, PR2ISM

Postdoctoral Fellow, UW Department of Chemistry

Second Keynote Address, Friday, Apr. 23: 10 – 11:15 am
Moderator, Imposter Syndrome & Sense of Belonging Panel Discussion, Thursday, Apr. 22: 1:15 – 2:15 pm

View Tam’ra-Kay Francis, PhD Bio

Dr. Tam’ra-Kay Francis is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemistry and is a fierce advocate for equity and access to high quality STEM learning experiences. She has over 15 years of experience working with academic and research programs designed to provide holistic support for minoritized students. Her two-word mantra, “beyond category,” is the center of her work and research which examines STEM identity and educational development as part of social and cultural contexts both within disciplines and in transdisciplinary environments. Her efforts engage both faculty and students in the development of equity-based environments. She was recently named a “rising star” on a list of 1,000 inspiring Black scientists in America. Dr. Francis’ dedication to reducing barriers and increasing student access stems from her teaching and educational experiences with underrepresented students and faculty. Prior to her appointment at the University of Washington (UW), Dr. Francis taught in the Department of Chemistry at Fisk University and served as an assistant director and instructor for the GUSTO (Girls Using Scientific Tools for Opportunities and THRUST (To Harness, Retain, Understand, Sustain & Teach) designed to make science more accessible to middle- and high-school students from underrepresented communities. She also worked with several student services (Upward Bound Math-Science, Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement, Student Support Services) and broadening participation (Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation) programs. While working on her Ph.D., Dr. Francis worked in the Teaching Learning Innovation Unit where she supported, developed and facilitated institution-wide educational development programs and workshops for graduate students and faculty. She is currently examining the impact of active learning interventions in the Chemistry Department. In the wake of George Floyd’s death by Minneapolis police officers and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality, Dr. Francis saw the need to provide an opportunity for Black students to dialogue and build community. She organized Dear Black Student First Fridays (DBSFF) at the UW in June to connect Black students and professionals in conversation about career advancement, professional development, and racial justice. The success of DBSFF paved the way to Dr. Francis organizing PR2ISM: Pedagogy and Research on Race, Identity, Social Justice and Meaning, an interdisciplinary educational development program for STEM units across the University of Washington. Alongside her work with PR2ISM, is STEMM(S): Strategies and Tools for Equity Minded Mentoring (in STEM), the companion training program designed to promote culturally responsive strengths-based mentoring. Through her work, Dr. Francis provides resources and professional development to students, staff, and faculty who are committed to advancing equity-minded instruction and research opportunities. In March 2021 the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) recognized her as the award recipient for Innovative Response, Social Justice for her leadership and commitment to diversity and inclusion initiatives at UW. In May, Dr. Francis will be recognized as the 2021 recipient of the Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences at the Northwest Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society. Additionally, Dr. Francis has been nominated for the UW 2021 Outstanding Public Service Award. Dr. Francis currently serves on the governance committee of the Professional Organizational Development (POD) Network in Higher Education and is a founding member of the “People of Color Affinity Group.” In 2018, she was the recipient of the Donald H. Wulff Award, named in honor of the former executive director of the UW Center for Instructional Development and Research (CIDR) and former POD president. She is also a member of the university-wide Diversity Council representing the UW Postdoc Alliance. Dr. Francis earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Chemistry from Fisk University and a PhD in Science Education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Day 3 - Ibette Valle, MS

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PhD Student, Social Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz

Third Keynote Address, Saturday, Apr. 24: 10 – 11:15 am

View Ibette Valle, MS Bio

Ibette Valle, MS, is a fifth-year doctoral student in Social Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow. As a researcher, she aims to foster learning contexts that promote belonging and success for low-income, first-generation students of color as they navigate educational spaces that often fail to understand their experiences and challenges. Currently, she collaborates with a Bay Area charter school that serves a 96% Latinx first-generation student population to evaluate and inform programmatic practices that support the transition to and through college. Her undergraduate experience at the University of Washington heavily influenced her research interests. She graduated from the UW in 2016 with a B.A. in Psychology and Medical Anthropology & Global Health. As a low-income, first-generation student from a migrant farm-working background, she experienced first-hand what culturally competent and student-focused programming could do for student success. She is grateful for the invaluable mentorship and support from the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), and TRIO. These programs gave her tools for confronting challenges and countering deficit narratives. Anti-deficit mentorship continues to be a critical and the most valuable aspect of her work.

Day 1 Session Facilitators, Moderators & Panelists

1A Introduction to Research - Dr. Sophie Pierszalowski

Sophie Pierszalowski, She / hers

Director, Undergraduate Research Program, University of Washington

View Sophie Pierszalowski, She / hers Bio

Sophie (she/hers) serves as Director of the Undergraduate Research Program. She received her Ph.D. in Science Education from Oregon State University (OSU), where her dissertation examined potential barriers to accessing undergraduate research experiences, including systemic and structural inequities that perpetuate opportunity gaps. Prior to pivoting to a career in student success, Sophie studied marine ecology and used molecular genetics and demographics to investigate long-standing questions regarding the ecology and population structure of humpback whales in the North Pacific. This work was inspired by her early childhood days in Alaska, where her father earned a living as a commercial salmon fisherman.

1A Introduction to Research - Qanani Kalil

Qanani Kalil, She / hers

Coordinator and Adviser, Undergraduate Research Program, University of Washington

View Qanani Kalil, She / hers Bio

Qanani (she/hers) earned a B.S in Psychology from Portland State University and a Masters in Leadership in Higher Education from the University of Washington. During graduate school, Qanani worked as a Graduate Student Assistant in UW’s Pipeline Project, which matches UW undergrads with tutoring and leadership opportunities in high needs Seattle-area schools. Prior to joining URP, Qanani was an adviser in the Department of Law, Societies and Justice. Before that, she was at South Seattle College, where she worked as an adviser for transfer students in their TRIO Student Support Services Office. Qanani’s educational journey, navigating the higher education system as a first generation student has drawn her to the field of student services, in order to be someone whom students can go to for support.

1B Graduate Student Panel - Maya Esquivido

Maya Esquivido, She / hers

MSW Student, University of Washington

Policy & Community Engagement Fellow

Statewide Poverty Action &
Riverways Guide, Riverways Education Partnership – University of Washington

View Maya Esquivido, She / hers Bio

Maya Esquivido (she/hers) became a Ronald E. McNair Scholar in 2018, at the University of Washington; entering the program as an undergraduate in the American Indian Studies Department. Currently, Maya is completing her Master’s Degree at the UW School of Social Work in Administration and Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in American Indian and Indigenous Studies. Her work in social justice and equity for BIPOC communities stems from her personal background as an enrolled member of the Nor Rel Muk Wintu Nation, Hupa, and Chicana roots. As a first generation college student, and mother, she is dedicated to giving back to her community and fighting alongside communities that are actively resisting systemic and institutional racism.

1B Graduate Student Panel - Kyle Johnson

Kyle Johnson, He / him

PhD Student and Research Assistant, Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington

Founder and President: A Vision for Electronic Literacy & Access

Founder and Vice President: UW Black Graduate Student Association

View Kyle Johnson, He / him Bio

I (he/him) am a first year Ph.D. student in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington (UW) where I work in the Network and Mobile Systems Lab with Shyam Gollakota. I also work with Sawyer Fuller in the Autonomous Insect Robotics Lab. My research is focused on leveraging the structural properties in systems, like the bistability demonstrated in leaf-out origami, to create low-power and insect-scale robots optimized for resource constrained applications. I am the current president and cofounder of A Vision for Electronic Literacy & Access (AVELA); our members teach K-12 students about college, science, and engineering through classes, workshops, and other forms of community outreach by representing the populations we aim to support. I am also the current Vice President and cofounder of the UW Black Graduate Student Association. I enjoy being a part of outreach efforts, and I aspire to help decrease the educational opportunity gaps currently present in the education system.

1B Graduate Student Panel - Yuliana Flores

Yuliana Flores, She / hers

PhD Student and Research Assistant/Teaching Assistant, University of Washington, Human Centered Design & Engineering

View Yuliana Flores, She / hers Bio

Yuliana Flores (she/hers) is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) department. She received both an M.Ed. in Education Policy, Organization & Leadership and a BS in HCDE from the University of Washington (UW). Her experience as a Mexican-American daughter of immigrants pursuing engineering inspired her interest in access to engineering education for politically marginalized youth with a focus on public schools in rural areas. More specifically, Yuliana is interested in how students in K-12 perceive engineering – problems engineers solve and who can be an engineer. She is currently working on an NSF grant with Jennifer Turns and Cindy Atman regarding undergraduate engineering student reflection. Yuliana remains active with the UW College of Engineering Diversity & Access team outreach and retention efforts.

1B Graduate Student Panel - Vicente Arroyos

Vicente Arroyos, He / him

PhD Student, Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington

View Vicente Arroyos, He / him Bio

Vicente (he/him) is a first year Ph.D. student in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington (UW) where he works in the Network and Mobile Systems Lab. Before joining the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, he received his Bachelor’s in Electrical & Computer Engineering. Vicente’s research interest include low-power, small-scale robots optimized for resource constrained applications, and application of Reinforcement Learning, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. He is one of the cofounders of A Vision for Electronic Literacy & Access (AVELA) at UW. K-12 STEM outreach is one of his passions, and he actively pursue efforts to widen STEM interest of Underrepresented K-12 students of color.

1C Finding Your Community & 6A Building Positive Mentoring Relationships - Nate Panelo

Nate Panelo, He / him

Assistant Director, University of Washington Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center

View Nate Panelo, He / him Bio

Nate Panelo (he/him) has been working in Student Affairs for over a decade now. He is the Assistant Director at the University of Washington’s Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center. Nate received his M.Ed. from the University of Vermont in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration. He has worked at Seattle Univesity, Western Washington Univesity, and UW-Seattle as well as various departments including housing, conduct, program development, academic advising, and multicultural affairs. As a first-generation college graduate and a child of immigrants, Nate has committed his career to support success with access, retention, and graduation for underrepresented and marginalized students at colleges and universities. He’s a father to 2 beautiful children and 1 more coming in July.

1C Finding Your Community & 6A Building Positive Mentoring Relationships - Tia Pinzón

Tia Pinzón, She / hers

MESA Director, Everett Community College

View Tia Pinzón, She / hers Bio

Tia Pinzón (she/hers) is the MESA Program Director (Math Engineering Science Achievement) at Everett Community College where she assists first-gen, low-income, and BIPOC students in pursuing calculus-based STEM majors. She received her master’s degree in Social Work and her B.A. in American Indian Studies and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Washington. Tia is a TRIO SSS Alumni, and as a first-gen, Indigenous (Yakama) woman, she is dedicated to social justice, and works to help create equitable access for historically excluded students to achieve their authentic aspirations.

2A What is Graduate School - Ashley R. Townes

Ashley R. Townes, She / hers

PhD. Student, University of Washington’s School of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences

Graduate Student Assistant, Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program

Environmental Justice Committee Member, City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability & Environment

View Ashley R. Townes, She / hers Bio

Ashley Townes (she/hers) is a passion-driven fish ecologist, educator, international in-field environmental researcher and environmental justice advocate. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Fisheries Ecology at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. She is also a trainer in program design and cross-cultural communication and obtained her M.A. in both Sustainable Development and International Education from the SIT Graduate Institute and her B.A. in Japanese and International Studies from Tufts University. Her professional passions include developing and implementing high impact community-based environmental social justice-oriented projects, designed to educate diverse stakeholders in understanding results-oriented collaboration methodologies in affecting environmental sustainability. Ashley has traveled to over 50 countries on 6 continents, studying, researching and providing professional development to various international organizations and institutions. She continues to research, explore and implement best cross-cultural practices in natural resource management, especially as related to Black and indigenous populations, people of color and ethnic minority groups.

2B Funding Graduate School - Robin Chang

Robin Chang, She / hers

Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards, University of Washington

View Robin Chang, She / hers Bio

Robin Chang (she/hers) is the Director of UW’s Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards, which supports undergraduate students and alumni in connecting with and applying competitively for scholarships that support their interests and goals. Having relied exclusively on financial aid, scholarships and work to fund both undergrad and grad school, Robin is committed to demystifying scholarship application and selection processes for students. She appreciates very much the opportunity to work with students as they begin to identify their strengths, develop goals and determine the steps they’d like to take to reach them, and practice communicating those strengths and goals to selection committees for scholarships, admission, etc. Applying for scholarships and graduate admission is hard, but you have support!

2C Imposter Syndrome Faculty Panel - Dr. Antentor Hinton Jr.

Dr. Antentor Hinton Jr.

EE Just Faculty Scholar

Assistant Professor (Summer 2021)

Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics

Vanderbilt School of Medicine Basic Sciences

The Vanderbilt Diabetes Research and Training Center

View Dr. Antentor Hinton Jr. Bio

Dr. Antentor Hinton, Jr. is a Burroughs Welcome Fund Postdoctoral Enrichment Scholar, EE Just Postgraduate Fellow in Life Sciences, and Ford Foundation Fellow at the University of Iowa in the laboratory of Dr. E. Dale Abel. Dr. Hinton seeks to elucidate the mechanisms by which insulin signaling regulates Optic Atrophy 1 Protein activity in skeletal muscle, heart, and brain. Dr. Hinton received his B.S. in Biology from Winston-Salem State University and his NIH postbac and Ph.D. at Baylor College of Medicine in Integrative Molecular and Biomedical Sciences. To date, Dr. Hinton has published 27 papers, gleaned 50 awards, and given 75 invited talks. Dr. Hinton has mentored 45 graduate, medical, or undergraduate students and he has been awarded three University-wide awards and an organizational mentorship award, the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates Distinguished Mentoring Award, Center for Diversity & Enrichment’s Distinguished Educator Award, Diversity Catalyst Award, and an LSAMP Excellence in Mentoring Award. From all of these efforts around diversity, Hinton has been recognized by Forbes Magazines as one of the 100 Black Culture Makers and Thought- Leaders. This honor was also featured in the 2020 Inaugural Year of the Digital Book Celebrating 100 Black Culture Makers and Thought-Leaders. Hinton is also a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow Appointment at Mayo Clinic and holds a Research Assistant Professor position in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at Vanderbilt University until June 30, 2021. In Summer 2021, Dr. Antentor Hinton, Jr. will matriculate to a tenure track Assistant Professor Position in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at Vanderbilt University.Robin Chang (she/hers) is the Director of UW’s Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards, which supports undergraduate students and alumni in connecting with and applying competitively for scholarships that support their interests and goals. Having relied exclusively on financial aid, scholarships and work to fund both undergrad and grad school, Robin is committed to demystifying scholarship application and selection processes for students. She appreciates very much the opportunity to work with students as they begin to identify their strengths, develop goals and determine the steps they’d like to take to reach them, and practice communicating those strengths and goals to selection committees for scholarships, admission, etc. Applying for scholarships and graduate admission is hard, but you have support!

2C Imposter Syndrome Faculty Panel - Dr. LaVerne Gray

Dr. LaVerne Gray

Assistant Professor

School of Information Studies, Syracuse University

View Dr. LaVerne Gray Bio

LaVerne Gray, PhD is an Assistant Professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, where she teaches in the Library and Information Science program. She is a former Peace Corps volunteer serving in Ivory Coast and Togo, West Africa where she was inspired by her experience to become a librarian. After eight years working as an academic librarian, Dr. Gray earned her PhD at the College of Communication and Information at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (2019). Her dissertation, “In a Collective Voice: Uncovering the Black Feminist Information Community of Activist-Mothers in Chicago Public Housing, 1955-1970,” was inspired by her grandmother and the community of women working for betterment in Chicago Public Housing. The dissertation was awarded outstanding dissertation by the College of Communication and Information at the University of Tennessee. She is proud of her former work with University of Tennessee’s Student Support Services, coordinating the Summer Research Program. In addition to a M.L.I.S. from Dominican University, she holds a M.S.Ed. in Educational Psychology from Northern Illinois University and a B.S. in Rehabilitation/Child Development from Wilberforce University. Dr. Gray’s research is at the intersection of Black feminism, information, justice and memory work.

2C Imposter Syndrome Faculty Panel - Dr. Haysetta D. Shuler

Dr. Haysetta D. Shuler

Academic & Professional Services

First-Year Experience Instructor

Department of Biological Sciences, Winston-Salem University

View Dr. Haysetta D. Shuler Bio

On the surface, Dr. Haysetta D. Shuler is an accomplished Student Advocate, Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychologist, and Certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. With over 10 years of experience in education and business markets Dr. Shuler can shift gears to help lead through budget chaos while implementing strategies to turnaround underperforming departments or lead student-centered initiatives. Dr. Shuler is so efficient at her job that others consider her as a “strategic wonder council.” She can take unhealthy business practices and transform them into healthy and thriving ones. She always bets on the black horse. In other words, she enjoys mentoring marginalized students and watching them blossom into successful leaders in STEM. Because of her skills, Dr. Shuler can produce and long-lasting results for clients, colleagues, and students. Dr. Shuler caters to non-profit organizations, new start-ups, and Charter Schools and works well with executives, managers, supervisors, and employees. More than her role as a Student Advocate and I/O Psychologist, she is also effective at persuading and influencing high-ranking individuals. People highly-value her viewpoints and they trust and respect her judgments. Dr. Shuler has a BS degree in Psychology and a PH.D. in I/O Psychology. Throughout her tenure, she developed a passionate interest in work-life balance for women as a life coach. She remains open to challenges, conversations, and an exchange of ideas from the top players in the educational and business sectors.

2C Imposter Syndrome Faculty Panel - Dr. Elsie C. Spenser

Dr. Elsie C. Spenser

Administrative Director

National Center for Children & Families

Consortium for Policy Research in Education at Teacher’s College, Columbia University

View Dr. Elsie C. Spencer Bio

Dr. Elsie C. Spencer is an Administrative Director for the National Center for Children and Families and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Spencer oversees the financial and graduate student personnel administration for both centers. Prior to this position Dr. Spencer was a department administrator and laboratory manager for the Appel Alzheimer’s Disease Research Institute at Weill Cornell Medicine. Dr. Spencer was responsible for a multitude of cross functional responsibilities including pre- and post-award grant administration, faculty recruitment, retention, and development, and laboratory personnel management. She received her Ed.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in Higher Education Management and her M.P.A. from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. Her interests lie in institutional cultures specifically diversity and equity initiatives at institutions of higher learning as well as promoting community involvement across all levels of senior leadership. One of Dr. Spencer’s achievement was the establishment of a 6-week high school summer research program at Weill Cornell that invited minority students from the metropolitan area to intern at the Appel Institute laboratories. These students were paired with various PIs land postdoctoral fellows and afforded them an opportunity to shadow some of the most renowned scientists in the nation. Dr. Spencer continues to perform other outreach initiatives with various community members and anchor institutions throughout the city.

2C Imposter Syndrome Faculty Panel - Leah Justina Anyanwu

Leah Justina Anyanwu

Head of Africa Partnerships


Harvard Graduate School of Education

View Leah Justina Anyanwu Bio

Leah is a passionate educator and international development professional. An alumna of Teach for America alumni, she was a finalist for the New Orleans Excellence in Teaching Award and a recipient of the 2016 and 2018 Sontag Prize in Urban Education. In 2016, Leah moved to Nairobi, Kenya to support an emerging school network. She went on to serve as the Program and Evaluation Director at Dignitas. There, she led curriculum development for over 400 teachers and school leaders and drove the company’s growth to support over 30,000 students across East Africa. Leah holds a Bachelor’s in Biology and Spanish from Fisk University, a Master of Science in Education from Binghamton University and is completing her second Master’s in Human Development and Psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

3A Preparing for Graduate School - Monica Cortés Viharo

Monica Cortés Viharo, She / hers

Doctoral Candidate in Drama

Graduate Student Adviser for the UW McNair Scholars Program

McNair Scholars Alumna/h4>

View Monica Cortés Viharo, She / hers Bio

Monica Cortés Viharo (she/hers) is an educator, actor (SAG/AFTRA), public speaking consultant, and a McNair Scholar. As a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington School of Drama, she teaches Drama and Chicano Studies, is faculty for the Upward Bound Summer Academy, and a Graduate Student Assistant with the UW McNair Scholar’s program. She will be completing her PhD in Spring 2021 and has earned a Certificate in Public Scholarship from the UW Simpson Center for the Humanities. Her work has been published in Theatre Topics, New England Theatre Journal, and the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism. Monica is a member of the Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau and the performance coach for TEDx Youth@Seattle. She has taught at UW, the University of Puget Sound, Cascadia College and will teach Queering Performance: Introduction to Performance Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago this fall. Visit Monica’s website,

3B Application Essay Writing - Dr. Leah Spence

Leah Spence, She / hers

TRIO-SSS Writing Instructor, University of Washington

View Leah Spence, She / hers Bio

Leah Spence (she/hers) is the Writing Instructor for the TRIO-SSS Program in the UW Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity; as such she works to guide first-generation undergraduates from low-income backgrounds to recognize and cultivate their critical thinking and writing strengths while embracing their own stories. Leah earned her B.A. in English from the University of New Mexico and her Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington where she focused on theorizing narratives that disrupt structures of domination. With a commitment to anti-racist pedagogy, she is dedicated to helping TRIO-SSS undergraduates build belonging on campus and compose the missions and visions that will fuel their work in the community.

3C Student Leadership Panel - Najma Abdi

Najma Abdi, She / hers

Public Health Undergraduate Researcher

UW Mutual Aid Co-Founder

View Najma Abdi, She / hers Bio

Najma Abdi (she/hers) is a first-generation Somali-refugee who is studying Public Health-Global Health. Najma is on the leadership board with the Students of Color for Public Health (SCPH), a newly registered RSO dedicated to providing needed space for students of color passionate about multifaceted fields of public health. Inspired by other mutual aid groups, SCPH launched UW Mutual Aid, designed for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, undocumented, and/or first generation folks who are in need of social and financial assistance. During this pandemic and continued social unrest we wanted to create an inclusive space based on community efforts and solidarity. Given Najma’s experience with SCPH and UW Mutual Aid, she also pushes for health equity within refugee and immigrant communities through volunteering with local community organizations in South Seattle and doing research in the fields of Public/Global Health. In the future, Najma hopes to obtain her MPH and PhD to better understand the systemic barriers that stand in the way of the health of BIPOC individuals.

3C Student Leadership Panel - Meron Girma

Meron Girma, She / hers

Disease Research Investigation Specialist, King County Public Health

Founder: National Society of Black Healthcare Professionals

View Meron Girma, She / hers Bio

Meron Girma (she/hers) is a graduating senior at the University of Washington, with a degree in Medical Anthropology and Global Health and a minor in African Studies. During her sophomore and junior year, she spent six months traveling several countries in Southern and Eastern Africa to learn about international health and conduct her own research project. She is interested in ethnographic and qualitative studies to look at healthcare accessibility for marginalized groups through all facets of social, economic, and cultural factors of human health. Currently she works at Seattle King County Public Health as a Disease Research Investigation Specialist on the COVID-19 team. She is also the President of the National Society of Black Health Professionals at the University of Washington. After graduating Meron is going to continue her research as she pursues an MPH at Yale and eventually obtaining her MD. As a global health professional, she wants to work on the ground with disadvantaged communities to address their individual and community needs and promote equitable health policy and practice.

3C Student Leadership Panel - Sarah Melissa Ramirez

Sarah Melissa Ramirez, She / hers

Research Assistant, Global Scholars Program, University of Washington Bothell

Dancer, Community Organizer, Bailadores de Bronce

View Sarah Melissa Ramirez, She / hers Bio

Sarah Ramirez (she/hers) is a first-generation, Latina student at UWB, majoring in Law, Economics, and Public Policy and American, Ethnic Studies and minoring in Human Rights and Diversity Studies. She was in the inaugural cohort of the Global Scholars cohort which helped her study abroad as a first-year student and is UWB’s second McNair Scholar. Sarah’s research primarily concerns global themes such as globalization and global citizenship and Latino Studies, and her graduate research aims to explore folklorico as a form of rehabilitation in U.S. prisons. Sarah’s current and future research is influenced by her investment in folklorico with Bailadores de Bronce. Folklorico has compelled her to consider how to increase access for poor, BIPOC communities to dance, and the decolonization of folklorico as a historically anti-Black and anti-Indigenous dance form. Sarah is a proud community organizer and is excited to pursue an International Studies MA at the University of Connecticut.

3C Student Leadership Panel - Chardonnay Beaver

Chardonnay Beaver, She / hers

Creator of Words of Wisdom (WOW) by Char

Undergraduate researcher

View Chardonnay Beaver, She / hers Bio

Chardonnay Beaver (she/hers) believes that the greatest way to serve others is to tell one’s story. Born and raised in Seattle’s Central District (CD), Chardonnay was introduced to various cultures and backgrounds. In 2019, she graduated from Garfield High School which is located in the heart of CD. At Garfield, Chardonnay served as student body president, co-foundered a youth-activist organization, and thrived as an honors student. Chardonnay continues her academic career at the University of Washington, majoring in political science and communication. In Autumn 2019, Chardonnay joined students from the University of Washington, Garfield High School, and Seattle Central Community College to participate in an intergenerational, ten-week seminar at the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) titled Interrupting Privilege (IP). IP (2016-present) was developed by University of Washington professor and Center of Communication, Difference, and Equity (CCDE) founder, Dr. Ralina Joseph. After being selected through a competitive interview process in the Fall, and then learning more about the research-end of the project in the Winter, Chardonnay was asked by Dr. Joseph to join the IP research team. Chardonnay’s research includes concepts like home, space, and culture within Seattle’s Black community intersecting with the dialogue presented in IP’s seminars and methodology. CCDE values align with one of Chardonnay’s greatest principles: there is value in people.
To that point, Chardonnay created the platform Words Of Wisdom (WOW) by Char in Winter 2019. WOWbyChar was designed to empower individuals in their pursuit of authenticity, healing, and progress. Chardonnay uses her 6 year experience as an influential speaker, journalistic perspective–as a columnist for The Facts Newspaper–and storytelling capability to be a light to anyone she comes in contact with.

4A Meditation & Stretching - Courtney Saben

Courtney Saben, She / hers

Program Manager, The University of Washington Office of First Year Programs

200 hour Registered Yoga Teacher, Vinyasa/ Power Yoga

View Courtney Saben, She / hers Bio

Courtney Saben (she/hers) is a Program Manager at The University of Washington Office of First Year Programs where she leads Transfer and International Advising & Orientations as well as Course Management for First-Year Interest Groups (FIGs). After being the first in her family to graduate from college, Courtney continued her educational journey to Johns Hopkins University where she earned her M.S.Ed while teaching Middle School Science in Baltimore City Public Schools. During this very busy season her mental health and work life balance began to suffer. In efforts to develop stress management skills, she went to her first Yoga class and the impacts were immediate. This realization highlighted for her the importance of integrating mind, body, and spirit into her daily life and work. Courtney encourages others to find sustainable self-care practices that work for them personally, so that their fight for educational equity and transformational change lasts a lifetime.

Day 2 Session Facilitators, Moderators & Panelists

5A The Nature of Research & Failure - Dr. Janice DeCosmo

Janice DeCosmo, She / hers

Associate Dean, Undergraduate Academic Affairs, University of Washington

Associate Vice Provost, Undergraduate Research, University of Washington

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Janice DeCosmo (she/hers) is associate dean of undergraduate academic affairs, associate vice provost for undergraduate research, and an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington. DeCosmo developed the UW undergraduate research program which she directed from 1999-2014, currently directs the Mary Gates Endowment for Students and is the 2020-21 immediate past president of the Council on Undergraduate Research. DeCosmo earned a BS and MS in physics and a PhD in atmospheric sciences, specializing in atmosphere-ocean interaction. During her early career as a female scientist doing fieldwork in a male-dominated environment, she developed a commitment to work toward changing the culture of STEM for the next generation of scientists. She has taught science at nearly all educational levels, from kindergarten through graduate school, and is focused on creating opportunities for undergraduates to experience research.

5A The Nature of Research & Failure - Annabel Cholico

Annabel Cholico, She / hers

Assistant Director, Mary Gates Endowment for Students

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Annabel Cholico (she/hers) is the Assistant Director to the Mary Gates Endowment for Students program at the University of Washington. Her efforts are focused on connecting students to resources and supporting them through the Mary Gates research and leadership scholarship processes. As a first-generation Latina from Yakima, WA she has dedicated her personal and professional goals to uplifting the underrepresented student community. Annabel received her M.Ed. with a focus on education policy, and her B.A in Law, Societies & Justice from the University of Washington. Through her own personal story of success through failure she hopes to empower students to pursue their academic goals with a growth mindset.

5B Mental Health in Graduate School - Dr. Andrea Salazar-Nuñez

Andrea Salazar-Nuñez, Ph.D. , She / hers

Advisory Board member for CAMP and Leadership Without Borders, former UW Counseling Center Staff Psychologist and Outreach Coordinator, Current Education and Training Manager for OMAD, and owner and founder of Mariposa Counseling and Consultation Services were I specialize in serving BIPOC clients and treating racial trauma.

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Dr. Andrea Salazar-Nuñez (she/hers) is a daughter of immigrants from Mexico, Chicana, mother of 2, wife of a UW alum and Seattle native. She has recently transitioned from a position as Staff Psychologist at the UW Counseling Center and taken a new position as the OMAD Education and Training Manager as part of the campus-wide Race and Equity Initiative. Andrea has been working to support students of color on campus and collaborated on many instances with the ECC to provide mental health support. She received her B.A. in Psychology and M.A. in General Psychology at California State University Los Angeles and received her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She also completed her APA doctoral internship at California State University Long Beach. In each step in her educational and professional journey she continues to push for change and advocate for communities of color.

5C Personal Leadership - Mellanie Rhae Tanada

Mellanie Rhae Tanada, She / hers

Assistant Director of Career Development, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance

Co-Founder & Organizer, Filipino Story Time – Seattle

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Mellanie Rhae Tanada (she/hers) serves as the Assistant Director of Career Development at the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance (University of Washington). In this role, she supports graduate students as they prepare for careers in public service. Her educational background is in Historical & Political Studies, and Student Development Administration. Before pursuing a career in higher education administration, she traveled extensively, spent time teaching English and managing an art studio for a language immersion program in Istanbul, Turkey. Mellanie Rhae is a first-generation graduate, a child of immigrants from the Philippines, and grew up in a military family. She melds her passion for community building/connecting, education access, arts+crafts dabbling, and life-long learning in a myriad of ways. She is one of the co-founders of Filipino Story Time – Seattle and supports the creation of monthly bilingual reading programs, learning activities, and shares anti-racist resources for Filipinx parents + communities across the Greater Seattle area (and beyond). She also serves on the Scholarship Steering Committee of the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) and supports the organization’s scholarship awarding policies and process for LGBTQIA+ and allied students.

6B Professionals Panel - Dr. Michelle C. Sabo

Michelle C. Sabo, She / hers

Acting Instructor

Attending Physician

University of Washington Medicine

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Michelle Sabo (she/hers) is an Acting Instructor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, at the University of Washington. Dr. Sabo earned her MD, PhD at Washington University in Seattle. For her graduate work, she studied immunology under the supervision of Dr. Michael S. Diamond. She completed her residency training in internal medicine, followed by fellowship in infectious diseases, at the University of Washington. She currently works as an Attending Physician at the University of Washington and Harborview Medical Centers. Additionally, she devotes the remainder of her academic time to clinical and basic research focused on how infections and inflammation lead to adverse reproductive health outcomes in high-risk women in Mombasa, Kenya.

6C Building Community as a Means of Resistance - Dylan Tran

Dylan Tran, He / him

Senior Director of Education Programs, Peace Community Center

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Dylan Tran (he/him) grew up in Tacoma as a child of Southeast Asian refugees from both Cambodia and Vietnam. Upon graduating from Lincoln HS, Dylan went on to the UW-Seattle beginning his journey as a community organizer and critical educator. Heavily involved in student activism and educational equity work, Dylan earned his place as a Princeton University PPIA Fellow and as a participant of Harvard University’s PPLC Program. At 23 years old, he currently serves as the Senior Director of Education Programs at Peace Community Center in his home neighborhood. Dylan credits his success and career to the unwavering support of mentors from the TRIO programs he’s participated in including Gabriel Emeka, Deborah Walker, Ann Vu Loveridge, and Dr. Gabriel E. Gallardo.

7A CV / Resume Writing - CJ Sanchez

CJ Sanchez, He / him

Career Coach – The UW Career and Internship Center

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CJ Sanchez (he/him) is a Career Coach with the University of Washington Career and Internship Center where he works to provide support to students at various levels of the university creating and cultivating partnerships with campus offices like the Q Center, where he previously worked as a Project Coordinator to create advocacy and community for the QTBIPOC students of UW. CJ has received a Master’s in Education from the UW College of Education and has spent several years dedicated to serving communities in and outside of the United States through AmeriCorps and Peace Corps. Being a mixed race Latino and part of the LGBTQ+ community and learning from his own experiences, CJ has worked to create and uplift marginalized people, which has been an aspect he brings to all of his work.

7B Leadership in Graduate School - Aaron Yared

Aaron Yared, He / him

President, UW Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS)

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Aaron Yared (he/him) is the President of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) where he represents over 15,000 graduate and professional students at the University of Washington Seattle campus to administrators and campus partners, advocating to support their needs. He received his M.A. in Policy Studies and his B.A. in Law, Economics, and Public Policy from the University of Washington Bothell campus. Born to two Ethiopian immigrants, Aaron uses his unique experiences as a first-generation American to drive his passion for advocating for the needs of the vulnerable.

7C Self-Advocacy & Speaking Up for Yourself - Andrea Vargas

Andrea Vargas, She / hers

Program Adviser & Manager, UW Health Informatics & Health Information Management

Artist, Roller Skater, and Organizer

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Andrea Vargas (she/her) is the Academic Adviser and Program Manager for the Health Informatics & Health Information Management (BS) major in the UW School of Public Health. She grew up in the Los Angeles area, and received her Bachelor’s in Art from the University of California, Santa Barbara and her M.Ed. in Student Development Administration from Seattle University. As a first-generation student, Queer Latina/Chicana, and daughter of Mexican immigrants, she’s overcome hardships in being academically dismissed in undergrad, mental health challenges, dealing with lifelong injuries after a motorcycle accident, handling multiple lawsuits, and other unexpected situations that have led her to find her voice and be a more powerful advocate for herself and others. Andrea uses her past struggles, knowledge of systems and policies, current privileges, and most importantly, connection and community, to help others navigate systems and overcome their own challenges. When she’s not handling business or healing from generational trauma, you can find her celebrating life’s little moments with close friends, completing jigsaw puzzles, listening to music, roller skating throughout Seattle, and caring for her plants and her rescue dog, Chicle.