Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

El Centro Chicano y Latino is closed to visitors through the summer 06/22 - 08/22. For questions or inquiries, please contact us at elcentrochicano@gmail.com. 

Graduate Scholars-in-Residence Program

Main content start

The Graduate Scholars in Residence Program, established in 1998, is a program aimed at fostering a vibrant intellectual community among Chicanx/Latinx students at Stanford. It provides graduate students from various disciplines with an excellent venue to meet one another and exchange ideas.  The program is also designed to identify graduate student mentors for Stanford undergraduates.  Each year, El Centro Chicano y Latino provides six doctoral students with a stipend and office space for the entire academic year.  In exchange, the Graduate Scholars are expected to spend time in their office space, give one research presentation and take part in an event aimed at encouraging undergraduates to pursue graduate studies.  For more information, please contact Margaret Sena.

"El Centro was critical to my dissertation writing process. It provided the academic and moral support to think through my research and complete my dissertation while navigating the job market."

Maribel Santiago, Ph.D. 

Graduate Scholar-in-Residence Alumna

Assistant Professor, Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University

2021-2022 Graduate Scholars-in-Residence 

Brian Cabral

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Education, Race, Inequality, and Language in Education (RILE) program.

Photo of Brian Cabral.

I’m from arguably one of the most complicated cities in the world: Chicago. As a Chicagoan, I was born and raised in the Mexican diaspora, in the Little Village (or La Villita) neighborhood specifically. Both my parents are Mexican, from Jalisco and Zacatecas. This is important because race, ethnicity, class, and place are integral to the ways that I move in the world and in the kind of research I engage in during my day job as a PhD candidate. I am currently a fourth year in the Race, Inequality, and Language in Education (RILE) program, and recently completed my MA in Sociology at Stanford.

Because I am at the graduate school of education, it’s safe to assume that education and schooling were influential throughout my upbringing. I didn’t always like to read or do schoolwork, but I liked to learn and ask questions. I got kicked out of school in the 6th grade, which was a pivotal moment for me. I eventually got accepted again at my neighborhood elementary school, then ended up at Social Justice High School. I went through three different and painful interviews that led me to Oberlin College in Ohio as a Posse fellow. From there, I applied to graduate school during my senior year, and matriculated into the PhD program in Education here at Stanford in 2018. While on paper this educational trajectory appears to be straightforward, it’s a lot more complex that what’s at the surface. But I am grateful for the mentors and spaces that made it so that I got past all the bumps and barriers along the way.

When it comes to research, I’m interested in a lot of things. But what I’m focused on studying right now is the deeply problematic history and interconnectedness between schools and carceral spaces, with the prison and the spaces within prisons being one of them. I’m interested to learn how carcerality appears to trickle into spaces where young people and adults navigate complex inter-institutional contexts. I am also a student of abolition, so I think carefully and critically about what an abolitionist framing might look like in the education and the schooling space—where ‘learning’ and ‘development’ for young people is presumed to take place. Lastly, I am interested in the ways school-carceral-abolitionist geographies are sites where difference-making or difference-maintenance projects are reformulated or rearticulated, and I explore which form they take place (e.g., via race, ethnicity, gender, ability, etc.). 

This is my second (and sadly, final) year as a GSR fellow at El Centro. I was initially drawn to this place for a variety of reasons related to comunidad and the practice of affirming our presence at a predominantly white and elite institution like Stanford. In fact, one of the best things about my experience here is that they accepted and created a space for me despite all identities I hold, any institutional accomplishments and failures, or despite my complexities. The struggle and messy work of building and sustaining community is tough, but El Centro has made things a lot easier for me as a doctoral student, and for that I remain grateful.

Chiara Giovanni 

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Comparative Literature.  

Self-Portrait of Chiara Giovanni

I’m a first-gen PhD candidate in Comparative Literature working on a dissertation that offers an embodied account of intimacy in the wake of the pandemic and the #MeToo movement. One of the central aims of my scholarship is to recenter queer Latina femininities within femme theory and critical femininity studies: as queer theory works to better understand non-normative femininities, queer Latina dancers, writers, and thinkers have much to teach us about the strategic potential of femininity. I am an East African Indian originally from the United Kingdom. My family traces its origins back to Kampala, Nairobi, and Gujarat. Though I have only been in California since 2017, I see many parallels and opportunities for solidarity between the working-class British Asian community and the U.S. Latinx population. I am grateful to El Centro for always welcoming me into community here, even though I don’t fit neatly into U.S.-centric frameworks of racial and class identity.

As a young graduate student new to Stanford, California, and the United States, I would have been lost without the support of El Centro, previous cohorts of graduate scholars, and Latinx spaces in the broader Bay Area. I spent my first year perched on a stone wall in front of Orquesta 24 in front of the 24th and Mission BART station, and my second and third year conducting fieldwork and dancing with In Lak’ech in Oakland, the nation’s first QTPOC-focused Latin dance academy. I am now in my final years of graduate work here at Stanford, and in my capacities as DARE Fellow and GSR at El Centro I want to put my hard-won experience as a woman of color in the humanities to good use by mentoring and supporting undergraduates and junior graduate students. If you are from a historically excluded background and thinking about graduate study in the humanities, please reach out to me! I would be happy to talk.

No matter our particular backgrounds and circumstances, I believe scholars of color have a responsibility to act in solidarity with one another. We will always achieve more when we are united. I am honored to stand in solidarity with my fellow Grad Scholars and the wider Centro community.

Emily Ashkin

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Cancer Biology, School of Medicine 

I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I am of Jewish and Argentinean descent (¡Vamos, vamos, Argentina!). After watching my mother battle skin cancer multiple times, I became determined to study and understand her disease. I attended Rice University for my undergraduate studies where I majored in Biochemistry and minored in Anthropology. My time at Rice has made me who I am; I struggled a lot in my first few years of undergrad. I experienced immense self-doubt and imposter syndrome, constantly comparing myself to my peers who had much stronger backgrounds in STEM. I struggled to keep up in my classes while also trying to pursue my passion for cancer research, and I had trouble finding a community I could relate to. Nonetheless, I met strong mentors, friends, and professors who encouraged me to push through the noise and stay focused on my passions and my goals.

My overall research goals are to understand how cancer impacts the rest of the human body from a systemic perspective, starting with the immune system. The development of a tumor will impact how the rest of the human body systems function, either in response and in attempt to destroy the tumor, i.e. immune response, or specific changes that become altered by the tumor itself. How cancer impacts its surrounding environment is just as important as the intrinsic behaviors of the cancer itself. Beyond academics and research, I enjoy spending my time mentoring undergraduate students by encouraging them to follow their passions and pursue graduate study. I currently serve as a mentor and workshop leader for Stanford ADVANCE, FeelingFirstGen, and Científico Latino to provide guidance to undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds who are applying to medical school and graduate school in biological sciences. Additionally, I enjoy painting, hiking, and meeting new people, and I am an avid Premier League fan (COYS!).

I am so excited to be a Graduate Scholar-In-Residence at El Centro this year. I was particularly drawn to this program to serve as a direct mentor for undergraduate students and to help build community bonds at Stanford. I want to help undergraduates learn how to pursue research and focus on their passions beyond the classroom. I also want to give back to my community; I want students to know that regardless of what we discuss (academic, social, or personal), I am here to listen and to help. And, if I don’t have the expertise to help, then I will personally help you find someone in the El Centro community or beyond who does. And I’m looking forward to sharing some Yerba Mate with you at the next Cafecito!

Jorge Meraz

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering 

Jorge Meraz

I was born and raised in Chicago, IL and in the surrounding neighborhood of Cicero, IL. I have family roots in Durango and Michoacan, MX, and San Benito, TX. I attended public schools from K-8th grade before attending a private high school in Pilsen, a predominantly Mexican neighborhood located in the southwest side of the city. After high school I decided to stay in Chicago where I attended Loyola University and majored in Environmental Science with a minor in Chemistry.
I am a first-generation student being the first in my family to receive my M.S. and continue on to a PhD program. I am currently pursing my degree in Environmental Engineering where my research focuses on: 1) mitigating the release of greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide (CO2)) into the environment by using them as food for bacteria that are able to make biodegradeable plastics and 2) figuring out a way to make enough of these plastics for NASA to be able to 3D print materials in space.

Going to graduate school was not something I knew or even though about, but during my junior year of college all of that changed. Just as I was leaving the country to study abroad in Beijing, China, I applied for a summer research internship through the McNair Scholars Program. The summer after my abroad experience my research internship began, and it was also the first time that I got the chance to visit Stanford. Before ever having set foot on campus, I knew nothing of Stanford, and was surprised to find out that places like this existed. Having interacted with Stanford graduate students and getting to know a bit about El Centro, I knew that this was somewhere I could see myself. A few months after visiting campus, I applied and found out that I was accepted — thinking for most of those initial weeks that they made a mistake. Fast-forward a few years and now as a PhD candidate in Environmental Engineering I can tell you that this journey was meant for me.

My experiences in undergrad and grad school led me to be involved with Equity and Inclusion Initiatives (EII) team in the School of Engineering. With the EII team, I support programming of initiatives aimed at recruiting and retaining students who are historically underrepresented within engineering.
El Centro has always been a home for me, from the first time that I moved to campus to this day. I love the community and the sense of belonging that I feel when I am physically there and even now as we continue doing programs virtually. El Centro provides a space where I can be myself and at peace — definitely a home away from home. Mentorship has always been present throughout my academic career. I’m excited that I can continue this work as a Grad Scholar-in-Residence and share as much about my journey and graduate school as I can!

Martín Acosta Parra

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Chemistry. 

Photo of Martín Alonso Acosta

I was born and raised in Sinaloa, MX until I was seven at which time my family decided to move to the United States. My formative years were spent in the small-town community of Turlock, CA which has the distinct pleasure of having Colin Kaepernick as a hometown hero.  I began my undergraduate education at Duke University in North Carolina but came back to California to finish at Pomona College. Pomona not only offered me academics that were more aligned with my values, but I finally began to develop an identity through my participation in community. My journey as a transfer informs me to this day and has always compelled me to motivate others to seek what they need to succeed academically. Most importantly, it was the supportive network of professors and mentors I met at Pomona that paved the way for me to complete a successful degree in chemistry and arrive at Stanford as a grad student in the department of Chemistry. 

 My research interests have always been all over the place but nowadays I consider myself a chemical biologist with an inclination for chemical synthesis. Organic chemistry but specifically synthesis was the first topic to truly excite me about science. However, I now understand that I am interested in the design and synthesis of chemical tools to study biological systems and pair this with molecular insight to enhance my progress. I am currently studying the DNA glycosylase MUTYH as part of a larger effort to study and modulate DNA repair. I am specifically working on medicinal chemistry campaign to design a potent inhibitor of its activity. MUTYH activity has been implicated in several cancer pathways as well having a link to inflammation. The latter has been associated with the presence of MUTYH activity and as such inhibition present a possible therapeutic strategy for inflammation. 

Mentoring is a large part of my story as an academic and as such I have tried to bring that to my Chemistry department. I have been involved with academics as a TA trainer and took the initiative to form my own “Ask a Grad Centro Scholar” office hour space to begin creating community for our chemistry undergrads. I am so grateful for El Centro because they have given me a community, I would never find in my home department and empowered me to build that community for our prospective chemists. In just a few months, being a Grad Scholar-in-Residence has completely changed how I feel about the future of my graduate career. I know that El Centro will continue to provide me a nurturing community that I know I am safe with, and I can reach out to in my times of desperation. I am excited for the return of the El Centro community and am so excited to convive with all of you soon!

Tania Flores

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Iberian and Latin American Cultures (ILAC). 

Tania Flores

I was born in Cuernavaca, México and was raised in Chico, California. A oaxacaliforniana through and through, I grew up spending part of every summer in México, moving between la Agrícola Oriental, the colonia in Mexico City where my family is based, and Santo Domingo Tianguistengo, the village in Oaxaca’s Mixteca Baja where my family comes from. I come from a long line of women who have had to fight for their educations. Mi bisabuelita, Mamá Felicitas, was forced to marry young while her brothers continued attending school. Her daughter and my abuelita, Mamá Eva, repeated fourth grade four times because the elementary school in Tianguistengo did not offer anything beyond that. She spent the next three years demanding that her parents allow her to continue studying, often refusing to eat dinner in protest. Eventually, and despite not knowing how they would make ends meet without her, my great-grandparents relented. My bisabuelito, Papá Crisóstomo, accompanied Mamá Eva to a neighboring village, where she was able to take an entrance exam for a boarding school for rural and indigenous youth. It was a 14-hour journey by foot, and they spent the night under a tree outside the school. She eventually became a teacher and a school principal, and neighbors often referred to her as la Maestra Eva. She passed away this year, in January of 2021. 

Le echo ganas to everything I do to honor that legacy. Being paid to study literature at one of the most well-resourced universities at the world was beyond my ancestors’ wildest dreams and I do not take that lightly. I also believe, however, in the importance of Black and Brown people taking up space in a big way at Stanford, and remembering that they are lucky to have us. I dream of a time when it will finally feel like Stanford deserves us. My research employs transatlantic methodologies, critical race theory, and postcolonial theory in the study of race and literature. I focus on the racial politics of flamenco literature and historiography; race, gender, and performance in the twentieth and twenty-first century Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking worlds; and racial construction in nineteenth and twentieth century Latin American and Spanish literature. I am currently working on a project about representations of Blackness and the Black Power movement in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 and on representations of Blackness, Roma identities, and Muslim identities in Federico García Lorca’s essayistic and poetic production on flamenco. 

When I’m not working, I’m doing political organizing, spending time with my friends and partners, gardening, dancing, and writing poetry. Reach out if you want to chat about those things, literature, culture, music, being a mixed-race Latinx person in the world/at Stanford, being a queer Latinx person in the world/at Stanford, or pretty much anything else. I would love to meet you.

Rubén Díaz Vásquez

Doctoral Student, Program in Modern Thought and Literature, School of Humanities and Sciences 

I was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and migrated to the U.S. at the age of six. Despite navigating citizenship status and migrant obstacles, my family and loved ones have made a home in San Diego, CA. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, with a minor in English from Emory University. At Stanford, I help run the Critical Orientations to Race and Ethnicity (CORE) Workshop group and the group, Concerning Violence: A Decolonial Collaborative Research Group. As a Graduate Scholar in Residence, I am also helping to run the Frosh Scholars Program this year. I know how crucial advanced students, faculty, staff and graduate students were to my growth at Emory, and I hope to also create spaces for growth, well-being, and self-empowerment. As first-generation college and graduate student within my immediate family, I understand the difficulties of navigating a predominantly white university. I aim to help students experiencing first-gen imposter syndrome and other related issues find strategies to succeed and cope with all the baggage that comes with this experience. I hope to be a mentor that students can lean on as they realize their place within the university and their own communities.

To talk a little bit about what I hope to do with my work , I use decolonial theory and critical race studies to focus on addressing the colonialities within Chicanx literature and cultural production. Specifically, I want to make sense of the discipline’s simultaneous overt anti-US imperialism stance and Mexican anti-black, colonial paradigms. Considering the influence of Chicanx literature, how does this tension between empire and coloniality also shape the contemporary cultural processes driving the production of Latinidad? How do we amplify and uplift the anti-black and anti-indigeneity critiques waged upon Chicanx Studies and simultaneously use these to guide future scholarship concerning the issues and themes of importance for Chicanx thinkers and people?

I am also interested in the ramifications and lived realities of Chicanx theories (with regards to race, gender, class, mobility, politics) on Chicanx and non-Chicanx people’s everyday lives. Using ethnography and fieldwork methods, I am interested in inserting people’s voices into the interrogation of Chicanx cultural production.

Victoria Melgarejo

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Education. 

Victoria Melgarejo

I grew up in the Eastern Coachella Valley, a majority Spanish-speaking, farm working, and Latinx immigrant community. My experiences growing up and an awareness of the acute systemic challenges in my community drove my interest in language and pursuing this field in college. I am a first-generation student and the first in my family to pursue undergraduate and graduate education. This experience has solidified the importance of mentorship programs and communities where I could feel a sense of belonging.  For my undergraduate education, I attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where I double majored in Language Culture & Society and Spanish. I participated in UCSB's baile folklórico during my first two years of college. The weekly dance practice, accountability with other members, and social and academic community provided me with a sense of belonging at UCSB. I  was also part of the McNair Scholars Program, which provided the invaluable opportunity of working closely with professor Mary Bucholtz, a professor in the Linguistics department. Through her guidance, I conducted research related to Spanish as a marker of cultural identity among self-identified bilingual and English-dominant Latinxs and the linguistic representation of Latinxs in the media. I began my PhD at Stanford in 2018 after graduating from UCSB.

Currently, I am a 4th year PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Education in the Race, Inequality, and Language, in Education program. My research focuses on examining language in education. Specifically, I explore the academic trajectories and schooling experiences of Latinx students designated as Long-term English learners and their completion of core classes and college eligibility requirements. Furthermore,  I examine ideologies of English language proficiency by centering student experiential knowledge. My research employs qualitative methods such as interviews and ethnographic fieldwork. At the moment, I am working on my dissertation proposal.

I am grateful for the community at El Centro. Across my academic trajectory, I have benefitted from mentorship programs and community building. In fact, I have learned most of the ins and outs of graduate school from other graduate students and scholars of color who understand some of the more profound challenges of pursuing a Ph.D as a first-gen student and woman of color. As such, El Centro Chicano y Latino has been an essential space for my own growth. Through El Centro, I have built genuine connections with other scholars and learned from their trajectories. As a GSR, I would love to meet others and talk about research, pursuing graduate school, the first-gen experience, or anything else! 

2020-2021 Graduate Scholars-in-Residence 

Marlene Orozco

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Sociology, School of Humanities and Sciences 

I was born and raised in Chicago but have been in the Bay Area for the past 14 years. My parents are both from a small town in Jalisco, Mexico and have but a 6th grade education. To date, my siblings and I have been able to attain higher education and professional degrees as a testament to their sacrifices and emphasis on education. I attended Stanford as an undergrad where I majored in Sociology and wrote an honors thesis – my entry into independent research. I was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, a program that planted the seed of the possibility of a Ph.D. I obtained a master’s in Education Policy and Management from Harvard and joined Teach for America thereafter where I taught 4th grade at Rocketship charter school for a few years.
I have come full circle at Stanford with my undergraduate honors thesis advisor now serving as my dissertation chair. In my current research, I study pathways of social mobility through entrepreneurship. My work seeks to change the narrative about the contributions of Latinos to this country. I conduct research at the business school with the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative (SLEI). At SLEI, I lead annual data collection efforts to survey over 5,000 Latino entrepreneurs; we are also building a longitudinal panel of over 1,000 members. As a public and community-engaged scholar, I ensure that the research I conduct is accessible and translated for the communities with whom I work. My research has been featured in over 75 media outlets including BloombergMarketWatchForbesNBC NewsSilicon Valley Business JournalCNN en EspañolRadio Bilinugüe, and Telemundo, among others.
I am looking forward to my homecoming at El Centro where I can foster community among a supportive group of fellow graduate scholars and together, share our experiences with undergraduates. El Centro is the differentiator for so many Latinx students who need not navigate this journey alone. Bienvenidos a la comunidad – whether virtual or in-person, we are here for you.

Bryce Bagley

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Biophysics, School of Humanities and Sciences 

I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, which has the dubious honor of being the hottest major city in the United States. We spent our winters outside and our summers hiding in air-conditioned buildings. My father was the first in his family to go to college, and I'm the first to pursue a PhD. I've been fascinated by science since at least first grade, as I rediscovered a while back while looking through my old crayon drawings from the time, including one which stated "when I grow up, I want to be a scientist." When I started college I had essentially no idea how to get to that dream, except that I knew you needed a PhD. Thanks to some amazing professors who nurtured me both as a student and researcher, I'm fortunate enough to be pursuing my dreams here at Stanford as a PhD candidate in Biophysics.
My research is on machine learning for medical applications, and I develop and combine methods from all across the field - from rigorous algorithms to convolutional neural networks. I'm particularly excited about projects with the potential to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment, and actually plan to pursue an MD in the future and work as a physician-scientist in oncology.
It's my hope that as a Grad Scholar-In-Residence I'll be able to pay forward the gift of mentoring which I received as an undergrad (and now as a graduate student too!). I want to connect students with information and resources that will enable them to identify and pursue opportunities they're passionate about.
El Centro is the most welcoming community I've found in my entire life, and I sincerely hope you'll feel just as welcome here as I have.

Emily Ashkin

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Cancer Biology, School of Medicine 

I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I am of Jewish and Argentinean descent (¡Vamos, vamos, Argentina!). After watching my mother battle skin cancer multiple times, I became determined to study and understand her disease. I attended Rice University for my undergraduate studies where I majored in Biochemistry and minored in Anthropology. My time at Rice has made me who I am; I struggled a lot in my first few years of undergrad. I experienced immense self-doubt and imposter syndrome, constantly comparing myself to my peers who had much stronger backgrounds in STEM. I struggled to keep up in my classes while also trying to pursue my passion for cancer research, and I had trouble finding a community I could relate to. Nonetheless, I met strong mentors, friends, and professors who encouraged me to push through the noise and stay focused on my passions and my goals.
My overall research goals are to understand how cancer impacts the rest of the human body from a systemic perspective, starting with the immune system. The development of a tumor will impact how the rest of the human body systems function, either in response and in attempt to destroy the tumor, i.e. immune response, or specific changes that become altered by the tumor itself. How cancer impacts its surrounding environment is just as important as the intrinsic behaviors of the cancer itself.
Beyond academics and research, I enjoy spending my time mentoring undergraduate students by encouraging them to follow their passions and pursue graduate study. I currently serve as a mentor and workshop leader for Stanford ADVANCE, FeelingFirstGen, and Científico Latino to provide guidance to undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds who are applying to medical school and graduate school in biological sciences. Additionally, I enjoy painting, hiking, and meeting new people, and I am an avid Premier League fan (COYS!).
I am so excited to be a Graduate Scholar-In-Residence at El Centro this year. I was particularly drawn to this program to serve as a direct mentor for undergraduate students and to help build community bonds at Stanford. I want to help undergraduates learn how to pursue research and focus on their passions beyond the classroom. I also want to give back to my community; I want students to know that regardless of what we discuss (academic, social, or personal), I am here to listen and to help. And, if I don’t have the expertise to help, then I will personally help you find someone in the El Centro community or beyond who does. And I’m looking forward to sharing some Yerba Mate with you at the next Cafecito!

Jorge Meraz

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering

I was born and raised in Chicago, IL and in the surrounding neighborhood of Cicero, IL. I have family roots in Durango and Michoacan, MX, and San Benito, TX. I attended public schools from K-8th grade before attending a private high school in Pilsen, a predominantly Mexican neighborhood located in the southwest side of the city. After high school I decided to stay in Chicago where I attended Loyola University and majored in Environmental Science with a minor in Chemistry.
I am a first-generation student being the first in my family to receive my M.S. and continue on to a PhD program. I am currently pursing my degree in Environmental Engineering where my research focuses on: 1) mitigating the release of greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide (CO2)) into the environment by using them as food for bacteria that are able to make biodegradeable plastics and 2) figuring out a way to make enough of these plastics for NASA to be able to 3D print materials in space.
Going to graduate school was not something I knew or even though about, but during my junior year of college all of that changed. Just as I was leaving the country to study abroad in Beijing, China, I applied for a summer research internship through the McNair Scholars Program. The summer after my abroad experience my research internship began, and it was also the first time that I got the chance to visit Stanford. Before ever having set foot on campus, I knew nothing of Stanford, and was surprised to find out that places like this existed. Having interacted with Stanford graduate students and getting to know a bit about El Centro, I knew that this was somewhere I could see myself. A few months after visiting campus, I applied and found out that I was accepted — thinking for most of those initial weeks that they made a mistake. Fast-forward a few years and now as a PhD candidate in Environmental Engineering I can tell you that this journey was meant for me.
My experiences in undergrad and grad school led me to be involved with Equity and Inclusion Initiatives (EII) team in the School of Engineering. With the EII team, I support programming of initiatives aimed at recruiting and retaining students who are historically underrepresented within engineering.
El Centro has always been a home for me, from the first time that I moved to campus to this day. I love the community and the sense of belonging that I feel when I am physically there and even now as we continue doing programs virtually. El Centro provides a space where I can be myself and at peace — definitely a home away from home. Mentorship has always been present throughout my academic career. I’m excited that I can continue this work as a Grad Scholar-in-Residence and share as much about my journey and graduate school as I can!

Jen Marrero Hope

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Chemistry, School of Humanities and Sciences

I grew up in the deep South, in Slidell, Louisiana, a small city about a half hour north of New Orleans, and later Carriere, Mississippi, an even smaller town about a half hour away from Slidell. My relationship with Latinidad and my roots has never been a simple one. The public schools I attended in southern Louisiana and Mississippi were almost completely white. Aside from my mom’s family, I didn’t have access to Latino culture. My queerness also led to feelings of isolation and fear in the small town where I lived. Even though I couldn’t have pointed to discrete things and said, “This is what it means for me to be Latino,” my connection to my mother and her mother are fundamental to who I am—to my passion for helping others and my dedication to my found and chosen familia. My mimaw was born and raised in Puerto Rico and came to New Orleans by way of New York in her 20s. Her formal education ended when she was just 12 because she needed to work to support her family, and my mother’s education ended with her high school diploma. I think of them both often as I reflect on the privilege I have of feeling comfortable and capable in the world of academia.
I did my undergraduate work at MIT. I had no idea what I was getting into! I was a FLI student, a closeted queer, someone navigating chronic mental illness while balancing a workload more intense than any I had ever experienced, and I had such a hard time understanding how to get help! After graduation, I worked full time in research labs for a few years in the Boston area. I also began volunteering with The Network/La Red, an organization that serves survivors of partner abuse in the queer and trans communities. It was in this work that I finally got to experience the magic that is QTPOC space, and began to interrogate my own culture and history and privilege (work that I’m still doing to this day!).
My graduate research has spanned basic protein engineering and cell biology. I study a receptor called TrkA, which is crucial to early neuronal development and whose dysfunction can lead to disorders such as neurodegeneration and chronic pain. I’ve developed a robust system for activating this receptor with light, instead of its native ligand, which gives me fine control over when and where the receptor is active. This control, in turn, lets me ask questions about the impact of cellular context on signaling—does the receptor do different things in different parts of the cell?—that have been very difficult to answer using existing experimental methods. While I think my research is really cool, my favorite part has always been training new scientists and getting new folks, especially queer folks and people of color, interested in and excited about science.
While I have only tangentially interacted with El Centro, the space and the people in it have always been welcoming and I’ve wanted to engage more with the space. I’m approaching the end of my PhD, and I really hope that I can share some of the knowledge I’ve gathered over the years to demystify academia, help folks understand what grad school is like and whether it’s a good fit for them, and also talk shop about organizing and activism work!

David González

Doctoral Candidate, Emmet Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences 

I grew up in Nipomo, CA, a small town on the California Central Coast. My family roots are in Los Angeles and Kansas City. I did my undergrad at UC Davis; I'm second-generation in college on both sides and first in my family to pursue a PhD. My experiences growing up and experiencing pollution and environmental degradation made me want to study environmental sciences. I decided to do a PhD after doing work on the health impacts of mercury pollution in the Peruvian Amazon for my master's thesis, and seeing how the research was important for making policies to reduce harm.

I study how pollution from extractive industries, including oil drilling and gold mining, affects reproductive health and contributes to health disparities.

I've been involved with the Frosh Scholars Program since my first year at Stanford, and I'm serving as the program co-coordinator for the third year. Mentors in my life have been a source of support and guidance, and I wouldn't be where I am without them. I also enjoy being a mentor to younger students. Through the Frosh Scholars Program, we provide an opportunity for graduate students to learn how to be better mentors, and incoming frosh gain support and a sense of community.

I want to be a Grad Scholar-in-Residence to build community. Having a space where I can come in, get work done, and feel comfortable with peers/friends is very important to me as I enter the later stages of my PhD. El Centro has been a consistent source of support since I arrived at Stanford. I've made some of my most meaningful connections through El Centro. I've found it to be a space I can come to and feel comfortable, especially when academics and life in general get crazy.

Rubén Díaz Vásquez

Doctoral Student, Program in Modern Thought and Literature, School of Humanities and Sciences 

I was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and migrated to the U.S. at the age of six. Despite navigating citizenship status and migrant obstacles, my family and loved ones have made a home in San Diego, CA. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, with a minor in English from Emory University. At Stanford, I help run the Critical Orientations to Race and Ethnicity (CORE) Workshop group and the group, Concerning Violence: A Decolonial Collaborative Research Group. As a Graduate Scholar in Residence, I am also helping to run the Frosh Scholars Program this year. I know how crucial advanced students, faculty, staff and graduate students were to my growth at Emory, and I hope to also create spaces for growth, well-being, and self-empowerment. As first-generation college and graduate student within my immediate family, I understand the difficulties of navigating a predominantly white university. I aim to help students experiencing first-gen imposter syndrome and other related issues find strategies to succeed and cope with all the baggage that comes with this experience. I hope to be a mentor that students can lean on as they realize their place within the university and their own communities.
To talk a little bit about what I hope to do with my work , I use decolonial theory and critical race studies to focus on addressing the colonialities within Chicanx literature and cultural production. Specifically, I want to make sense of the discipline’s simultaneous overt anti-US imperialism stance and Mexican anti-black, colonial paradigms. Considering the influence of Chicanx literature, how does this tension between empire and coloniality also shape the contemporary cultural processes driving the production of Latinidad? How do we amplify and uplift the anti-black and anti-indigeneity critiques waged upon Chicanx Studies and simultaneously use these to guide future scholarship concerning the issues and themes of importance for Chicanx thinkers and people?
I am also interested in the ramifications and lived realities of Chicanx theories (with regards to race, gender, class, mobility, politics) on Chicanx and non-Chicanx people’s everyday lives. Using ethnography and fieldwork methods, I am interested in inserting people’s voices into the interrogation of Chicanx cultural production.

Sergio Redondo

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Biology, School of Humanities and Sciences 

I was born in San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora, México and emigrated to Yuma, Arizona with my family at a young age. Growing up on the México-US border, I had to balance these two distinct worlds as I developed my personal identity, which made for a very interesting and unique experience that not everyone can fully understand unless they had a similar up-bringing. I completed my bachelor's degree in biology at the University of Arizona. My first exposure to research came through the McNair Scholars Program. This program helped me expand my passion for wildlife and conservation into the research realm in a conservation genetics lab. This really launched me on the path to graduate school because as a first-generation, low-income student it is rare for us to know about this academic trajectory.
I continued on to a Master’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology through the Frontier’s Program at the University of Michigan. This was my first opportunity to conduct international research, which I am forever grateful for. It helped me get a global view of conservation biology, and helped me see firsthand the most amazing natural landscapes. For my research, I studied the evolutionary history of red howler monkeys across the Peruvian landscape. Coincidentally, it was at one of my field locations that I realized the impacts that mining, deforestation, and mercury pollution were having on the environment. This propelled me into my current research, which aims to understand the uptake, transfer and toxicity of mercury within soil food webs and assess the downstream health impacts on above-ground species (e.g. bats, birds).
Through my continued work in the environmental health sector, I aim to inspire members of Latinx and other underrepresented communities to explore nature and to learn about the complexity and beauty that exists in the world. I believe that the leading global issues will be best addressed with a diversity of views, thoughts, and experiences, and this will only be possible if everyone is afforded equitable opportunities.
El Centro community and events have really supported me directly and indirectly throughout my tenure at Stanford. It really created a sense of belonging for me and had many opportunities to remind me of home, my identity and my roots. This has kept me grounded and sustained me, so I hope to be a part of the community that supports other students as well. I am passionate about developing initiatives that promote diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and access for all URM communities in higher education and beyond.

"El Centro provides a sense of support and belonging. It was comforting to have a place where others would understand my background and life experiences. I felt heard and understood at Stanford because of El Centro."

Jesus Madrid
Doctoral Candidate, Department of Neurosciences, Stanford School of Medicine

"I consider El Centro my home on campus and am grateful for the space, support, and community the center offers to graduate students."

Vanessa Seals
Doctoral Candidate, Department of English