Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows

Current Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows

2023-2025 Fellows

MMUF student

Natalya Rowe

Major: History

Minor: Art

Project: The Rise of the Ideal Urban City Model: Amsterdam, Netherlands and the Evolution of Dutch-Jewish Urban Design

Mentor: Dr. Paulo Simoes (Honors)  

Natalya Rowe (they/she) is a first generation student at Cal State Fullerton. Natalya is a History Major with an Art minor, a President’s Scholar, University Honors Fellow, Phi Alpha Theta member, and Secretary for President’s Scholars Student Association. Natalya plans on further expanding their research on the history of Urban Design and Planning from the Industrial Revolution to Pre-WWII within Western Europe through the MMUF program. Natalya hopes to address issues of social history and justice through a reexamination of public infrastructure and transportation, especially as it relates to the progression of civil rights for minorities.

MMUF student

Isabella Praslin

Major: History

Project: Women's Hidden Roles in Ancient Christianity

Mentor: Dr. James Rietveld (History)  

Isabella “Izzy” Praslin is an Honors History major with a research interest in women's roles in ancient world religions. She is researching women in ancient Christianity who performed leadership roles during the time of Jesus Christ and after through the reading ancient texts and analyzing archaeological evidence sites. Izzy is passionate about giving back to her community through peer mentorship for students with disabilities, serving as a project director of Titans Forever – a volunteering service where students do activities with senior citizens receiving memory care.

mmuf student

Shyamali Perera

Major: English

Project: Breaking Language Barriers that Shape Sri Lankan Identity: Linguistic Nationalism, Civil War in Post-Colonial Era

Mentor: Dr. Maria Bo (English and Comparative Literature)  

Shyamali Perera is majoring in English with a minor in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). However, her teaching background is Early Childhood Education, particularly in the Montessori method. Her research involves studying Sri Lanka's linguistic landscape, the role of language in the Sri Lankan Civil War, and strategies to promote linguistic diversity and understanding. She aims to find ways to dismantle language barriers created by linguistic nationalism, a critical factor in Sri Lanka's ethnic disparities. Shyamali hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Education or English to further her research and contribute to resolving language-related disputes causing diaspora in Asia.

mmuf studdent

Henry Rodriguez

Major: English

Project: Maurice White and “Evil”: Earth, Wind and Fire and Kemetism in the Post-Civil Rights Era

Mentor: Dr. Edward Piñuelas (English)  

Henry Rodriguez is a recent transfer student and English major. He has worked as a jazz drummer, musician, and music teacher for over two decades, prior to continuing his education. His research interests include the origins of jazz music, cultural expression, communication, and the melding of European music styles with Indigenous expression.

2022-2024 Fellows

Mario Benitez smiling

Mario Benitez

Major: Sociology and Religious Studies

Project:Cultural Displacement and Sacred Spaces: Unpacking Gentrification's Effects on Religious Institutions

Mentor: Dr. Christina Chin (Sociology)

Mario Benitez is a senior majoring in Sociology & Religious Studies. His research delves into the intricate interplay between urban gentrification and religious institutions, shedding light on how cultural displacement impacts sacred spaces. By examining the evolving dynamics and challenges these institutions face, this study contributes to a deeper understanding of the broader socio-cultural transformations resulting from gentrification. He is also a first generation, transfer, and adult re-entry student. Mario enjoys reaching about religion and Catholicism, and historical documentaries.


Niyyah Jackson smiling

Niyyah Jackson

Major: English

Project: Identifying Black Femininity: Examining the State of Black Femininity in America 

Mentor: Dr. Bonnie J. Williams-Farrier (English)

Niyyah Jackson is a senior, majoring in English minoring in African American Studies. Her research focuses on the depictions of black women’s femininity in literature and taking a closer look at the current conversation surrounding black femininity as it relates to colorism and it's dynamic with black masculinity. She is passionate about Black women’s literature, African American language, the role of colorism as it affects Black women, and Black female stereotypes. She is currently working at the California State University, Fullerton Writing Center as a writing tutor. After she receives her Bachelor's degree, she plans on continuing further to get her Ph.D in English and hopes to eventually teach African American Women’s Literature.


Jasmine Raine Rivera smiling

Jasmine Raine Rivera

Major: English

Minor: History

Project: : “Thy valiantness was mine”: Volumnia in Tanghalang Pilipino’s Coriolano, and the Role of Shakespeare in Filipino Drama

Mentor:Dr. Marlin E. Blaine (English)

Jasmine Raine Rivera (she/her) is a 4th year English major, History minor at California State University, Fullerton. Her project examines the character of Volumnia in Tanghalang Pilipino's 2019 production of Coriolano, a Tagalog translation of Shakespeare's Coriolanus, to explore the purpose of adapting Shakespeare in present-day Philippines and how Shakespeare adaptation fits into the still developing identity of Filipino drama.


Pauli Cuellar Aguilar

Cesar Villatoro

Major: Philosophy

Project: Climate Instability, Ecosocialism, and Grounded Normativity: How Indigenous Place-Based Ethics Can Inform Alternatives to Capitalist Relations Towards Land

Mentor: Dr. Matthew R. Calarco (Philosophy)

Cesar’s research critically examines Marxist solutions to capitalist relations towards the environment in the face of growing global climate instability. By analyzing these solutions through an Indigenous and environmental ethics lens, he proposes that the Indigenous ethical framework of "grounded normativity" is able to provide ecosocialist solutions with a strong normative ethics to compel a new sensibility towards nature in order to combat widespread ecological degradation.

2021-2023 Fellows

Amalia Contreras

Amalia Contreras

Major: History

Project: No Place like Home: An Insight into the Resilience of Mexican Women affected by Unconstitutional Deportations of the 1930s

Mentor: Dr. Margie Brown-Coronel (History)


Pauli Cuellar Aguilar

Pauli Cuellar Aguilar

Major: Linguistics

Project: Queerly said: a sociolinguistic analysis of cisheteronormative ideologies in Japanese popular media

Mentor: Dr. Satoko Kakihara (Japanese)


C.J. Quion

C. J. Quion

Major: History

Project: Trouble in the Tropics: An Exploration of the Overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893

Mentor: Dr. Mike Perez (Sociology)

2020-2022 Fellows

Thai Butterfield.

Thai Butterfield

Major: Religious Studies

Project:  The Bible and Judeo-Christian Writings on Homoeroticism: Deconstructing Gender Complementarity and Its Hermeneutical Implications toward Same-Sex Relationships

Mentor: Dr. Janet Bregar (Religious Studies)


Ayza Martinez.

Ayza Martinez

Major: American Studies

Project: America’s False Narrative of Gender Equality: Dissection of Misogyny within Women’s Policy

Mentor: Dr. Pamela Fiber-Ostrow (Politics, Administration and Justice)


Starlina Sanchez.

Starlina Sanchez

Major: Sociology

Project: Beyond Incarceration: Exploring the Reentry of Latinx Women in California

Mentor: Dr. Tala Khanmalek (Women and Gender Studies)


Gabriel Taggard.

Gabriel Taggard

Majors: English

Project: Applying Queer Theory to Shakespeare’s Irony

Mentor: Dr. David Kelman and Dr. Nicole Seymour (English, Comparative Literature, and Linguistics)