09. 08. 2021

The Graduate School is pleased to announce the 2021-2022 LEID Fellowship Recipients

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2021-2022 LEID Fellowship! The Leadership in Equity, Inclusion and Diversity (LEID) Fellowship rewards Ph.D. candidates who have demonstrated a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and/or social justice through scholarly activity and/or climate enhancing initiatives. The secondary aim of the fellowship is to provide financial support for those with insufficient funding as a consequence of COVID-19. The award offers Ph.D. candidates an opportunity to devote full-time effort to write and finalize a dissertation during the fellowship year.

Nathan Steinberg headshot

Nathan R. Stenberg, Theatre Historiography

Dissertation Topic: Performance's Role in the Ongoing Institutionalization of Disabled Americans

Nathan R. Stenberg is a first-generation disabled college student from a low-income, single-parent family in rural Minnesota. Nathan works as an actor, disability consultant, musician, personal trainer, public speaker, and scholar-activist. He is interested in how the stories we tell about disabled people influence everything from depictions of disability in popular entertainment to policy decisions for the disability community in the United States. Nathan received his BA in Music from Roberts Wesleyan College in 2014, and a MDiv from Princeton Seminary in 2017. He is currently a PhD Candidate in the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance at the University of Minnesota.

As a scholar, Nathan researches a former state institution for the disabled–the Pennhurst State School & Hospital–turned for-profit haunted house attraction. His dissertation examines how Pennhurst serves as a site to interrogate legal, medical, and societal perceptions of disability through performance. His research reveals Pennhurst Asylum is neither simply a commercial or artistic endeavor, but also a potentially subversive space in which disabled people use the genre of horror to create and sustain their own community and memorialize their institutionalized past. Consequently, his dissertation identifies unexamined trends of medical negligence and violence within current institutionalization policies while investigating how the Pennhurst Asylum provides an alternative model of care by examining a community organized for and by disabled people. 

An active disability activist, Nathan serves as a member of the Board of Directors and Chair of the Research Committee for the Pennhurst Preservation & Memorial Alliance. In addition, he currently serves as the Disability & Aging Policy Intern for United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. 

Megan Deutschman head shot

Megan Deutschman, Comparative and International Development Education

Dissertation Topic: Wrestling with Whiteness: Complexities and Contexts of White Educator Identities
Prior to Megan Deutschman's PhD program, she was a K-8 classroom teacher. During this time, Megan saw first-hand the inequities that are present in the United States school system. This experience brought her to the University of Minnesota, where she works as both an educator and a researcher to further social justice in education.

Megan's dissertation research focuses on the whiteness of the teaching force. Specifically, she examines the ways that white educators conceptualize and enact their white identities. This includes considering how educators perpetuate, and attempt to disrupt, systemic racism and white supremacy in the K-12 classroom. When conducting this research, Megan takes into account the nuanced and intersectional factors that contribute to how white educators make sense of their identities, both in personal and in professional contexts.

Actively implementing the learnings from Megan's research is very important to her. So far in her career, she has done this through her work as a university supervisor. In this position, she supervises and mentors preservice teachers in the Elementary Education program at the University of Minnesota. Megan spends time with the preservice teachers in their placement classrooms, observing their teaching and providing critical feedback on their practice. Much of her feedback focuses on how social justice-oriented teaching practices can disrupt oppressive systems and decenter whiteness. In addition to classroom observations, she holds bi-weekly critical peer group meetings with the preservice teachers. In these meetings, they discuss real-life examples of racism, sexism, classism, and power hierarchies that the preservice teachers notice in their placement schools. Through this combination of research and praxis, Megan hopes to contribute to the creation of a more equitable school system.

Karen Bauer headshot

Karen Bauer, Anthropology

Dissertation Topic: Mestizaje and Mining: Making Humanness and Non-humanness in Junín, Ecuador

​​​​​Karen's dissertation examines race, ethnicity, class, and resource extraction as they intersect with issues of nationhood and belonging in Ecuador. Karen focus specifically on how the racial ideology of mestizaje (racial mixing) in Ecuador is predicated upon the exclusion of Afro-Ecuadorians, indigenous people, and poor mestizos (of mixed European and indigenous blood). Mestizaje, Karen argues, becomes the paradigm for Ecuadorian nationhood, ultimately determining whose lives and lands the Ecuadorian government deems as disposable and less-than-human. While her project illustrates how intimately connected racialization, class, and nationhood are to extraction, policies regarding resource extraction in Ecuador rarely discuss these issues together. Karen's project will offer a revised perspective for global, national, and local resource extraction and ecological conservation debates that better account for extraction’s effects. Highlighting Ecuador’s exclusionist history will also lead to important conversations among scholars and activists about the need for more diverse, equitable, and inclusive policies that protect all Ecuadorians.

On campus, one of Karen Bauer's commitments to DEI and social justice is illustrated through her active participation with the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Graduate Writing Group (CRES). Started from grassroots organizing, CRES serves as a place for underrepresented BIPOC scholars from across the University to safely generate ideas and share their writing with others. As someone who understands feeling marginalized in the classroom, Karen is dedicated to creating a safe space for members to come together to workshop one another’s writing and support each other in our scholarly endeavors. Several CRES members have completed their dissertation using this space that she strives to maintain by being a devoted member since 2017 and holding a leadership position in 2019.

Last year, Karen and other members highlighted the disproportionate effects that COVID-19 has had on underserved populations at the University (e.g. graduate students, contingent faculty, campus workers) through the creation of a statement of demands. As someone whose fieldwork and finances were directly impacted due to COVID-19, Karen co-wrote a section calling for the immediate reimbursement of all travel and research expenses accrued due to COVID-19. This statement garnered over 400 signatures from UMN graduate students, faculty, and staff. The impact of this work resulted in having conversations with University faculty, administrators, and student groups to collaborate and work on concrete actions that ensured the financial and academic well-being of graduate students.

Leah Fulton headshot

Leah Fulton, Higher Education, minor in African American and African Studies

Dissertation Topic: Beyond the Third Step: How Doctoral Training Shapes the Post-Graduation Careers of Black Mother Doctoral Students

Leah Fulton is a first-generation college student and Higher Education doctoral candidate in the College of Education and Human Development with a minor in African American and African Studies. Leah's career and research in higher education seek to identify, contextualize, and rectify misalignments between the industry’s principles (i.e. aspirations), policies (i.e. high level written rules and procedures), and practices (i.e. day to day culture). Her dissertation research accomplishes that goal through examining the doctoral training experiences of Black mother doctoral students (BMDS).

Navigating Leah's PhD as a Black mother of three preschoolers provided her with insights into the ways that doctoral education was not designed for BMDS. Her dissertation problematizes the lack of research, data, or campus resources for BMDS and connects these contemporary practices to the historic suppression of the intellectual capital of Black mothers in U.S. society. Through the use of critical race mixed methods, Leah's dissertation research identifies structural patterns in the ways that race and class are consequential to BMDS’ experiences. Additionally, she explores how race and parental status both impact doctoral training experiences and shape the ways BMDS make post-graduation career choices. Through prioritizing the career choice logic of BMDS, their experiences are rendered visible and distinct from aggregate narratives about doctoral student mothers while challenging higher education to recognize and address inconsistencies between their rhetoric, practices, and policies. Leah makes recommendations for graduate schools to adopt new models that respond to needs and strengths of BMDS that use asset-based frameworks, but do not harm BMDS by overworking their capacity for resilience.

Leah's student affairs background and personal experience as a Black mother doctoral student motivates her to advocate for race-conscious student mother resources in her college and through her blog- Ebony Mom Ivory Tower: Life at the Intersection of Race, Motherhood, and Higher Education.

Annie Goerdt headshot

Annie Goerdt, School Psychology

Dissertation Topic: Technical Adequacy of the Social, Academic, and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener: A Systematic Review, Meta-Analysis, & Measurement Invariance Study

Annie is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Educational Psychology in the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development. She is passionate about reducing the systemic inequities afflicting the education system through research, practice, and activism. Annie’s research centers on equitable assessment and intervention practices in school mental health and the social, emotional, and behavioral (SEB) domains. The primary aim of her dissertation research is to examine an SEB assessment tool that is widely used in schools. The COVID-19 pandemic combined with continued acts of racial violence and social unrest will undeniably result in increased needs across the SEB domains. Fortunately, research in the area of equitable assessment can ameliorate the likelihood of negative outcomes and potential inequities in identifying students needing support.
In addition to her research, Annie is passionate about translating research-to-practice to improve outcomes for all students, especially for those who have been historically marginalized. Her practice as a school psychologist trainee has centered around creating a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable environment for both staff and students. She has participated in and led numerous initiatives to examine and reduce potentially inequitable student outcomes and school structures. Additionally, Annie is involved in various activism groups dedicated to advancing educational equity and diminishing opportunity gaps in Minnesota. As a future educator and researcher, she hopes to continue the advancement of DEI in the education system.

Euhna Jeong Wood headshot

Eunha Jeong Wood, Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies

Dissertation Topic: Decolonization in East Asia & the Pacific at the Intersections of Indigenous feminist theory, Women of Color feminisms, and Asian/American Studies

The questions that drive Eunha Jeong Wood's dissertation project arise from the historical and material circumstances and events of their life as a Korean person living in Mni Sota (Minnesota) and within the US empire. Eunha's experiences as an educator, writer, and organizer throughout the Twin Cities over the past decade have been especially instrumental in shaping their theory and praxis around revolutionary politics and social change. Their collective work has addressed the interwoven issues of policing & prison abolition, transformative justice, deportations, transracial adoption, anti-Asian misogyny & sexual violence, class struggle, critical ethnic studies, Indigenous treaty rights, and demilitarization as decolonization. Eunha's doctoral research addresses settler colonialism, imperialism, and indigeneity in East Asia and the Pacific at the intersections of Indigenous feminist theory, Women of Color feminisms, and Asian/American Studies. Creating innovative research and serving all students means critically understanding and addressing anti-Asian racism and orientalist misogyny not simply as obstacles to achieving assimilation, but as constitutive violences integral to maintaining the US settler state and empire. With the interdisciplinary provocations Eunha puts forth in their work, they urge us to consider what it means to call for the deoccupation and decolonization of places such as Korea and Jeju while living on occupied Native lands in North America and the Pacific. 

Kiara Padilla headshot

Kiara Padilla, American Studies

Dissertation Topic: Anti-border Carceral Abolition: A Contemporary Tijuas Abolitionist Praxis Post Deportation from California State Prisons

Kiara Padilla is a Xicana feminist, carceral abolitionist, and first-generation activist scholar. She was born and raised in the northeast San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles where she credits her family and predominantly working-class neighborhood for showing and teaching her carceral abolitionist practices. The language she learned to articulate these practices of abolitionism was supported in her undergraduate Chican@/x Studies courses and guided research at California State University, Northridge. Kiara received her BAs in Psychology and Chicana/o Studies. 

Her dissertation, Anti-border Carceral Abolition, is a case study that interrogates how Latinos deported to Mexico from California state prisons (re)make life in Tijuana, Mexico’s largest northern Mexican border city. More specifically, Kiara is interested in how Chicano/Latinos conceive of a contemporary abolitionist praxis grounded in histories of racialized incarceration and deportation in the Tijuana- Southern California region. She identifies how support networks made of chosen kinship relations, geographies of refusal to carcerality, and sociocultural and sociopolitical art productions collaborate to (re)create sustainable life in Tijuana for a Chicano deported from one of California’s high security prisons. By re-reading foundational Chicana feminists like Gloria Anzaldua, Chela Sandoval, and Cherrie Moraga, Kiara aims to trace how feminist anti-captive and anti-border politics specific to the U.S.-Mexico borderlands inform a contemporary understanding of carceral abolition in this region. Kiara’s dissertation works towards better understanding and challenging cross-border carceral regimes by centering the “reentry” perspectives of formerly incarcerated deportees, a population often rendered disposable, irrecuperable, and criminal.

Eskender Yousef headshot

Eskender Yousuf, Education Policy and Leadership

Dissertation Topic: Racial and ethnic identity construction of Oromo youth in relation to their educational experiences

Eskender Yousuf's dissertation research explores the racial and ethnic identity construction of second-generation Oromo youth in relation to their educational experiences. Broadly, Eskender's findings hope to provide ways for educators and educational leaders to promote more inclusive schooling practices. As a second-generation Oromo immigrant who has gone through the U.S. public education system, Eskender is still unpacking the implications of personal racialized experiences. Research highlights the disproportionately negative impact of schooling for Black students and other African immigrant groups in relation to their racial and ethnic identification. There is a dearth of research regarding the role of African immigrants' racial and ethnic identities in connection with their schooling experiences, especially for Oromo youth; Eskender's research seeks to understand ways that we can honor, acknowledge, and humanize their diverse identities within schooling spaces.

Eskender's contributions to thinking about issues of equity, diversity, inclusion, and/or social justice at the University of Minnesota are demonstrated by personal racial-equity focused research, work experiences, and community-based efforts. In all, these experiences illustrate not only Eskender's drive to promote more equitable schooling practices, but also the deep commitment and investment in the future prosperity of Eskender's communities.  

Caitlin Taborda headshot

Caty Taborda, Sociology

Dissertation Topic: Paid Plasma Donation in the U.S. and the Stigma of Poverty

Caty Taborda's research focuses on inequalities within healthcare systems, as well as care work and sociology of the body. As a doctoral candidate in Sociology and a first-generation Latina, Caty aims to use her training and skillset to advance equity across higher education systems and throughout her community. Caty developed and implemented this skillset across various settings at the University of Minnesota. She first began actively leading DEI efforts as a writing consultant at Student Writing Support (SWS). In addition to the one-on-one tutoring role, Caty has collaborated with SWS colleagues, as well as the Graduate School and the Office of Equity and Diversity to design and facilitate several grant writing workshops aimed at fostering safe and supportive spaces for BIPOC students to learn about external funding as well as navigate the personal statement component of applications. Caty has also sought opportunities to learn about DEI work at the departmental and administrative levels, serving with the Sociology Department’s Equity and Diversity Committee to implement racially inclusive faculty mentoring structures and working with the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost’s Grand Challenges Initiative to learn how the university could better support interdisciplinary graduate students and post-docs. Beyond the university setting, she has partnered with nonprofits and community organizations to develop culturally inclusive programming and support services for the Twin Cities community.

Jessica Forrester headshot

Jessica Forrester, STEM Education

Dissertation Topic: Cultivating Mathematical Genius through Community Inspired and Culturally Relevant Mathematics Activities

Jessica Forrester is a STEM Education Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Prior to coming to the University of Minnesota, she received her Bachelors and Masters in Biomedical Engineering before transitioning to teaching in a charter school in Washington D.C. 

Her primary research interests include mentoring, critical consciousness, and the intersection between mathematics education, equity, and community engagement. When Jessica made the decision to enroll in the university, she also made the decision to center collective action and care in her doctoral work. She has maintained that commitment through a number of community engaged projects and positions dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The first is Prepare2Nspire (P2N), a mathematics tutoring/mentoring program aimed at supporting underrepresented and first generation middle and high school students in their study of mathematics and preparation for college and career readiness. Jessica’s research also includes “Race, Culture, and Coffee” (RCC), a network of socially just educators who grapple with racialized incidents in schools and develop racial critical consciousness. Finally, her work with P2N and RCC brought her to YoUthROC, a community and university-connected youth research team housed out of the University of Minnesota’s Robert J. Jones’ Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) in north Minneapolis. 

All of Jessica’s experiences, including mentoring initiatives, research projects, and instruction, have nurtured her commitment to diversity, equity, justice and activism. She is honored to be a 2021-2022 LEID Fellow and will uphold the mission of the fellowship as she continues her dissertation journey, which will consider culturally relevant mathematics learning and community engagement in order to transform the educational experiences of local youth. 

Ty Frazier headshot

Ty Frazier, Mathematics

Dissertation Topic: Neural Networks used on Classical Celestial Mechanics

Ty Fraizer (Cherokee), is a fifth year Mathematics Ph.D. student. His research interests include machine learning, celestial mechanics, climate modeling, molecular dynamics, and various mathematical applications. His dissertation focuses on neural networks being used on classical celestial mechanics problems. He volunteers at least 20 hours a week to help people who have been marginalized in this country for centuries so that he can help the next generation to break through systemic discrimination for a brighter future. He does this by holding leadership roles in many UMN diversity organizations, offering tutoring, mentoring, and helping others navigate academic conferences. At UMN, Ty is part of the leadership of Council for the Advancement of Underrepresented Scientists and Engineers (CAUSE), Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), and the CSE Diversity & Inclusivity Alliance (D&I Alliance). Externally to the U, he also is an organizer for the Underrepresented Students in Topology and Algebra Research Symposium (USTARS).  A huge reason he commits his time to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts is in hopes that he may help positively impact those who have been discriminated against, marginalized and/or faced adversity, ultimately striving for a better outcome for future generations.

Vanessa Guzman headshot

Vanessa Guzman, American Studies

Dissertation Topic: Intersections of the criminal legal system and immigration system and movements for immigrant rights in Southern California

Vanessa Guzman is a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at the University of Minnesota. Vanessa’s research attends to how the criminal legal system and immigration system converged over the past four decades to form what Juliet Stumpf (2006) calls crimmigration. Vanessa's project asks: how are community and labor organizations challenging the criminalization of immigration through litigation and political practices that expand the rights of immigrants in Southern California?

Throughout her graduate studies, Vanessa has worked in collaboration with the communities where she has lived—either through an immigrant rights organization in the Inland Empire as a civic engagement program canvasser or as a mentee to Latinx undergraduate students through her undergraduate Alumni Association. She also had the opportunity to work as a research assistant at the University of Minnesota’s Urban Research and Outreach Center (UROC) (2017-2018) on a project centered on racial disparities in probation in Hennepin County. 

Samira Musleh headshot

Samira Musleh, Communication Studies

Dissertation Topic: Marriage & the Market: Obligatory Gift, Islam, & the Compensability of Reproductive Labor in Postcolonial Capitalism

Samira Musleh is a doctoral candidate in Critical Media Studies with a Feminist and Critical Sexuality Studies minor. Since 2016, Samira has worked with many UMN groups including Communication Studies Graduate Students Association, Council of Graduate Students, Culture Corps, Consortium for the Study of the Premodern World, AGITATE! Journal, and Imagining Transnational Solidarities Research Circle. She has advocated for the rights of graduate student-workers and brought administrative attention to systemic discrimination against minority students – especially those from underrepresented citizenship and religious backgrounds that are often ignored even in DEI initiatives, organized long-term reading, writing, and social groups to facilitate communal learning and foster intellectual companionship beyond the classroom, mentored international undergraduate students for graduate school admission, collaborated on editing and publishing literary and performative pieces and organizing events to bring together academic, activist, and artist voices from across geographic and linguistic differences.

Samira's UMN initiatives are a continuation of her work on educational equity and economic mobility of underprivileged and visually impaired students in Bangladesh from many years prior, in addition to her involvement in writing, translating, editing, and publishing blogs and edited collections centering young authors and readers committed to social justice issues. Samira's dissertation research is similarly informed by the ethos of gender justice. Drawing from feminist theory, indigenous economic practices, anti-capitalist and decolonial thought, and religious epistemologies, her work explores alternative ways of theorizing gender equity in the familial sphere and centers intellectual foundations of everyday life practices of marginalized groups.

Samira's research, teaching, and community service works are guided by the belief that centering the oppression of others before one’s own should be the guiding spirit of any DEI leader. Samira spends all her free time traveling, which is a perpetual teacher for her to learn to care about new communities, unfamiliar lands, and the natural environment.

Mounica Kota

Mounica Kota, Ecology, Evolution and Behavior

Dissertation Topic: Evolution of multimodal sexual communication across environmental regimes

Mounica Kota comes from a civic engagement background, considering themself a scientist by vocation and an organizer at heart. These are not separate identities- equity work is pivotal to their role as a scientist. As an immigrant and gay woman of color, Mounica learned quickly how forces of oppression operate against those of marginalized identities. They use their hard-won voice to tackle these oppressive structures in every space that they occupy.

To illustrate Mounica's longstanding commitment to equity work, they describe their involvement in a departmental project last summer. In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, several graduate students called for a critical analysis of racial relations in their department. Many graduate students of color, including Mounica, have been doing uncompensated and unacknowledged labor to improve department inclusivity for years. These conversations culminated in an emergency task force to develop recommendations for the department. 

Mounica uses this project to demonstrate the intersections of some of their DEI experience. First, much of the uncompensated labor they described in their initial concerns was their own. Secondly, service on the task force was based on student vote, and Mounica was unanimously voted as the top choice for graduate student representative due to their longstanding involvement with outreach and justice work. Thirdly, the process of working on the task force itself was challenging and required Mounica to pull on expertise from previous DEI initiatives. Thankfully, Mounica was able to call on peers and mentors for support and they ultimately generated meaningful recommendations. 

Mounica cannot claim that this project was a success, as it is far too early to tell- though several of these recommendations are being implemented. They do, however, consider it a demonstration of their commitment to equity work, even when doing so causes discomfort and the potential loss of institutional support.

Kristi Rudelius Palmer headshot

Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, Comparative International Development Education(CIDE)/Leadership for Intercultural and International Education (LIIE) track

Dissertation Topic: Stories as Theories: Illuminating Human Rights Education through the Narratives of Human Rights Activist Educators

Kristi's research centers on the often invisible voices and experiences of human rights activist
educators, whose resilience and hope shape an alternative, equitable, collective narrative of our
history, evolution, and future in the U.S. The phenomenon this study seeks to better understand
is the conception of human rights education through the lived experiences of elders in the field.

Since 2017, Kristi Rudelius-Palmer has spent more than 1900 volunteer hours strengthening two activist educator networks -- the Human Rights Educators USA (HRE USA) and the University and College Consortium for Human Rights Education (UCCHRE) -- that Kristi co-founded in 2011 and 2016 respectively and continue to serve on their Executive Committees. In 2020, Kristi unexpectedly expanded her HRE USA’s executive and treasurer roles to become the volunteer project director. The timing of her new position aligned with the pandemic, the killing of George Floyd, and racial justice and protest movements in the U.S. Kristi led HRE USA’s first online strategic planning process to establish their 2020-23 Strategic Priorities, revised mission, and guiding principles. HRE USA aims “to promote human dignity, justice, and peace by cultivating an expansive, vibrant base of support for human rights education in the US. Consistent with our opposition to all forms of discrimination, we commit to dismantling racism and confronting white supremacy that manifests itself across our nation.”

HRE USA’s Strategic Priority 1 is to provide youth with leadership, training, and other opportunities to engage in human rights education initiatives. In Kristi's new role, she envisioned, developed, and raised more than $10,000 from 42 donors for our new Kirby Edmonds Summer Fellowship Program and fundraised an additional $87,000 for outreach activities. Project proposals were solicited from the action teams and four projects were selected to develop a three-tiered 2021 Fall training program for HRE USA’s members, a national organizational landscape analysis, a social media impact assessment, and a teacher educator learning hub. Four young activists began their fellowships in June under Kristi's mentorship with a diverse team of advisors for each project. This year, 2100 in-kind hours were contributed by the Steering Committee and Action Teams and 547 hours donated by 28 State representatives.