Graduate Students


Mary Ann Brooks
Graduate Student, Dramatic Arts

MARY ANN BROOKS is an educator, activist, dancer and performance artist. Her adventures have led her from California’s back country mountain ranges to dance studios in New Zealand to street theater protests in San Francisco. Before starting the UC Davis Interdisciplinary Theatre and Dance MFA Fall 2012, she danced with the all-women aerial dance troupe Flyaway Productions in San Francisco. Her research interests include interrogating black aesthetics, bridging feminist,  queer and critical race theory, dances of resistance in the African diaspora, and cultural organizing which encompasses artists as activists and community organizers.  She was recently awarded a Graduate Research Mentorship Fellowship for the 2013-14 school year.  She was also awarded an ITDP grant through the UC Davis Theatre and Dance department and a grant from the UC Davis Women’s Research Consortium to pursue the creation and research of her project–“Improvising While Black: Chronicling a Black Aesthetic”.  “Improvising While Black” investigates how African Americans use improvisational dance and expression as a form of survival.

duskin drum
Performance Studies Graduate Group

duskin drum was made by the forest and the sea and the people; duskin is part of the making. born on a small forested island in the Salish sea, duskin’s work circulates around and through practices of ecological tuning and detuning. duskin drum is thinking with politics of anthropogenic climate changed, divergent cosmologies, itinerancy, settler subjectivities, and social transformation through collective practices with non-humans and more-than-humans. his current research focuses on performances of ecological aesthetics, environmental justice and petroleum space/time.

Rebeca Figueroa
Graduate Student, Native American Studies

Valeria Garcia
Graduate Student, Community Development

My name is Valeria Garcia; I am a first year graduate student in Community Development. I am an individual who embodies multiple intersectionalities, mainly those that have been historically oppressed, and for that reason I feel projects like the Social Justice Initiative are imperative. This project is important because it provides a platform to discuss and/or educate others about the daily or historical oppression(s) we (all) encounter. I believe the conversations that arise are essential because to empowers individuals and helps build coalitions.

Angel M. Hinzo
PhD Candidate, Native American Studies
DE in Feminist Theory and Research



Patricia Killelea
PhD Candidate, Native American Studies
M.A., Creative Writing and  English

Patricia Killelea is a mixed-heritage Chicana poet, musician, and scholar. She is the author of the poetry collection Other Suns, which is available from Swan Scythe Press (2011), and is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Native American Studies at the University of California, Davis. She holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing and English, also from UC Davis. Originally from the Bay Area, CA, she has taught the Introduction to Native American Literature course at UC Davis since Fall 2009, and she also teaches Native American Literature and Film at the University of San
Francisco as well as Creative Writing at Solano College. A former artist-in-residence at the Santa Fe Art Institute, Patricia has recently completed her second manuscript, titled COUNTERGLOW, and is currently producing experimental video poems. Her poetry is widely published in such journals as Quarterly West, The Common, Spiritus from Johns Hopkins University Press, As/Us: A Space for Women of the World, Gigantic, Fulcrum: A Journal of Poetry and Aesthetics, and many others. Find out more about her work at

Bayu Kristianto
PhD Candidate, Native American Studies


Amanda Modell
Cultural Studies Graduate Student

Amanda Modell is from the DC metro area and holds a BA and MA in American Studies.  With a background in hip hop studies, intersectional pedagogy and feminist theory, Amanda is interested in the history of radical politics and their current appropriation, focusing on diversity infrastructure and diversity education in the neoliberal university.  She is pursuing ethnography and oral history practices in her research.  In her spare time Amanda practices and teaches yoga, plays cello and is learning how to mountain bike.


Ngoc Nguyen (Nicole)
Graduate Student

My name is Ngoc Nguyen (Nicole) and I recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a major from Gender and Women’s Studies and a minor in Global Poverty and Practice. I’m currently a first year graduate student from the Master of of Public Health Program. My interest is in sexual reproductive health and looking at the ways in which health, access to healthcare,and concepts of being “healthy” are tied to the social determinants of health and looking at them through the intersectional lens of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Having lived all my life in Oakland and identifying myself as such, I’m interested in working with communities of color, especially Asian American communities,and trying to understand and challenge barriers to accessibility for those living on the margins.

This project resonates personally with me because as a low-income, immigrant student of color, coming from Berkeley and having been a part of the Occupy Movement there, I strongly identify with the objectives of this project in creating a much needed community/safe space that allows for dialogue between undergrad, grad,  and faculty on issues of globalization, knowledge production, power, and the effects it has on the public  community such as public safety, restricted access/defunding of public education, and infringement of the values of the Free Speech Movement for student protest.


Cutcha Risling Baldy 
Native American Studies

Cutcha Risling Baldy (Hupa, Karuk, Yurok) is a scholar, instructor, and PhD Candidate whose work applies Native American Studies to feminist theory, and literary theory.  Her research is largely interdisciplinary and incorporates her interests in contemporary Native American society, politics, literature, California Indians and social justice.  Cutcha has her M.F.A. in Fiction and Literature from San Diego State University and her B.A. in Psychology with a special focus in Health and Development from Stanford University. Her publications include “Why we gather: traditional gathering in native Northwest California and the future of bio-cultural sovereignty” and book reviews for the American Indian Quarterly and the American Indian Culture and Research Journal. She is a Ford Foundation Pre-doctoral Fellow. She is also the Project Coordinator for the “Uneasy Remains” Film Project and the Executive Director for the Native Women’s Collective.  Find out more about her on her website

Natasha Simpson
Community Development Graduate Group

Natasha Simpson is a graduate student in her final year of her master’s program within the Community Development Graduate Group; she received the Henry A. Jastro Graduate Research Award in support of her research. She also holds a BA in Women’s Studies from San Francisco State University.

Her love of food and her identity as a queer, Black, invisibly disabled/chronically ill feminist, has led her to want to understand the ways people with disabilities navigate the culture of alternative food, social activism around food, and food access using an intersectional feminist disability approach.

She loves the opportunity graduate school has afforded her to teach and has found a passion for it among her loves of cooking and writing poetry. Her research is a piece of her activism; she is determined to make a more beautiful, just world for her son.


Dennis M. Somera
Performance Studies


Ami Sommariva
Cultural Studies, Ph.D. Candidate

Mai N. Thai
Graduate Student, Department of Sociology

Alberto Antonio Valdivia
Graduate Student, Geography

The environmental changes for sustainability demand the involvement, the inclusion, the consciousness, and the diversity of all walks of life. Alberto researches indigenous food wisdom as a way of achieving greater sustainability by critiquing neoliberalism and embedded white privilege. He employs a Queer Boricua Xicana eco-feminist lens as a way of decolonizing our diets.