2019 Mellon Scholars - University of Houston
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The Mellon Scholars are undergraduate students with a commitment to pursuing careers in the humanities. This two-year program provides these flourishing scholars with opportunities to conduct original research in their discipline, better preparing them for their future graduate studies. Meet our 2019 Mellon Scholars cohort.
  • Maria Amador

    Maria Amador

    Major: History
    Research Interest: Mexican-American History, Houston History

    Maria arrived at UH as a Biology major.  However, after the first semester, she realized her true passion lies in history, particularly Mexican and Mexican-American history.  She currently has an internship at Arte Público Press, where she archived a variety of literature by US Hispanic authors. Her current research focuses on the accomplishments and contributions made by Latinas in the US. Specifically, she is researching the Marta Perales collection. With the help of Arte Publico Press, Maria will archive the Marta Perales collection and make the collection available to the public through the UH Library archive. Through this project, her goal is to provide information to the general public over the impact Hispanic women, as well as to diversify our understanding of what constitutes US history.

    Senior Honors Thesis: "Marta Pérez de Perales' Historical Footprint"

  • Gilbert Baca

    Gilbert Baca

    Major: Art History
    Research Interest: David Wojnarowicz’s artistic responses to the HIV/AIDS crisis

    When Gilbert is not reading art historical books or writing material for his big break in stand-up comedy, he is passionately teaching group fitness classes and personally training clients at the University of Houston Campus Recreation and Wellness Center. In pursuing his bachelor’s degree in art history with a minor in studio art, Gilbert seeks to participate in the larger project of re-thinking the canon of art history with queer artists, thinkers, and creative folk in mind. While he is currently focusing on the work of artist and activist David Wojnarowicz for his senior honors thesis, Gilbert seeks to expand his studies more broadly in his graduate career and eventually enter academia to teach LGBTQ+ art history and by earning a Ph.D. in Art History.

    Senior Honors Thesis: "Against Visibly Disappearing: Rethinking the Last Work of David Wojnarowicz"

  • Justin Bui

    Justin Bui

    Major: English, Creative Writing
    Research Interest: The short story, mythology, comics

    Even though Justin spent his high school years focusing on STEM-related studies, since arriving at UH, Justin has found a much better fit for his skills and interests in the study of literature and story-telling. Now a Creative Writing major with a focus in fiction and minors in Classical Studies and Creative Work, Justin has a passion for storytelling in all its forms. He wants to conduct research that incorporates both his personal and academic interests. Specifically, he plans to analyze the unique shared nature of popular comic-book characters and storytelling, drawing connections back to ancient Greek oral epic tradition and mythology. He hopes to gain experience with writing across a variety of mediums, with the ultimate goal of pursuing a career in creative storytelling.

    Senior Honors Thesis: "Exploring the Serialized Comic Book as a Narrative Medium" 

    Justin is pursuing a MFA in the Fiction cohort at the University of Texas New Writers Project.

  • Matt Flores

    Matt Flores

    Major: English, Creative Writing
    Research Interest: Mexican-American Literature

    Matt Flores is from South Texas, and he is interested in further exploration of borderlands. He was initially a philosophy major, but after a long hiatus away from school he switched to English with a creative writing emphasis. Writing both poetry and prose, Matt’s work engages the themes of culture, foreignness, utopian spaces, medicine, self-care, disidentifications, and dispossessions. Through these themes, Matt’s writing seeks to open spaces for rethinking cultural meanings, the relationship between migration, and the effects of transience. He intends to pursue an MFA in poetry after attaining an undergraduate degree.

    Senior Honors Thesis: "Poetics of Spiritual Activism"

    Matt is a MFA candidate in poetry at Arizona State University.

  • Jacob Foreman

    Jacob Foreman

    Major: Liberal Studies
    Research Interest: Queer theory, queer communities

    Jacob’s research is inspired by queer communities such as the Radical Faeries and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. It has been his interactions with these communities that have driven him to evaluate his own queerness, as well as what queerness means for how we fit within broader society. Drawing from these experiences, he is studying what queer theorists think about queerness and queer worldmaking in order to understand how queer theory models, or fails to model, queer communities working to manifest visions of queer utopias. He hopes to eventually live in community with beautiful queers working to realize their interconnected self-actualization.

    Senior Honors Thesis: "Radical Faerie Relationality"

    *UH Outstanding Thesis Award recipient

  • JaNae Freeman

    JaNae Freeman

    Major: Anthropology
    Research Interest: Jewish women, feminism

    JaNae has always had a deep interest in people and their cultures. She started her college career as a classical music major, with cello as her instrument. After some time, she transferred to the University of Houston and changed her major to Anthropology. JaNae chose to study Anthropology because she found the subject's disciplinary breadth and focus on humans to be fascinating. Inspired by the Jewish community in Houston, she will be conducting research on Jewish women with Dr. Tamber-Rosenau. After completing her degree, she plans to pursue graduate studies and obtain her masters and Ph.D.

  • Syd Gonzalez

    Syd Gonzalez

    Major: Anthropology
    Research Interest: Queer and indigenous culture

    Syd's current research examines queer culture in New Zealand, with a focus on indigenous Maori and minority cultures. This research is informed by Syd's own experience as a queer person of color and their studies as an anthropology major. Syd's goal is to determine whether the queer experience in New Zealand transcends ethnicity, and to take a closer look at the militant nature of capitalistic queerness. In the near future, Syd hopes to pursue a PhD in anthropology that focuses on these questions of queerness and indigeneity. 

    Senior Honors Thesis: "Queer Culture in Wellington, Aotearoa"

    Syd is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology and a Mellon Fellow in Gender & Sexuality Studies at Northwestern University.

  • Lida Hedayatpour

    Lida Hedayatpour

    Major: English, Literature
    Research Interest: Political philosophy, epistemic violence, black education and histories

    Lida has been invested in helping the black community ever since she arrived at UH and began to study slavery, racism, and its lasting effects on American society. After taking a course on Black Political Thought, Lida decided to turn her final project on epistemic violence into a full research project with her mentor, Dr. Christine LeVeaux-Haley. In her free time, Lida volunteers at UH’s Campus Kitchens project where she recovers and serves overproduced food to low-income residents in Houston’s Third Ward. Previously, she has conducted research on the architectural integrity of shotgun houses and its cultural and historical importance in black narratives.

    Lida was selected for the 2020-2021 Fulbright U.S. Student Program as an English Teaching Assistant in Tajikistan

  • Wafa Kazmi

    Major: Communications, Creative Writing
    Research Interest: Iraq War, refugee communities, human rights

    Throughout her undergraduate experience, Wafa has developed interests in journalism, volunteering with refugees, and poetry. She has a passion for seeking the truth, and engaging audiences through art. For her research project, Wafa will be collecting oral histories of the Iraq War (2003-2011), told through the perspective of Iraqi refugees living in America today. Through a comparative analysis, she hopes to assess how the war was represented in American media, and she will share her findings through a multimedia platform.  After graduation, Wafa hopes to continue researching refugee populations, while pursuing a graduate degree.

    Senior Honors Thesis: "Voices from the Iraq War: Civilian Narratives through Oral History"

    *UH Outstanding Thesis Award recipient

    Wafa is a JD student at Washington University in St. Louis.

  • Manuel Martinez

    Manuel Martinez Alvarenga

    Major: History
    Research Interest: Latino/Latina History, Central American communities in Houston

    Manuel’s research focuses on the way Central American communities have contributed to the social, economic, and cultural complexity of Houston, Texas. He is interested in highlighting the development of the Salvadoran community in Houston over time, in particular pinpointing the economic, social, and cultural contributions that the community and specific individuals have in greater Houston. Manuel has studied under Drs. Dina Alsowayel, Phillip Howard, and Richard Mizelle, in a variety of courses that focus on social history, communal experiences, neo-colonialism, and civil rights at the University of Houston. Upon graduation, Manuel is committed to pursue his studies into a doctoral program focused in Latin America with a specialization on Central America from a sociocultural and political perspective.

    Senior Honors Thesis: "Finding Home in the Sunbelt: A Study of the Organized Salvadoran Diaspora in Houston Since 1970"

    *UH Outstanding Thesis Award recipient

    Manuel is pursuing his PhD in History at Indiana University Bloomington.

  • Layla Mayorga

    Layla Mayorga

    Major: Philosophy & Public Policy
    Research Interest: Philosophy of religion, philosophy of language and existentialism

    Growing up in a religious environment, Layla has always been fascinated with expressions of God. As a DACA student, higher education has long been an important goal for Layla, and it was through studying philosophy at UH that she became inspired by the 20th century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein’s writings mention that religious language is a limit of the world. Layla believes that there is a way to speak about religious language by analyzing religious texts and our distinctive meanings about God concerning what religious utterances mean rather what they should mean. Layla hopes to continue studying Philosophy of Language in her Master of Public Policy (MPP), eventually obtaining a Ph.D. in Philosophy.

    Senior Honors Thesis: "How does 'God' refer?"

    Layla received her MA in Public Policy at the University of Houston. She is now pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at Fordham University.  

  • Mariah Miller

    Mariah Miller

    Major: History
    Research Interest: Houston, Urban History, Environmental History

    Mariah has always had an interest in history, especially for interpreting how intersections between culture and environment shape society over time. Her research focuses is on the role of both the people and the environment in the Houston area with an emphasis on the production and consumption of petroleum, chemicals, and plastics. Houston’s manufacturing and industry started in the early twentieth century with the discovery of oil and from then on has had a connection to the health of the population, the growth of the population, and the environment. Mariah plans to examine how people living near and working in industrial plants interpret their environment, as well as to analyze the physical impacts of this industry. In the future, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in History with a focus on Environmental History.

    Mariah is pursuing a master's in Library Science from the University of North Texas. 

  • Kiara Minotta

    Kiara Minotta

    Major: Political Science
    Research Interest: Latin America, revolutionary political ideologies

    Kiara is looking to diversify understandings of the origins of political theory by reconstructing the political philosophy underpinning Latin American revolutionary movements. Being that her parents are from Colombia and Honduras, the history of political thought in Latin America is the center of her research. With mentorship of Dr. Dustin Gish and Dr. Terry Hallmark, Kiara intends to pinpoint the origin of political theory in Latin America through Simon Bolivar, the “Liberator” who played a central role in South American independence from Spain in the early 19th century.

    Senior Honors Thesis: "Simon Bolivar's Political Culture"

  • Andrea Orozco

    Andrea Orozco

    Major: Political Science
    Research Interest: Chicanx and Mexican American History, Borderlands

    Andrea is a proud border native hailing from the city of Brownsville, Texas, which is very aptly described as the Tip-O-Texas. Brownsville shaped how Andrea grew up, and it remains an important part of her identity today. The border and border life were all she knew for many years, and when she left to study at the University of Houston, she saw a little piece of herself in her Chicanx and Mexican American courses. For this reason she has decided to focus her research on the stories that still lack the recognition they deserve. This research is meant to give voice to the women and men who helped the Chicano movement. Andrea hopes her research will help others see themselves in their rightful history and she embarks on this adventure por amor a la patria y la familia.

    Andrea was a 2021 Moreno/Rangel Legislative Leadership Program fellow. 

  • Suad Othman

    Suad Othman

    Major: English, Literature
    Research Interest: Comparative literary traditions, representations of wisdom

    Unlike most literary admirers, Suad’s passion for literature began after her decision to end majoring in music. Childhood home videos of her musical exhibitions, captured by her aunt, were the catalyst to Suad beginning her journey as a writer. Fast forward to present day, Suad’s background in music has enabled her to form a strong creative foundation while developing a deep appreciation for the written word and its authors. Suad will be conducting research that will focus on representations of wisdom throughout pilgrimage narratives and other literary traditions. She plans to examine how the importance of progression functions in relationship to wisdom and how this is represented throughout a pilgrim’s journey. Upon graduation, Suad plans to continue her studies by earning an MFA in creative writing and eventually pursuing a Ph.D. in hopes of becoming a professor.

  • Jordanna Park

    Jordanna Park

    Major: History
    Research Interest: Russia, feminism

    Jordanna’s casual interest in history became a driving passion after a road trip stop in Leesburg, Virginia, where she realized that she could make a living talking about the past. She has been intrigued by medieval and modern European history since middle-school. She is working on a senior thesis on the trajectory of women’s rights in Soviet and post-soviet Russia. By working on this project, Jordanna is interested in how history can be studied through a lens of political science, in order to further social justice. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Russian Cultural Studies and become a professor.

    Senior Honors Thesis"Comrade Mother: Gender Inequality in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia"

  • Grayson Parks

    Grayson Parks

    Major: English
    Research Interest: Postcolonial Theory, Traveler Narratives

    Grayson's interest in postcolonial theory is a relatively new one, but her love of literature is longstanding. A student of political science and literature, she hopes to develop a model for understanding traveler narratives of the East/West binary, with particular focus on how travel within that binary impacts performance of gender. After graduation from the University of Houston, Grayson intends to pursue a Ph.D. in literature.

  • Devion Reed

    Devion Reed

    Major: English, Creative Writing
    Research Interest: Queer identity and perception in minority youth

    Devion is interested in researching queer identity and the process one undergoes in developing and accepting one’s own identity. He is also interested in research about Writing Centers, Education, and how the way we talk about writing influences students. Devion has previously presented in two research conferences, one focused on the humanities and another on Writing Centers. When he isn’t doing academic work, he enjoys volunteering and working crew in theaters near his hometown. He can be found writing or attending poetry readings throughout the city of Houston. He plans to pursue either an MFA in Creative Writing or a Master of Library and Information Sciences degree, and he hopes to one day become an instructor, a published writer, and a respected researcher.

    Senior Honors Thesis"Across the Partition: A Creative Exploration of Black Queer Identity"

  • Lizeth Rivas

    Lizeth Rivas

    Major: History
    Research Interest: Mexican-American history, legal history, civil rights

    Growing up in a Texas public education system, Liz learned about a few Mexican-Americans that had made an impact in society such as Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez. After exploring different courses, she realized that Mexican-Americans have been changing the course of history and fighting for their rights for decades. Her fascination with the Mexican-American community and their political influence has left her eager to learn more. As a result, she is enthusiastic to learn more about this topic under the guidance of Dr. Matthew J. Clavin. She is convinced that creating a discourse about the accomplishments of Mexican-Americans in the past is valuable to our society and future generations; this, she believes, can be done through education. Upon entering the University of Houston and discovering her passion for history she decided to major in this field and minor in Phronesis. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in History, and eventually become a History professor.

    Senior Honors Thesis: "How Influential were Mexican-Americans?: Mexican-Americans and School Desegregation in the United States during the 20th century"

  • Keagan Wheat

    Keagan Wheat

    Major: English, Creative Writing
    Research Interest: Queer modern and contemporary poetics

    Keagan began his love of writing as a musician, but as he moved through the UH Creative Writing Department, he became more interested in poetry. In Keagan’s view, the versatility of poetry grants the perfect place to create different experiences for others, which is one of the main aims of his thesis in creative writing. Keagan’s thesis ultimately comprises a collection of poetry focusing on transgender identity and how others, especially family, interact with that identity. After completing a bachelor’s degree, Keagan looks forward to graduate studies focusing on queer theory and crip theory.

    Senior Honors Thesis: "Transgender Man's Identity through Poetic Narrative"

    Keagan is pursuing a MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Colorado Boulder.