UC Merced graduate students Anabel Castillo, Veronica Lerma and Sammy Villa are recipients of the University of California’s inaugural President’s Pre-Professoriate Fellowship (PPPF).
The UC Office of the President launched the PPPF as part of its UC-Hispanic Serving Institutions Doctoral Diversity Initiative in fall 2019. The initiative aims to enhance faculty diversity and provide pathways to the professoriate for underrepresented students from California Hispanic-serving institutions. It is designed to remove or address barriers that encourage, equip and support students’ success.
Castillo, from San Jacinto, is a Ph.D. student in Psychological Sciences.
She is working to understand social and cultural influences on the psychological and cognitive processes of underrepresented groups. For her dissertation research, Castillo is using a publicly accessible education dataset to look at bilingualism and how bilingualism impacts executive function abilities — a broad term for higher order cognitive processes that help individuals manage day-to-day life.
Her advisor, Dean of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts and Professor Jeffrey Gilger, nominated her for the fellowship.
“I feel really grateful for this opportunity because I will be able to focus on research my final year and learn more about pursing a path in the professoriate at a crucial time in my graduate school career,” she said. “I'll be able to devote more time to diving into data, postdoc applications and reaching out to other faculty.”
Villa, a Ph.D. student from Sacramento, is working with Professor Fred Wolf in the Quantitative and Systems Biology (QSB) Graduate Program. Villa’s current research involves characterizing the role of a deubiquitinase enzyme, OTUD6, in stress response using the fruit fly Drosophila Melanogaster.
“This fellowship will help me develop the skills necessary to pursue a professoriate position following my Ph.D.,” said Villa, a first-generation Latino student. “I intend to use the fellowship to better develop my teaching style as well as how to implement active learning in the classroom. I will also develop my professional and networking skills in order to be more competitive in the academic market.”
Lerma, who is from Lodi, is a Ph.D. student with Associate Vice Provost for the Faculty and Professor Zulema Valdez in the Sociology program.
Her research centers women of color and offers an intersectional framework that considers how race, gender, class and geographic location shape criminalization processes. She is examining the life histories of formerly incarcerated Mexican American women living in the Central Valley.
Lerma said women of color, especially Latinas, are largely absent from criminalization studies, which results in frameworks that do not — and cannot — account for their unique experiences.
“Receiving the UC President’s HSI Pre-Professoriate Fellowship means that I will be able to see my dissertation work through to completion,” Lerma said. “The generous support of the award not only affords me the protected time and space to complete my Ph.D. requirements, it also provides support for crucial professional development opportunities, which will certainly benefit my path to the professoriate.”