Mellon AIS 2018-01-10T13:36:00+00:00

— A two-year series of seminars, lectures and films that explores interethnic and intercultural issues —

The Mellon Advancing Intercultural Studies (Mellon AIS) project sponsors four academic seminars over two years. Each seminar focuses on an aspect of intercultural engagement, connecting and contributing to the goals of the overarching project. In addition to academic seminars, the project hosts public lectures and free film screenings designed to engage public audiences in the project themes.

Learn about upcoming public events in this series by visiting our Events page.

For more information about the project, click the + links below to expand/contract the page.

The FILM FOR THOUGHT summer series of documentaries, shorts and films explores intersecting project themes of inequality, diversity, religion and history.

Film Date Time Length
Requiem for the American Dream July 14 & 15 7 PM  73 minutes
A House Divided July 15 3 PM  60 minutes
Waiting for Superman July 28 & 29 7 PM  111 minutes
In the Game July 29 3 PM  77 minutes
He Named me Malala August 11 & 12 7 PM  87 minutes
White Helmets August 12 3 PM  40 minutes
LA 92 August 25 / August 26 7 PM / 3 PM  114 minutes
13th August 26 7 PM  100 minutes

Visit the Events page for more details.

Films are hosted at the Culver Center of the Arts, 3824 Main Street, Riverside.

Reserve your free tickets at ARTSBLOCK.UCR.EDU

During this seminar, participants will examine contrasting responses to economic inequality, which has been on the rise in most rich Democracies for nearly three decades. We’ve witnessed two very different kinds of responses. On one hand, movements including Occupy Wall Street, the Bernie Sanders campaign and radical resistance to austerity and the promotion of multiculturalism in Europe, advocate progressive responses that seek to reduce economic inequality. On the other, right-leaning populist and anti-immigrant parties/movements in Europe and the United States, including Brexit (UK), the National front (France) and the Donald Trump campaign (US), have responded with attempts to scapegoat and exclude already marginalized groups from a shrinking economic pie. Thus, we seek scholars who examine the paradoxical relationship between rising inequality and bigotry, on the one hand, and progressive politics, on the other. The seminar is methodologically and epistemologically agnostic, but we are particularly interested in historical and empirical approaches to economic inequality and its backlashes, and in projects that can demonstrate connections between them.


Title Date Location
Politics in the Era of Trump | Watch Lecture October 12, 2017 CHASS INTS 1113
Film & Discussion: Inequality for All October 13, 2017 Culver Center of the Arts
Race, Class, and Trump November 16, 2017 CHASS INTS 1113


Matthew Mahutga – Convener

Matthew C Mahutga is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Riverside. His research examines the global determinants of economic organization and their consequences for a range of political and socio-economic outcomes. His work appears in interdisciplinary outlets including Europe-Asia Studies, Global Networks, Review of International Political Economy, Social Forces, Social Networks, Social Problems, Social Science Research, Urban Studies, and elsewhere, and has been supported by the National Science Foundation. Michaela Curran is a collaborator on this project.

Paper Abstract: Income Polarization in Rich Democracies: Household Composition, Labor Markets and Structural Change  (Matthew C Mahutga, Michaela Curran, Sociology, University of California, Riverside) Recent inequality research focuses on the concept of income polarization. In this article, we first examine empirically the phenomenon of income polarization in the OECD. We show that both lower-tail and upper-tail polarization are on the rise in the OECD, but that upper-tail polarization is more salient. Second, we develop a conceptual  framework for analyzing income polarization in terms of income penalties and premiums at the household level that emerge from the interaction of household composition, labor markets, structural change (globalization, skill-biased technological change and financialization) and institutional context (unions, wage-coordination and welfare states). Third, we develop a novel empirical strategy with which to subject this framework to empirical scrutiny. We show there are sizable disparities between dual-earning and single-mother households, but also a wide degree of variation within each household type owing to the interaction of assortative marriage with the returns to skill and occupation in the labor market. Structural change exacerbates skill and occupational penalties and premiums, while egalitarian institutions ameliorate these premiums. Our analysis yields three broad conclusions. First, while the interaction of household composition with labor markets is a powerful force for distributional change, it is insufficient to explain contemporary levels of income polarization. Second, both structural change and institutional context moderate income penalties and premiums in the labor market. Egalitarian institutions play a larger role in moderating income penalties in the labor market, but structural change is more salient overall because of its large effect on high-end income premiums. Third, the sociology of inequality should work to bridge theoretical and empirical divides in the literature. While income inequality is largely a household level phenomenon, it is nevertheless a joint function of processes operating in different analytical dimensions across different levels of analysis.

Aisa Ballard-Dosty

I was born in Richmond, California. I am a fourth-year undergraduate student with a major in sociology. After I complete my Bachelors Degree this year I hope to begin working on a social work Ph.D. program. I will be working alongside Dr. Mahutga on his project that thoroughly analyzes and evaluates theories of household income and polarization at both macro and micro levels.

Paper Abstract: Ethnographies of Economic Inequality: Insider and Outsider Perspectives (Aisa Ballard-Dosty, Sociology, University of California, Riverside) There are different perspectives of accuracy when it comes to qualitative research methods. In my essay, I analyze how qualitative research methods can have different results due to the position of the researcher. In the Ethnography Sidewalk the by, Mitchell Duniere the author is considered an outsider in the community in which he is studying. Duniere being a white Jewish male studying the lives of poor black men had more difficult time collecting data on what’s going on in the streets of New York.  In the ethnography, The Stickup Kids by Randol, Contreras the author is considered an insider studying the lives of his friends and people living in his community. Both authors are studying results of economic disparity and inequality however, being an outsider versus being an insider in the community, the authors are studying resulted in very great ethnographic pieces but differed in the understanding and application of their findings. The differences in the way the two authors are connected to the community showed throughout their work. My essay examines how the position of the researcher can alter the understanding of their research.

David Brady

David Brady is Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Blum Initiative on Global and Regional Poverty at UCR. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology and Public Affairs from Indiana University in 2001, and was Director of the Inequality and Social Policy department at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center from 2012-2015. He is the author of Rich Democracies, Poor People: How Politics Explain Poverty and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of the Social Science of Poverty (both Oxford University Press). Presently, he is studying how inequalities in long-term economic resources influence health and racial inequality; the political consequences of immigration and racial/ethnic heterogeneity; comparative social policy; and poverty/inequality.

Paper AbstractThe Evolution of Social Welfare Transfers Across U.S. States, and the Consequences for Relative Poverty (David Brady, Public Policy, University of California, Riverside; Zachary Parolin, University of Antwerp) We examine how social welfare transfers evolved across U.S. states from 1993 to 2014. We estimate the levels of three dimensions of welfare transfers: universalism, targeting and transfer share. Using higher quality and improved measures of welfare transfers and household income, we provide more precise and more accurate state-year measures of welfare transfers. Our estimates describe an increase in transfer share and universalism and a decline in targeting in recent decades. We then assess how each state-year level dimension influences individual-level relative poverty, measured at various cutpoints below the median of the income distribution (both relative to a given year and anchored to the 1993 median). The models adjust for a variety of individual-level and state-year level variables and state and year fixed effects. The analyses show that declining targeting worsened relative poverty at 30 and 40% of the median, and anchored poverty at 30-50% of the median. By contrast, increasing universalism reduced relative poverty at 10-40% and anchored poverty 10-50% of the median. Further, increasing transfer share reduced relative poverty 50-100%, and increased anchored poverty 20-50% of the median. Overall, the bottom half of the income distribution would only be modestly different in 2014 if welfare dimensions were at 1993 levels.

Steven Brint

Steven Brint is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside, and the director of the Colleges & Universities 2000 study. He is an organizational sociologist whose current research focuses on topics in the sociology of higher education, the sociology of professions, and middle-class politics. He is the author of three books: The Diverted Dream (with Jerome Karabel) (Oxford University Press, 1989), In an Age of Experts (Princeton University Press, 1994), Schools and Societies (Pine Forge/Sage, 1998, second ed. Stanford University Press 2006). He is the editor of The Future of the City of Intellect (Stanford University Press, 2002). He is the co-editor (with Jean Reith Schroedel) of the two volume series, Evangelicals and Democracy in America (Russell Sage Foundation Press 2009). His articles have appeared in the American Journal of Sociology, Sociological Theory, Minerva, Work and Occupations, Sociology of Education, The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, The Journal of Higher Education, and many other journals.

Paper AbstractThe Liberal Politics of Professionals? Forty Years of Data from the General Social Survey (Michaela Curran, Joel Winegar, Steven Brint, Sociology, University of California, Riverside) Social scientists are rediscovering the issue of class inversion in American politics as large proportions of less educated white workers have shifted to adopt Republican Party identifications and conservative policy preferences and highly educated professionals have appeared to shift toward Democratic Party identifications and liberal policy preferences.  This renewed interest in class inversion has encouraged social scientists to reconsider theoretical  perspectives intended to explain differences between business owners/managers and professionals, including Gouldner’s “new-class” theory, Bourdieu’s “class fractions” theory, and Brint’s “cumulative trends” argument.  This paper examines the thesis of the liberal politics of professionals using 40 years of data from the General Social Survey.  Net of covariates, we find that highly educated professionals are not left-of-center on Democratic party identification or redistributive issues, nor are they more liberal on race-related government spending.  They are more liberal on “middle-class government spending” (environment, education, and health) and on issues related to social inclusion, moral non-restrictiveness, and national defense/policing.  Much of the difference in the political views of business owners/managers and professionals can be explained by compositional differences between the two strata.  The professional stratum is composed disproportionately of liberal-leaning groups: minorities, women, city residents, less religious people, and younger people.  In general, inequality in the United States has led, among whites, to greater opposition to policies favored by minorities, rather than to greater support for progressive policies.

Kai Cheang

Kai is a Ph.D. candidate in the English Department at UC Riverside specializing in Asian diasporic literature and genre studies. He is particularly interested in narratives by Asian Americans about social movements. Kai’s dissertation project takes a historiographical approach to the assembly of an archive of melancholia comprised of Asian American novels, documentaries, and musical performances that recall the largely forgotten beginnings of Asian Americans as a singular political group during the long 1960s. The project uses this archive to build the case that Asian American artists’ transgression of genre expectations reveals the productive logic and radical potential in remembering the past, and draws attention to the intersections and limits of countercultural and coalitional politics in the formation of Asian America.

Paper AbstractScenes of Displacement: Sensorial Encapsulations and Ethical Interpellations in Asian American Documentary Fictions of the International Hotel (Kai Hang Cheang, English, University of California, Riverside) My essay delineates Asian American literature’s responses to and representations of economic inequality by analyzing two documentary novels that depict the demise of the International Hotel, one of the last affordable housing options for migrant workers in mid-twentieth century San Francisco. The essay uses the work of the subaltern theorists Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Trinh Minh-ha to position Sam Tagatac’s “The New Anak” (1974) and Karen Tei Yamashita’s I-Hotel (2010)—two experimental narratives that integrate sets of “documentary techniques” into story telling (Trinh 1990, 76)—as documentary fictions that challenge capitalism’s abstraction of laborers of color. In these works, Tagatac and Yamashita encapsulate the marginalization of the tenants of the International Hotel by zeroing in on the dermic, olfactory, and sonic material that defines their lives, filling their nostrils, and drifting across their environs. These granular depictions appeal to readers’ senses with a visceral immediacy that simultaneously reanimates the history of the International Hotel and its tenants, and incorporates it into San Francisco’s present by sublimating the materials of the displaced as moving pieces that are still wafting through the Bay, residing in the quotidian life of the city. If Spivak is correct that responsibility is “a mediatory stage” between the self and another (1994, 22), then the multi-sensory appeals in I Hotel and “The New Anak” enliven the history of the movement to save the International Hotel while staging it as part of the ongoing fight for housing justice on behalf of displaced tenants, exhorting readers to intervene in the housing crisis that continues to marginalize working-class laborers across coastal California.

Michaela Curran

Michaela Curran is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Riverside. Her primary research interests include income inequality, economic development, and population health. Her dissertation is a cross-national, quantitative study of how income inequality impacts health across different levels of economic development, at the country-level and the individual-level. She earned her B.A. in Sociology from the University of Central Arkansas and her M.A. in Sociology from UC Riverside.

Paper AbstractContextual or Compositional Effects? Income Inequality, Socioeconomic Status, and Self-Rated Health in 76 Countries (Michaela Curran, Sociology, University of California, Riverside) Evidence suggests that macro-level inequality’s impact on an individual’s health might represent a contextual (i.e., ecological) rather than a compositional (i.e., related to individual resources) effect. To test this relationship, previous works subject the income inequality-health hypothesis to multi-level models that attempt to untangle the relationships between income inequality, individual income, and poverty. However, results provide mixed support for an association between income inequality and individual-level health. This paper extends on the previous literature by untangling the effects of macro-level income inequality and individual-level resources on self-rated health using a broader sample of countries than previous works. It brings to bear a cross-national, comparative perspective on the macro-micro link between income inequality and health. It also considers the effects of an additional individual-level resource not often explored in previous works, subjective social status .Preliminary findings suggest that subjective social status might capture distinct mechanisms through which SES impacts health. Country-level income inequality appears to amplify the link between subjective social status for the middle-class, in particular.

Josh Hueth

I am a transfer student majoring in English and a second year Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Research Fellow. My research interests include horror, Am. Lit., and Marxism. My non-research interests include Rick and Morty, carnivorous plants, and Pokémon. I don’t have much to say about myself, so thank you to Professors Vint, Sohn, and Doyle for inspiring my work and continuing to push me intellectually. Thank you also to the people at the CIS for this wonderful opportunity!

Paper AbstractEconomic Inequality in Rebecca Harding Davis’s Life in the Iron Mills (Josh Hueth, English, University of California, Riverside) This essay aims to address what might be thought of as the central ontological question posed in Rebecca Harding Davis’s novella Life in the Iron Mills. The text is framed around questions of unequal access to social capital and ontological fulfillment. Who gets to climb the social ladder? Who can be a person? I argue, the mill represents a space in which even the possibility of person-hood is refused to the laborers. Furthermore, Davis strangely adopts formal elements of the horror genre in describing the phenomenological interactions between characters and the mill. In my reading, the text reproduces the lived horror of life under industrial capital for the reader.

Joshua Oliver

I am a fourth year English and Creative Writing major, currently considering and prepping for the possibility of jumping into a PHD program shortly or immediately after completion of my undergrad. In my brief time studying literature at UCR, I feel like my perspective of the world and myself has been shaped and changed immensely. For me, a commitment to work in literature is a commitment to constant thought, consideration, and growth as an individual. When I’m not working on papers and stories for class, I spend my time writing music and touring in a musical group with my friends.

Paper Abstract: Exploring Inequality Through Don Delillo’s Academic World in White Noise (Joshua Olivier, English, University of California, Riverside) Illusions of upward mobility via higher education reign supreme in American culture and discourse. The ethos of higher education—the myth of the American Dream—argues that hard work in secondary school leads to career opportunities that allow all peoples to transcend toward higher economic and social positioning. This essay will explore how Don Delillo’s White Noise, exposes this notion as a comforting myth that renders the middle class as systematically subjugated—cultural sameness and economic stagnancy methodically maintained by a University System that profits from this sort of institutional pyramid scheme. Promises of equal opportunity and decreased economic and social disparity run rampant in academic discourse, but all the while the institution itself, historically, serves to promote disparity and patriarchal power dynamics between class and gender. Delillo’s academia, then, indicates an overt subjugation of the middle class, lower class, and women as the object of institutional remediation. With this, the novel can be read as a direct response to the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. The commodity of knowledge and research creates a capitalist environment where the knowledge and research themselves matter less than the abilities for knowledge and to be commodified. Academic capital, then, becomes arbitrary insothat the institution itself has complete sayso as to what academic work is and is not “valuable.” Delillo, then, highlights how the ethos of higher education hides in the ruse of promoting economic and social equality while the system itself often perpetuates patriarchy and social disparity through the institution’s relationship with capitalism. Central to my argument will be Marx’s cash nexus along with Bill Reading’s The University In Ruins.

Yoon Jae Ro

Yoon Jae Ro is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Economics at the University of California, Riverside. Her research agenda focuses on how individuals respond to policy impetus or ad-hoc state interventions (such legal drinking age or age of entry in school) and how these responses manifest in their socioeconomic outcomes. Her current research is an inquiry on how early exposure to alcohol consumption affects educational attainment among the youth. She believes in using an interdisciplinary approach to understand individual behavior in order to mitigate key development problems such as poverty, inequality, illiteracy, malnutrition, and crime.

Paper AbstractThe Effect of Teachers’ Evaluation on Student Performance (Yoon Jae Ro, Economics, University of California, Riverside) There is little doubt that a quality teacher is the key factor of students’ achievement. Previous research has well established the effect of teachers on student performance. The quality of teacher is one of the most important factors found to promote students’ learning and even their long-term outcome such as earnings. Policy makers and educators have long been interested in finding correct ways to identify effective teachers and to improve the teaching quality. This study will analyze the impacts of the adoption of teacher value-added measures as the teacher evaluation on student performance. The existence of the value-added measure can change the behavior of teachers through different mechanisms. Further, the allocation of teachers across schools can change due to the evaluation contingent on the value-added score. Schools can use the student test score-based rating on selective hiring and retention of teachers. Also, the quality of teaching can be improved as teachers become aware of the policy. Thus, these changes of teacher’s behavior can actually raise student performance. However, those effects can differ depending on where the student stands regarding the initial test score. Investigating how information on true effectiveness of teachers affect students’ performance can be valuable to the policy makers. This study seeks to answer three questions. Firstly, does use of teacher value-added measures to inform personnel decision-making result in better outcomes for students? Secondly, do effects differ depending on the students’ initial standing in their academic achievement. Lastly, are students who are disadvantaged more likely to attend schools with ineffective teachers?

Carolyn Sloane

Carolyn Sloane is an Assistant Professor of Economics at UC Riverside. Her research agenda is focused on understanding persistence in non-employment, uncovering the causal impacts of rising local wage inequality, and studying the allocation of talent in the public sector. Carolyn holds a PhD in Public Policy from the University of Chicago, a Masters of Business Administration in Economics and Finance from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish from Vanderbilt University. She previously worked as a legislative staffer in the United States Senate.

Paper AbstractRising Wage Inequality and Urban Migration (Carolyn Sloane, Economics, University of California, Riverside; Lancelot Henry de Frahan, Economics, University of Chicago)  Due to methodological hurdles, analysis of the real effects of increasing wage inequality is largely missing from the academic literature.  This paper builds on the authors’ earlier work which proposed an identification strategy to separately analyze the causal impact of changing inequality and growth on many economic phenomena. In Rising Wage Inequality and Human Capital Investment, we find consistent evidence that increasing wage inequality causes declines in local community college and four-year institution enrollments. Economic theory offers a primary channel through which we may expect post-secondary enrollments and wage dispersion to be related: by altering incentives. As the premium offered for worker skill increases, the incentives to acquire skill intensify (Katz and Murphy 1992). In a local labor market, we may expect to see these incentive responses through: (1) the skilling up of the local population, or (2) by in-migration of skilled workers.  With respect to the skilling up of the local population, our main results in Rising Wage Inequality and Human Capital Investment negate this prediction. This leads to the question: do we see the incentive response on the migration margin or is there simply no incentive response? In other words, in cities where wage inequality is increasing, do we see in-migration of skilled workers? Alternatively, do we see workers fleeing cities with rising inequality? As preliminary evidence, using an instrumented model we find predicted increases in inequality cause increases in population. A 1 standard deviation increase in the instrument for the 90-50 increases the population of those age 18 to 25 by 0.31 of 1 standard deviation. A 1 standard deviation increase in the distributional instrument for the 90-50 increases the native-state population of those age 18 to 25 by 0.23 of 1 standard deviation. In other words, local labor markets (MSAs) that experienced large predicted increases in both upper tail and overall inequality experienced young-adult population booms both in the form of overall migration and intrastate migration. These increases would have not been apparent through the analysis in the existing literature—the OLS results.

Stephen Sohn

Stephen Hong Sohn is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside. Sohn is the author of Racial Asymmetries: Asian American Fictional Worlds (NYU Press, 2014).

Paper AbstractAsian American Fictions of Upward Mobility (Stephen Hong Sohn, English, University of California, Riverside) Asian American fiction provides us with a number of key examples concerning what has been termed the bamboo ceiling and dovetails with larger social contexts and scholarly studies that demonstrate the limits of Asian Americans’ upward mobility in the workforce. So, despite a shift away from the working class and labor-oriented politics that drove the Civil Rights movement and the development of ethnic studies, these fictions push us to consider how discourses of economic inequality have shifted in the age of the model minority. I focus on an analysis of a general “sample set” of these fictions (including but not limited to Helen Wan’s The Partner Track Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Hari Kunzru’s Transmission, among others) to explore variations on these disparities that might be found in the “upper tail” of the economic strata.

Paul Teten

Paul Teten is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Riverside. He specializes in American politics and mass behavior with a focus on poverty, economic inequality and elite behavior. Paul earned his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. He has held positions with a number of governmental organizations such as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the US Census Bureau, and a United States Senator. His current research focuses on the pressing issue of economic inequality and the link between the poor and their political representatives.

Paper AbstractElite Exposure to Economic Inequality (Paul Teten, Political Science, University of California, Riverside) With the immense expansion of economic inequality in democracies around the world, there has never been a more important time to study the effect inequality will have on politics. One of the most fundamental aspects that research on inequality must address is the impact it has on political representation. Research has shown that when the interests of the poor conflict with that of the wealthy, their preferences do not get served. This biased representation limits the ability of the government to properly address growing economic inequality. My research examines which factors increase the likelihood that a legislator will hold policy preferences that serve the interests of the poor. My theory posits that legislators who were raised in areas with higher economic inequality, will be more likely to advance redistributive policies once in office. Growing up in an area with greater wealth disparity will expose the legislator to the difficulties experienced by those in poverty compared to the privileges that accompany wealth. I expect that this exposure will play a consequential role in the legislator’s political socialization that makes them more sympathetic to the poor and they will therefore be more likely to support redistributive policies. This research will use original data from a survey of political elites regarding their exposure to inequality. The information gained from the survey will be used to observe the impact of exposure to economic inequality on the legislator’s activity in office, specifically the likelihood of introducing and cosponsoring redistributive legislation.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the University of Texas’s affirmative action program in June 2016. Yet, arguably, efforts at diversity in higher education need now to go beyond attempts to provide greater access to institutions of higher education for under-represented groups to explore gender and racial campus culture of the institutions themselves. Such questions include issues of intra-student racial tensions (as those that arose recently at the University of Missouri); disparate undocumented student access (largely dependent upon state policies); gender equality, safety, and other Title IX issues (unsettling almost every campus in the United States); questions about symbols that may be racially charged (e.g. the names of Calhoun College at Yale and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton and the flying of the Confederate flag at the Citadel); and concerns about the possible conflict between ensuring free speech and providing so-called safe spaces (e.g. the controversy of the Silliman College e-mail at Yale). Among other questions, this seminar would ask what colleges and universities owe their students in terms of resources, safe spaces, curriculum, and the like; how exclusionary symbols might be best dealt with in a way that acknowledges contentious histories and what new policies might be necessary to deal with sexual harassment, violence, and ethnic tensions.


Title Date Location
Film & Discussion: American Promise 6 PM, January 19, 2018 Culver Center of the Arts
Public Lecture– details coming soon! TBD


Jennifer Nájera Convener

Jennifer R. Nájera received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin and is currently Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California Riverside.  She is a cultural anthropologist whose work investigates issues of race, immigration, and education.  Nájera is the author of The Borderlands of Race (University of Texas Press, 2015).

Research: Nájera is currently working on a book manuscript that examines how undocumented young people are becoming prominent and effective activists in the immigrant rights movement even in the face of anti-immigrant policies.  It examines their political formation, beginning from the education that they receive at home and in their communities as well as in college and university settings.  Her work interrogates how undocumented young people mobilize their political education on campus and in community settings through direct action as well as everyday forms of activism.  Nájera’s analysis uses an expansive understanding of education to encompass that which occurs in the home and in the public sphere.  This often unrecognized and undocumented education serves as the base upon which young activists are building their movement.

Carlos Cortes

Carlos Cortés, UCR Professor Emeritus of History, serves on the faculties of the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education, Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication, and Federal Executive Institute.  His recent books include Fourth Quarter: Reflections of a Cranky Old Man, Multicultural America: A Multimedia Encyclopedia, and his memoir, Rose Hill: An Intermarriage before Its Time.  He served as Scholar-in-Residence with Univision Communications and Creative/Cultural Advisor for Nickelodeon’s “Dora the Explorer” and “Go, Diego, Go!,” receiving the 2009 NAACP Image Award.  Cortés has lectured and consulted throughout the United States, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, while also performing his one-person autobiographical play, A Conversation with Alana: One Boy’s Multicultural Rite of Passage.

Research:  After nearly half a century of activity in various facets of diversity, I have begun work on a capstone book on the topic, with a working title of Diversity: A Personal Odyssey.  One of the challenges facing diversity analysts and practitioners is the appalling absence of historical consciousness concerning the tortuous trajectory of diversity as an idea, as a curricular concept, as a media dilemma, and as a challenge in numerous sectors of society.  As the title suggests, my book will examine the half-century development of the concept of diversity, including the ways in which that idea has affected U.S. society and institutions, including higher education.  Moreover, I am approaching that topic from an autobiographical perspective, building upon my fifty-year involvement in diversity-related activity and scholarship.  In the seminar, I will focus on the higher education aspects of the book.  For that part of the book I will draw upon my experiences as a lecturer and consultant to more than 350 colleges and universities on five continents, as well as my experiences, since 1991, teaching diversity sessions for the Harvard Summer Institutes for Higher Education.  My Harvard teaching has given me the opportunity of interacting with thousands of administrators from all types of institutions.  I plan to make use of Mellon seminar discussions to inform my analysis of diversity within higher education by drawing upon seminar feedback to my ideas and interpretations.

Peter Graham, Professor of Philosophy

Nhung Ha

Nhung Ha is a fourth year undergraduate in the Ethnic Studies department. With her minor in education, she hopes to become an elementary school teacher through an ethnic studies and justice-oriented approach. Ha has participated in research with Dr. Rita Kohli, that explores the critical consciousness of veteran women Educators of Color. Through this study, Nhung Ha was able to learn research skills, as well as the significance in advocating for equity and social justice through education. Furthermore, Ha and Dr. Kohli have co-authored a manuscript for an education journal, which has been submitted to the American Educational Research Association’s  (AERA) conference in 2018. Nhung Ha is passionate and enthusiastic about higher education and hopes to advocate for diversity and social justice.

Rita Kohli

Rita Kohli is an Assistant Professor in the Education, Society and Culture Department in the Graduate School of Education at UCR, and is co-director of the Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice. She has spent over 15 years in urban public schools across the country as a teacher, teacher educator and educational researcher striving for educational justice, and is co-editor of the book, Confronting Racism in Teacher Education: Counternarratives of Critical Practice.  She received UCR’s Change Maker Award for Social Innovation in 2016, and Scholar Activist Award from the American Educational Research Association in 2017.

Research: Shaped by historical, social and political influences, as part of higher education, U.S. teacher education programs have been revealed as sites that privilege whiteness. With a traditionally white demographic of teacher candidates and teacher education faculty, a curriculum that normalizes White histories and perspectives, and pedagogy that tends to overlook the strengths of non-dominant teachers, teacher candidates of Color often feel silenced, racialized, and invisibilized in their education. Thus, as universities diversify teacher education, they must move beyond considerations of access and understand the ethics of recruiting students of Color into programs that are racially marginalizing spaces. This research study bridges theories of whiteness, campus racial climate, and teacher education to understand the ways in which a teacher education program that serves predominantly students of Color can continue to uphold whiteness. In Southern California, many teacher education programs draw a majority student of Color population into its teacher education program. Many of the students come from the communities and schools they are being trained to teach within. Even so, from their instructors to their peers, students of Color reported feeling undervalued, dismissed, and othered across factors including race, religion, language, and documentation status. With student of Color pushout as a documented outcome of hostile racial climate within predominantly White institutions, this study aims to understand the impact of racial climate within a predominantly student of Color serving institution, as well as the supports students of Color need to feel visible, safe and centered in their own learning.

Lawrence Lan

Lawrence Lan is a PhD student in the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of California, Riverside (UCR). His research interests include racial capitalism, human geography, and left/progressive labor and community organizing in southern California.

Research: This research project focuses on an important moment at the University of California, Riverside (UCR)—campus organizing against Proposition 209 during the 1990s—to understand how contemporary conditions on UCR’s campus have come to be produced through the dialectical relationship between campus activism and the public university. Importantly, too, this project will document how activists have dreamed new visions, repurposed and adapted previous tactics and strategies, and built new spaces in response to varying assaults on and attempts by the university to incorporate minoritized groups. Drawing methodologically on qualitative interviews with activists involved in the organizing around Proposition 209, as well as archival research housed in the University Archives in Tomás Rivera Library, this research project will situate campus activism around Proposition 209 in the context of the university’s history, and the history of the UC system more broadly, as it considers new (or sometimes, the same) policies and approaches that student activists continue to fight for. Considering the university’s structural position as a public land-grant university and a settler colonial institution on indigenous Cahuilla land, UCR will offer a complicated, generative site of analysis in terms of its geographies as well as its political, economic, and social histories. This project proposes that the university’s ongoing commitments to offer resources, safe spaces, and curricula in the service of students of color, and its attendant commitments to confronting sexual harassment, violence, and racial/ethnic tensions, must first reckon seriously with its gendered and racial pasts—and the activisms that accompanied them.

Danielle C. Mireles

Danielle C. Mireles is a doctoral student in the Education, Society, and Culture program at the University of California, Riverside. Her primary research interests are dis/ability critical race theory, critical race theory, Deaf studies, and higher education. Her dissertation project examines how dis/abled students of color navigate the accommodation process in higher education.

Research: Students with dis/abilities represent approximately 11% of the undergraduate student population and 5% of the graduate student population (National Center for Education Statistics, 2016). Research that examines the accommodation process (i.e. requesting note-takers, extended test time, etc.) and how dis/abled students navigate it has found that faculty attitudes and beliefs and campus climate are major barriers to success (Barnard-Brak, Lechtenberger, & Lan, 2010; Raue & Lewis, 2011; Sniatecki, Perry, & Snell, 2015). The majority of research examines dis/ability type as a possible indicator of differential treatment (Hartman-Hall & Hagaa, 2002; Frymier & Wazner, 2002; Sniatecki et al., 2015; West, Novak, & Mueller, 2016), but fails to critically examine how race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and other intersections of identity impact this process. In my research, I aim to understand and examine how dis/abled students of color navigate the accommodation process from an intersectional perspective.

Angela Ojeda

I am a transfer student finishing my undergraduate degree in Anthropology this year. I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley which has shaped my standpoint on pressing issues affecting the Mexican community. My interests revolve around understanding cultural diversity in a global world, socioeconomic development, and the application of GIS in building smart communities. I have done research on serious mental health illness (SMI) in Mexican-born communities and how to integrate patients’ needs into local policy. In addition, I have researched the 18th century Norse settlement of Greenland and instructive case theories on the dying out of the civilization, as I believe it is important to become familiar with our global history to develop ethical and sustainable economic solutions.  Currently, I am applying to the California Senate Fellows Program where I plan to serve the constituents in building a stronger more informed California. Future goals include obtaining an MA in International Affairs/MPP from Stanford. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, reading ethnographies and cookbooks, and trying out different foods. From this seminar, I hope to gain insights on how to give marginalized communities a better chance of succeeding and I look forward to meeting like-minded individuals and making a difference.

Joshua Oliver

I am a fourth year English and Creative Writing major, currently considering and prepping for the possibility of jumping into a PHD program shortly or immediately after completion of my undergrad. In my brief time studying literature at UCR, I feel like my perspective of the world and myself has been shaped and changed immensely. For me, a commitment to work in literature is a commitment to constant thought, consideration, and growth as an individual. When I’m not working on papers and stories for class, I spend my time writing music and touring in a musical group with my friends.

Research: This quarter I will be working through Pym; both Edgar Allan Poe’s novel and Mat Johnson’s contemporary response to it. While Poe’s Pym has some disturbing and racist undertones, Johnson’s 2011 novel makes productive commentary on how the constructs of whiteness and blackness exist in our world, our literature, and the function of University. Thinking about “diversifying higher education,” I will be working with sources like Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark: Whiteness And The Literary Imagination, thinking about where the university system has progressed and failed in dismantling a history of whiteness—a history where University historically benefits the white man, often disregarding, ignoring (or frequently even “using” to forge a sense of progress and diversity) people of color and women. Working also with Cathy Cohen’s Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics, I will utilize my reading of the modern Pym to argue for intersectionality as a crucial tool in dismantling roots of patriarchy and whiteness in higher education. This will call for further research into university politics, using Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s The University and the Undercommons as a starting point. Also, with diversity committees being heavily pushed back against in the novel, this project will call for further research into the success, failures, and problems with these committees in legitimately creating diverse University environments. This being my second time doing a Mellon Seminar, I would like to thank professor Sohn, Graham, Katharine Henshaw, and everyone else involved with Mellon and The Center For Ideas And Society. Giving me the opportunity to spend time with texts of my choosing, do self-driven research, and prepare papers that will serve as writing samples for grad school, the seminar has provided me with invaluable experience as an undergrad.

Addison Palacios

Addison is a Ph.D. candidate in the English Department at UC Riverside, where he also earned his master’s degree. His scholarly work specializes in twentieth-century American literature and modernism while his teaching is heavily invested in new approaches to critical pedagogy. His current project focuses on the role of intellectuals in American culture while arguing that the university has played a more critical role in that development than is regularly acknowledged, which holds large stakes for minority intellectuals.

Research: This project combines literary analysis with sociohistorical methodologies to understand the formal university’s role in shaping the modern intellectual. I argue that, since the turn of the century, intellectualism has gradually become synonymous with higher education, which holds especially large stakes for people of color who have historically been denied institutional access. While critics have done important work to reveal this development, they fail to acknowledge the stakes of this merger and lament the decline of a romanticized notion of the intellectual. Instead, this project shows how the minority intellectual’s very different relationship to higher education calls for a renewed understanding of American intellectual history as well as alternative measures for academic diversity and inclusion. Through analyzing texts like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Tomás Rivera’s …y no se lo tragó la tierra, and Mary McCarthy’s The Company She Keeps, my project voices more nuanced accounts of the structural and ideological ways academic practice reshapes the intellectual lives of minorities, in ways that quantifiable measurements often elide. I read these texts in light of the historical developments of the modern university, while pointing more specifically to institutions like the UC system as well as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to consider how the complex intersections between higher learning, the state, and the racialized subject come together at the campus level. Additionally, this project considers counter-sites of knowledge within and beyond the university, which are explored through the archival correspondences of prominent, minority intellectuals and their academic colleagues.

Amanda Scott-Williams, Graduate School of Education

Qingfang Wang

Qingfang Wang is an Associate Professor of Public Policy at UC Riverside.  With a doctoral degree in Geography, she is particularly interested in place, as both work site and residential location, interacts with race, ethnicity, immigration status, and gender in shaping individual social-economic wellbeing. Funded by NSF, HUD, and other agencies, she has done work on immigrant labor market segmentation, ethnic entrepreneurship and community development. Her work can be found in journals such as The Annals of Association of American Geographers, Journal of Small Business Economics, Economic Development Quarterly, Journal of Urban Affairs, Environment and Planning A, and Urban Studies.

Research: Job Satisfaction and Professional Development of Faculty in Higher Education: According to the most recent data, underrepresented minority groups held only 10 percent of tenured positions among the higher education faculty in the U.S. (Flaherty 2016). Retention of minority faculty is not only critical for faculty themselves, but also significantly impacts the cultivation of safe, open, just, and multicultural learning communities for students. Using both national datasets and in-depth interviews across universities in the nation, this study examines job satisfaction of faculty members across race, ethnicity, gender, and foreign-born status in the U.S. higher education, their experiences of professional development and interaction with students, and the challenges they are facing. This study will contribute to the seminar in different ways. First, it will help understand the diversity issues within higher education on the faculty side and provide policy and practice implications in minority faculty hiring and retention. Second, a large number of studies have shown that mentoring for minority students who persevere in higher education is severely lacking. Promoting diversity and retaining women and minority faculty will ultimately impact the success of students and the overall institutional environments within higher education. Finally, with an interdisciplinary approach using both quantitative and qualitative research methods, I hope to work with other faculty members in the seminar to provide mentorship for students with different levels and backgrounds.

Megan Weimer

I am a 4th year undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a minor in Education. I am currently working on completing my University Honors Capstone project, under the direction of my faculty mentor for this seminar, Dr. Jennifer Najera. Because this is my last year at UCR as an undergraduate, I look forward to the various opportunities this seminar will afford me in learning about the intersections of scholarly research and intercultural studies. This is especially true because the project that I am working on is centered around the experiences of individuals of mixed race and/or ethnic heritage, a topic that is near and dear to my heart. After graduating from UCR, I hope to attend graduate school for a Master’s degree in Education, where I can further pursue my goal in becoming an educator for future generations. I look forward to working alongside my faculty mentor, Dr. Jennifer Najera, and I am extremely excited to see what the remainder of my last year at UCR has in store as I pursue opportunities for research and scholarly work through participation in this seminar and beyond!

Research: The research question I hope to answer is how and why does mixed-race identity influence early life experiences leading into early adulthood at the college/university level. For the purposes of this study, mixed race persons are defined as someone with biological parents of 2 or more different racial or ethnic backgrounds. I will attempt to answer this research question by conducting one-on-one interviews with participants regarding their early childhood experiences and how they may have affected them upon reaching adulthood. These interviews will then be analyzed by the faculty supervisor and the researcher in order to determine common themes which may or may not be present in the interviews. Interview data will be compiled into a written paper excluding participant names and personal information that may reveal their identities.

This seminar will examine issues of religious identity and diversity. The United States is one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world. Academic discourses and publication on religious harmony, tolerance, pluralism, and freedom have developed significantly. Yet religious diversity also takes other forms: religious tension, conflict, violence, terrorism, and discrimination. The terrorist shootings in San Bernardino near Riverside, the killings in Orlando, the shootings of Sikhs, and the 2016 Presidential Campaign, have raised fears of an increased Islamophobia. The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Syrian civil war, and the Muslim Rohingya issue in Buddhist Burma, have raised tension and public debate about the role and impacts of religious identity more globally. This seminar will consider questions of religious identity and diversity, violence and peace, discrimination and harmony, hate speech and love activism, and the vexed relation between religion and politics.


Muhamad Ali, Convener/Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Stephen El-Khatib, Graduate Student, Political Science

Hassanah El-Yacoubi, Graduate Student, Religious Studies

Katja Guenther, Associate Professor of Gender & Sexuality Studies

Rabea Qamar, Graduate School or Education

Howard Wettstein, Professor of Philosophy

Stephanie Wilms, University Writing Program Lecturer

A free summer film series hosted at the Culver Center of the Arts.

Details on next year’s series will be released in Spring 2018.

Convener: Georgia Warnke (Political Science)

Omissions and questions beset the study of the histories of marginalized groups. The subtitle of a 2003 article on the 1873 Colfax Massacre in which white southerners slaughtered a group of African American citizens who had assembled in a local courthouse after a contested election reads “Stumbling on a forgotten Reconstruction tragedy.” Yet this headline represents the fate of countless similar events in the United States not only during slavery and reconstruction but well afterwards. This seminar focuses on questions of historical scholarship as well as on still under-examined historical events and experiences as they affect contemporary intercultural relations in the United States.

We welcome applications from UCR faculty and graduate students for the FALL 2018 seminar. More information and application information is available on the Contested Histories CFP page.

A final, capstone conference in the 2019 winter quarter will draw all project participants together to share seminar research, explore outcomes and generate ideas for future projects. More information about this free, public conference will be posted in 2018.

Funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Center for Ideas and Society, the Advancing Intercultural Studies (AIS) project builds on the long-standing strengths of UCR’s College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) in addressing ethnic, interethnic, cultural and intercultural developments in novel ways.

The current AIS grant is an extension and expansion of the original two-year grant project which ran from 2014-2106 and focused on intercultural interactions and conflicts at UC Riverside and in southern California. The purpose of the AIS seminars, lectures and events has been to contribute to understanding existing and future aspects of diversity in the United States and to enhance our appreciation of both the problems and the opportunities to which it can give rise.


Tensions arising amidst a diverse population have been at the front of public discussion in the past few years. The police shootings of African Americans as well as the murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church have focused the nation’s attention on questions of race and racial divisions; the fight against terrorism has raised concerns about immigration, religious tolerance and religious diversity; college campuses have struggled with issues of sexual harassment and race and gender relations; the 2016 election campaign brought to the fore the impact of increasing economic inequality and class disparities. What has been in arguably short supply in discussions of these issues has been the practices of civil discourse, reasoned debate and respect for the views of others. The seminars, public lectures and film series of the Mellon Advancing Intercultural Studies project are designed to engage university faculty, students and members of the Southern California community in thoughtful considerations of these important issues. The goal is to contribute to a democratic public sphere that avoids impassioned rhetoric in favor of deliberative discourse and mutual understanding.


From 2017 to 2018, the AIS project will host a series of four quarter-long seminars to explore key themes and topics. Each seminar includes faculty, graduate students and upper-level undergraduate students. Seminar members meet weekly on a formal basis to explore seminar themes, present and discuss their research and identify new questions and areas of investigation to which the seminar research might lead. Each seminar participant also generates original research; graduate student and undergraduate participants produce research papers.

During the quarter, each seminar group will host a public lecture by an eminent scholar and a film screening designed to engage public interest in seminar themes.These seminar events will be complemented by two summer film series and a final conference featuring and extending the work of seminar participants.

Learn more about the first Mellon AIS project.

This project is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Mellon AIS grant is administered by the UCR Center for Ideas and Society under the direction of PI Georgia Warnke and co-PIs Matthew Mahutga, Jennifer Nájera and Muhamad Ali. For questions on this or any other CIS project, contact