— Building faculty communities based on shared interests through collaborative research and programming —

Established in 2018 through an Advancing Faculty Diversity grant from the UC Office of the President, the Faculty Commons Project supports collaborative faculty research and programming, with community building and faculty retention as explicit aims. Five research-based working groups form an intellectual cohort that engages in research, reciprocal mentorship, and advocacy.

For the 2022-2024 grant renewal, the project establishes a sixth working group on Queer and Trans Studies and the Dreaming Retention Think Tank. The faculty think tank will develop 1) critical analysis of prevailing institutional paradigms and frameworks related to campus climate, infrastructural inequities (esp. in relation to the UC research and teaching mission) and retention processes; and 2) working solutions that reframe anecdotal, individualized experiences with inequity and unsupportive/toxic institutional climate as institutional problems that require sustainable, creative solutions.

The “Blackness Unbound” working group aims to generate a vibrant and sustainable intellectual space at UCR for those engaged in the scholarly study and analysis of the complexities and multiplicities of Black Diasporas. In response to this historic moment – the Covid-19 global pandemic and international uprisings supporting the liberation work for Black Lives – the group is reframing its efforts this year to activate the politics of this exceptional present. This multidisciplinary workgroup will facilitate a year of interdisciplinary programming that will co-create conditions of possibility for a sustained, fearless community of Black Studies practitioners, in service to a thriving Black presence. In addition to facilitating activities that amplify the excellence of Black Diaspora Studies practitioners at UCR, the group will tap into the vast intellectual, creative, organizing, and professional resources on campus and our surrounding communities to galvanize institutional change that tangibly reflects and intentionally supports a liberatory Black futurity.

The title, “Blackness Unbound – Critical Black Diaspora Studies,” is meant to be a thematic container, one which provokes the unbound and multiple possibilities for engagement and discourse that exist across the UCR campus. The theme also invokes the various and diverse communities of scholars whose work addresses contemporary Black experiences via an array of analytical, artistic, and critically engaged angles. We unapologetically centralize diasporic, queer, trans, Black radical, and feminist approaches to a global-historical framing of the Black experience. We recognize the potential for collaboration with similarly aligned organizations across UC campuses and with several departments at UCR, including, but not limited to, Theater, Performance Studies, Critical Dance Studies, History, Anthropology, Media and Cultural Studies, Education, Art, Gender and Sexuality, and Sociology.

Overarching questions include but are not limited to:

  1. How might Black insurgent and revolutionary queer perspectives enable critiques of institutionalized discourses of diversity, and construct viable spaces for relevant interventions and creative exchanges?
  2. How can we cultivate Black Studies programming that critically engages social phenomena that profoundly impact experiences of Black people in the diaspora (e.g. anti-Trans violence, antiblackness and racism, death by preventable disease, disproportionate impact of Covid-19, police brutality and abolition, AIDS/HIV infection, exposure to environmental toxins, punitive schooling, and intergenerational impoverishment)?
  3. How can we pragmatically engage and challenge the assumed genealogies of Black radical traditions that inform contemporary Black Studies?
  4. How can the pedagogy and practices of Black Studies align with or be informed by the organizing labors of Black student leaders and national and international activists across the Movements for All Black Lives?

The group’s multi-pronged approach to programming includes peer-to-peer review of research and creative inquiry, faculty-led seminars, talks and workshops, mentorship and support of junior faculty with children, collaboration and mentorship with Black student leaders, and collaboration with UC groups oriented toward Diasporic Black Studies and activism. Peer-to-peer reviews will support the tenure pursuit of junior faculty and will include article and book development workshops, in addition to research presentations and studio visits. Faculty-led seminars, talks and workshops will be open to all UCR students and the larger public in order to cultivate substantive exchanges with local and regional communities. Mentorship and support of junior faculty with young children specifically, will include food drop-offs and meal prep, recognizing the additional labor Covid-19 stay-at-home orders have put upon parents. Seminars bring together members of the campus community invested in Black Studies around shared readings, participatory workshops, and small group dialogues using video conference platforms. Additionally, the invitation for participation in seminars extends to graduate students and interested UCR staff. Seminar/workshop topics include a constitutive discourse on abolition, one that is distinct from administratively-led campus initiatives,  gardening and nourishing Black wellness, the positionality of blackness in multiracial or diverse spaces, the relevance and impact of performance studies and the arts in the Black diaspora, and the effects (and affects) of gendered and queer critiques of Black radicalism. Work this year will also answer some of the demands formulated in campus protests and throughout the U.S. by developing, and pressuring the administration to establish, an independent center for multidisciplinary Diasporic Black Studies on campus, preferably a department.

Convener: Sage Ni’Ja Whitson (Dance)

Participants include:

Anthony Jerry (Anthropology)
Imani Kai Johnson (Dance)
Natasha L. McPherson (History)
Vorris Nunley (English)
Dylan Rodriguez (Media & Cultural Studies)
João Vargas (Anthropology)
Ni’Ja Whitson (Dance)

For questions or more information, contact convener Ni’Ja Whitson at nija.whitson@ucr.edu

The Health Inequities Faculty Commons group examines social and economic factors affecting health through multiple lenses that include critical theory, queer and disability studies, Indigenous methodologies, and community centered scholarship. The group meets weekly to write and share ideas, experiences, and resources. Less regularly, it meets to have dynamic interdisciplinary conversations. Conversations are often recorded as part of the group’s podcast development. Each meeting participants select a topic and discuss “three questions” about that topic and its relation to health inequities.

Conveners: Kim Dionne (Political Science) and Jennifer Syvertsen (Anthropology)

Participants include:

Cecilia Ayón (Public Policy)
Emily Black (Creative Writing)
Diamond Bravo (Psychology)
Brandon Brown (School of Medicine)
Richard M Carpiano (Public Policy)
Xóchitl Chávez (Music)
Ann Cheney (School of Medicine)
Allison Hedge Coke (Creative Writing)
Gloria Kim (Media and Culture Studies)
Kim Yi Dionne (Political Science)
María Regina Firmino-Castillo (Dance)
Tamara Ho (Gender and Sexuality Studies)
Matthew King (Religious Studies)
Chioun Lee (Sociology)
Deborah Lefkowitz (Health Disparities Research Center)
Bruce Link (Sociology)
Tanya Nieri (Sociology)
Brandon Andrew Robinson (Gender and Sexuality Studies)
Jade Sasser (Gender and Sexuality Studies)
Dana J Simmons (History)
Andrew Subica (School of Medicine)
Jennifer Syvertsen (Anthropology)
Chikako Takeshita (Gender and Sexuality Studies)
Clifford Trafzer (History)
Fuson Wang (English)
Mark Wolfson (School of Medicine)

If interested in participating and for questions or more information, email UCRHI@googlegroups.com.

This faculty Commons group (formerly Latinx/Latin American Studies) brings together an interdisciplinary critical mass of Mexicanists whose work examines the cultural, queer and migration politics of México—both in historical and contemporary contexts—taking a critical, cross-border and comparative approach to the field of Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos.

Convener: Adrián Félix, Ethnic Studies

Participants include:

Iván Aguirre (Hispanic Studies)
Xóchitl Chávez (Music)
Adrián Félix (Ethnic Studies)
Claudia Holguín (Hispanic Studies)
Jorge Leal (History)
Jose Reynoso (Dance)

If interested in participating and for questions or more information, contact Adrián Félix (Ethnic Studies) at adrianf@ucr.edu.

The Performing Difference Faculty Commons group brings together scholars and artists who embody and research minoritized difference in the performing arts. The group focuses on a range of projects from developing book manuscripts on hip hop to sharing screenplays centering Indigenous representation.

Convener: Crystal Baik (Gender and Sexuality Studies)

Participants include:

Crystal Baik (Gender and Sexuality Studies)
Maria Firmino-Castillo (Dance)
Xóchitl Chávez (Music)
Donatella Galella (Theatre, Film and Digital Production)
Armando Garcia (English)
Kimberly Guerrero (Theatre, Film and Digital Production)
Tamara Ho (Gender and Sexuality Studies)
Emily Hue (Ethnic Studies)
Imani Johnson (Dance)
Anthea Kraut (Dance)
Anusha Kedhar (Dance)
Katherine Kinney (English)
Hyejin Nah (Anthropology)
Liz Przybylski (Music)
Judith Rodenbeck (Media and Cultural Studies)
Setsu Shigematsu (Media and Cultural Studies)
Melissa Wilcox (Religious Studies)
Deborah Wong (Music)

If interested in participating and for questions or more information, contact Crystal Baik (Gender and Sexuality Studies) at crystal.baik@ucr.edu.

The Reclamation and Native American Communities working group focuses on building capacity for reclamation projects that center Native American community needs and epistemologies, understanding reclamation broadly to mean recovery, renovation and innovation with a focus on Indigenous futurity, with an eye to associated Indigenous research methods.

Convener: Wesley Leonard, Ethnic Studies

Participants include:

Xóchitl Chávez (Music)
Gerald Clarke (Ethnic Studies)
Wallace Cleaves (University Writing Program)
Alejandra Dubcovsky (History)
Savannah Esquivel (History of Art)
saami hernández (Ethnic Studies)
Allison Hedge Coke (Creative Writing)
Tamara Ho (Gender & Sexuality Studies)
Rebecca “Monte” Kugel (History)
Wesley Leonard (Ethnic Studies)
Mark Allen Minch (English)
Kimberly Norris Guerrero (Theatre, Film and Digital Production)
Michelle Raheja (English)
Clifford Trafzer (History)

If interested in participating and for questions and more information, contact Wesley Leonard (Ethnic Studies) at wesleyl@ucr.edu

This Queer and Trans studies group seeks to bring together faculty and graduate students from different disciplines, departments and programs to support each other, share knowledge and organize events that tie into our interests and foster a shared sense of belonging. Our aim is to provide support to one another as trans and queer faculty and graduate students and bring more queerness and transness to campus, in service to our work and our communities.

Our interests include holding a weekly meditation space, co-sponsoring invited speakers and mini-conferences, supporting graduate conferences, connecting with local IE community, and creating restorative, generative, and fun spaces of fellowship.


Sahin Acikgoz (Department for the Study of Religion)
Iván Aguirre (Hispanic Studies)
Elyse Ambrose (Department of Black Study and Department for the Study of Religion)

The faculty think tank will develop 1) critical analysis of prevailing institutional paradigms and frameworks related to campus climate, infrastructural inequities (esp. in relation to the UC research and teaching mission) and retention processes; and 2) working solutions that reframe anecdotal, individualized experiences with inequity and unsupportive/toxic institutional climate as institutional problems that require sustainable, creative solutions.


Crystal Baik (Gender & Sexuality Studies)
Brandon Brown (School of Medicine
Gerald Clarke (Ethnic Studies)
Kim Yi Dionne (Political Science)
Maria Firmino-Castillo (Dance)
Donatella Galella (Theatre, Film & Digital Production)
Matthew King’ (Religious Studies) Melissa Wilcox (Religious Studies)
Anthea Kraut (Dance)
Monte Kugel (History)
Wesley Y Leonard (Ethnic Studies)
Vorris Nunley (Black Study)
Liz I Przybylski (Music)
Brandon Andrew Robinson (Gender & Sexuality Studies)
Dana Simmons (History)
Jennifer Syvertsen (Anthropology)
Joao Costa Vargas (Anthropology)
Deborah Wong (Music)
Dylan Rodriguez (Media & Cultural Studies)

For administrative inquiries, contact Co-PI Katharine Henshaw (951)827-1555 katharine.henshaw@ucr.edu