Mellon Public Scholars Adapt Projects During Pandemic

images made for Katelyn Stiles Mellon Public Scholars project of indigenous women wearing pandemic masks decorated with symbols important to them.
Images created by Katelyn Stiles are of Tlingit and Haida women wearing masks decorated with symbols important to them.

Each year, 12 UC Davis graduate students are selected as Mellon Public Scholars to take part in a year of community-engaged research. This has been a very different year for them due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the students, all but one from the College of Letters and Science, have had to switch gears, change projects and not be physically present in the communities they are working with. Despite this, the students have completed projects and created videos that document their work, and in some cases is their work.

Among the projects:

  • Katelyn Stiles, a doctoral student in Native American studies, interviewed and created artworks inspired by Indigenous Alaskan women who live in California.
  • Eli Alston-Stepnitz, a doctoral student in sociology, analyzed how the pandemic has undermined support and care for transgender people, especially trans people of color. 
  • Wayne Jopanda, a doctoral student in cultural studies, collaborated with two Filipino teachers to trace the teachers’ journey from labor trafficking victims to anti-trafficking organizers and activists.

The 2020 scholars include four Native American studies students; two each in creative writing, sociology and cultural studies; and one each in history and education.

Watch the videos, hear about each project and learn more about this program that is administered by the UC Davis Humanities Institute.