Contact Us
Vanessa Christman, Assistant Dean of the College
for Access and Community Development
MMUF Administrative Coordinator
The Pensby Center
(610) 526-6594
Bethany Schneider, Associate Professor of English
MMUF Faculty Coordinator
(610) 526-5051
Jennifer Walters, Dean of the Undergraduate College
MMUF Advisor
(610) 526-5375

Mary Zaborskis
University of Pennsylvania Doctoral Student
MMUF Graduate Coordinator

Class of 2013 Fellows Cohort 22:

Sakina Abdus-Shakur, '13 is from Philadelphia, PA and is a Philosophy major and a Creative Writing minor. Her mentor is Professor Robert Dostal. She is interested in exploring the ideologies of self-esteem through the lense of education. Self-esteem is a psychological appraisal of self worth, which is comprised of a correlating beliefs and emotions. In the consideration of belief from the lense of education, she will consider statements such as “I am intelligent”, “I am worthy” and their converses, “I am stupid” and “I am unworthy”. Through philosophical and psychological readings, anthropological ethnography and sociological studies, she intends to explore the implications of positive of negative foundational beliefs of self. The second component of self-esteem is emotions. Emotions that may be felt in relation to education are pride, shame, triumph or despair. How do these positive or negative emotions interact with belief, and affect academic ability? How do people's beliefs and emotions create ideologies of academic affirmation or of academic inadequacies? Can education affect personal ideologies? What roles do beliefs and emotions play in the development of intellect? In order to develop her research on this subject matter, Sakina plans to  attend the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Training Program at the University of Chicago this summer.


Rachel Kutten, '13 is from Montgomery Village, Maryland and is majoring in sociology with an English minor. Her mentor, Profesor Robert Washington, will assist her in exploring “cyber racism” and how it is manifested on the internet. She will examine how cyber racism can be found on some internet communities, and the implications it has for the way Americans in particular talk about race offline. Rachel will argue that cyber racism within internet communities that are catered towards Americans can expose and help acknowledge the inadequate discourse about race offline in the United States, which includes using the terms “post-racial” or “colorblind.” Internet communities can provide social support and venues of expression for people who are frustrated about inadequate race talk offline. In addition, the internet as a structure that can resemble life offline allows the mindset of colorblindness and post-racialism to permeate it. Rachel will do a content analysis of internet comments on news stories about the 2009 BART police shooting of Oscar Grant from three different news blogs:,, and With her methodology she will decipher if these comments about the event come across as racist. By “racist,” it means that these comments would have to include the covert form of colorblind racism or post racialism, concepts that have been accepted offline by some Americans and have proven to belittle the plight of people of color. In the summer of 2011 Rachel attended a research training program at the University of Chicago and created a proposal for her Mellon project. Those who have inquires about Rachel’s research project can send her an email at



Jomaira Salas, '13 is a sophomore from Lynn, Massachusetts majoring in sociology with an education minor. Her interests lie on the intersection of immigration and education in the United States and France. She is primarily interested in how public perception of immigration and immigration policy affect educational aspirations among first-generation immigrants. For her Mellon research project she will compare how immigration has defined the educational aspirations of students in Philadelphia and Paris. She is planning on studying abroad in spring 2012 in Paris, France. Jomaira will be conducting this project under the guidance of Professor David Karen in the Sociology department.



Jacinda Tran,'13of Newark, Delaware is majoring in Growth and Structure of Cities with minors in Environmental Studies and Chinese.  Her freshman year, Jacinda was assigned to Professor Gary McDonogh, who has now become her major advisor and Mellon Mays mentor.  In her research, she hopes to investigate public spaces and their social implications in addition to the issues of accessibility and disparities associated with them.  This summer, Jacinda will be undertaking Mandarin language study in Shanghai, China for eight weeks through the Critical Language Scholarship.  While there, she hopes to make observations that will direct her research towards a more specific focus.  In the spring, Jacinda aspires to carry on her research in Buenos Aires, Argentina or Quito, Ecuador where she will tentatively be studying abroad.