Anthropology doctoral candidate Zahirah Suhaimi chose to attend UC Santa Cruz for its creative and cutting-edge research, radical activism, and a collaborative atmosphere. Now a Ph.D. student with over a dozen grants and awards under her belt, Suhaimi is interested in behavioral and ecological patterns, the stories underlying them, and how they are significant for community resilience and development.
Q&A with Changemakers
Transforming Futures—a program launched by UC Santa Cruz’s Institute for Social Transformation—awards scholarships to first generation, underrepresented, and/or low-income UCSC students to pursue unpaid internships over the summer. The rollout of the program would not have been possible without the support of MR Macgill and Ho Nam. Their generosity created career-changing opportunities for UCSC students.
Thanks to a scholarship from IST’s Transforming Futures program, third-year politics student Amanda Safi (John R. Lewis ’24, politics) spent her summer interning for the House of Representatives at the Office of Congressman Jimmy Panetta. An experience she says enhanced her educational experience at UCSC, and allowed her to explore a career path she hadn’t been able to before.
Aissata Ba, a 20-year-old Black Muslim first-generation American, was selected from a competitive pool of college students from around the United States to be part of a conversation with Michelle Obama on some of the themes addressed in her best-selling memoir Becoming. “One of the things that we were talking about was the experience of being a first generation college student,” Ba remembered, “and feelings of imposter syndrome.
Katherine Quinteros, a second-year PhD student in Social Psychology who received the Chancellor’s Graduate Internship/Campus Fellow Award for Building Belonging Through Researcher-Practitioner Collaboration and winner of the Graduate Research Symposium Best of the Social Sciences Division Award. Katherine’s work evaluating the Building Belonging program has helped identify essential key levers of change that influence university belonging, and potentially retention, for minoritized students.
Alumna Terri McCullough is Chief of Staff to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi. She has spent her career advancing the participation of women and girls through policy and programs. Most recently, she served as CEO of the Clinton Foundations No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, an initiative to evaluate and promote progress in gender equity globally.
Professor Erika Zavaleta is a recognized leader on multiple fronts within conservation biology and sustainability. Her research studies how humans are changing the diversity of land-based plant and animal communities. She works closely with conservation organizations, governments, and communities to support better management of natural resources and was recently appointed to the California Fish and Game Commission by Governor Gavin Newsom
Chris Lang, a graduate student in Environmental Studies and intern for the People of Color Sustainability Collective (POCSC), and Breanna Byrd, a graduate student in Feminist Studies and intern at the African American Resource and Cultural Center, discuss their experiences around environmental justice and the motivation for their activism.
In 2014, Jacob Martinez founded Digital NEST—a technology workforce development hub providing youth in underserved communities with high-demand technology skills, mentoring and hands-on experience so they can secure well-paying jobs. Beginning in 2021, Jacob will serve as an external special adviser to UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Cindy Larive, bringing his insight on economic opportunity, community empowerment and digital innovation. He is an alumni of UC Santa Cruz, earning his degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in 2004.
Since earning his bachelor’s in politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz back in 2004, Forrest Stuart has gone on to build a highly influential academic career, pursuing burning questions about the societal underpinnings of poverty and criminalization across disciplines. He’s now an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University, where he directs the Stanford Ethnography Lab.
Jennifer Baszile is the Interim Vice Chancellor for the Division of Student Affairs and Success at UC Santa Cruz. In her role, Jennifer leads a diverse and talented group of professional and student staff who provide campus-wide coordination and leadership for student affairs and success programs and activities across departments, divisions, colleges, and administrative units.
Rachel Nelson, PhD, is the Director of the Institute of the Arts and Sciences (IAS) at UC Santa Cruz, and teaches in the History of Art and Visual Culture Department. Currently, Nelson is co-curating a multi-sited group exhibition, Barring Freedom, engaging art, prisons, and justice, which will be shown in San José, and Santa Cruz.