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Virtual Dialogue Series - Recorded Sessions

The Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’s Virtual Dialogue Series invites you to enjoy these selected previously recorded sessions at your own pace. 


2021 Virtual Dialogue: Supporting our Undocu Bobcats with Brandon Perez - Recordings Coming Soon!

2021 Virtual Dialogue: Return to Campus w/dr. becky martinez

Description: As we prepare to return to campus, many of us – faculty, students, and staff alike – are still experiencing heightened levels of stress and anxiety in response to the global pandemic, financial uncertainty, sustained social isolation, racially motivated violence, and divisive politics. These challenges have exacerbated the mental health crisis at universities.

The Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion welcomes becky martinez, from Infinity Martinez Consulting to share with our UC Merced scholars, faculty and staff centering mental health and wellness in our practices and teachings. 


About dr. becky martinez

Her work centers on dismantling systems of oppression through critical dialogue and reflection intertwined with theoretical foundations. She works with organizations seeking to meet shifting demands, resources, and leadership to develop goals, vision, and purpose. She believes that while organizations may have a depth of diversity, there is a great deal of work to do to create equity, and it is our responsibility to do so.

Dr. martinez works in a variety of settings to create dynamic, engaging learning opportunities.

becky is passionate about inclusion, systems thinking and working with individuals, groups and organizations to reach their full potential. Her work includes diverse groups at the college level, with community-based organizations and with for-profit companies, and she brings a variety of skills to tailor towards her clients needs. Her experience and knowledge results in highly effective training sessions for growth and development.

becky’s career portfolio includes being a business owner as a organization development consultant, working as an administrator within the California State University, the University of California, and the Colorado State University systems as well as private liberal arts colleges.

She is a faculty member for the Social Justice Training Institute, a Co-Lead facilitator for the LeaderShape Institute, a certified trainer for the Anti-Defamation League, a certified trainer for the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, a member of the Southern California Trainer’s Institute, and certification as counselor-advocate through Peace over Violence (previously Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women) and works with a Title I elementary school in California regarding college. She holds a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne, a Master of Science in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Colorado State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the University of La Verne.


Let's Help More Native Students Move Forward On The Path Of Higher Education

Description: In modern times, people don’t generally realize that there were once thousands and thousands of Native Americans in California.  Nor do they realize that well over 100 different indigenous languages were once spoken across the State, with rich cultural diversity that varied according to various factors, including physical geography.  Why don’t people know this?  This is because the 1800s and into the 1900s, scores of California indigenous people were killed off by genocide, illness, and many forms of social injustice.  Well into the 1900s, these people were forced to give up their identities, land, and cultural practices.

About Prof. Teenie Matlock: Dr. Teenie Matlock is the Vice Provost for Academic Personnel at UC Merced.  She is Professor of Cognitive Science in the Cognitive and Information Sciences Department and holds the McClatchy Chair in Communications title.  Before joining the campus as Founding Faculty in 2004, she was Research Associate at Stanford University. A cognitive scientist and linguist by training, Matlock does research on how humans communicate and reason. She has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles, in fields such as cognitive science, psychology, and human-computer interaction, and has served on several editorial boards for journals, including Cognitive Science, Cognitive Linguistics, and Environmental Communication. She has received awards for distinction in research, teaching, mentoring, and leadership.  She has served on the governing board of the Cognitive Science Society and as a member of the National Institute of Health’s Language and Communication study section.  Matlock is the former Vice-Chair of the American Indian Council of Mariposa County, is a member of the Southern Sierra Miwuk tribe, and served on the University of California’s systemwide Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture, and Inclusion.

About Prof. Lace Padilla--Dr. Lace Padilla is an assistant professor in the Cognitive and Information Sciences department at the University of California Merced. She received a Ph.D. in Cognitive and Neural Sciences and an MFA in Design from the University of Utah. Padilla and collaborators were recently awarded an NSF RAPID award to study uncertainty in COVID-19 data visualizations. In 2018, she was awarded a Visionary Grant for research on Improving Trust in Uncertain Science funded by NASA. In her spare time, she is a strong advocate for minoritized groups in STEM. The National Science Foundation appointed her as a 2017/2018 STEM ambassador, and she received an NSF postdoctoral award for broadening participation in STEM at Northwestern.

About Prof. Spencer Castro--Spencer Castro is an assistant professor at the University of California Merced in the Management of Complex Systems Department in the School of Engineering. He was formerly a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Underrepresented and Disadvantaged Scholars Program and a former National Science Foundation Pre-Doctoral Graduate Research Fellow (GRFP) at the University of Utah, working with Dr. David Strayer. Spencer was awarded the NSF GRFP for research on the capacity of attention under cognitive workload, particularly in the context of technology and multitasking. He focuses on the validity of reaction time and accuracy as measures of different aspects of workload, as well as quantifying the risk of adverse outcomes due to these workload metrics in driving. He employs advanced cognitive modeling techniques to examine the mechanisms of attentional capacity, multitasking, and performance. In a recent publication in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Performance and Perception, Spencer and collaborators propose new mathematical models for analyzing reaction time data that capture the classically difficult tradeoff between speed and accuracy. As a member of the Mono Lake Paiute and Southern Sierra Miwuk Nations, Spencer was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship for Underrepresented and Disadvantaged Scholars from the University of Utah to support his on-going research on cognitive modeling. Spencer is a strong advocate for minoritized groups and was the president of the Diversity G.A.P. (Graduate Application Preparation) at the University of Utah, which prepares underrepresented students to apply to graduate school.

History On the Run- Secrecy, Fugitivity and Hmong Refugee Epistomologies with Dr. Ma Vang

Ma Vang is an Assistant Professor and founding chair of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Merced. Her book, History on the Run: Secrecy, Fugitivity, and Hmong Refugee Epistemologies (Duke University Press, 2021), examines how secrecy structures both official knowledge and refugee epistemologies about militarism and forced migration. She is the co-editor of Claiming Place: On the Agency of Hmong Women (University of Minnesota Press, 2016), and her writings have been published in positions: asia critique MELUS, and Critical Ethnic Studies Journal. Vang has received several awards to support her research, most recently, the UC Multicampus Research collaborative grant and the Whiting Foundation Public Engagement grant. She serves as co-editor of the Critical Refugee Studies Collective website which hosts the refugee archive and story map platforms for refugees to share stories. She is organizing the Refugee Teaching Institute in summer 2021 to engage with students and community members as teachers for K-12 ethnic studies curriculum training.

During its secret war in Laos (1961–1975), the United States recruited proxy soldiers among the Hmong people. Following the war, many of these Hmong soldiers migrated to the United States with refugee status. In History on the Run Ma Vang examines the experiences of Hmong refugees in the United States to theorize refugee histories and secrecy, in particular those of the Hmong. Vang conceptualizes these histories as fugitive histories, as they move and are carried by people who move. Charting the incomplete archives of the war made secret through redacted US state documents, ethnography, film, and literature, Vang shows how Hmong refugees tell their stories in ways that exist separately from narratives of U.S. empire and that cannot be traditionally archived. In so doing, Vang outlines a methodology for writing histories that foreground refugee epistemologies despite systematic attempts to silence those histories.

Picture a Scientist

This session was not recorded to allow the session to be a comfortable space for both panelists and participants to share their experiences. Please contact our office if you are intersted in setting up a viewing of the documentary. 

"Picture a Scientist" chronicles the groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists. Biologist Nancy Hopkins, chemist Raychelle Burks, and geologist Jane Willenbring lead viewers on a journey deep into their own experiences in the sciences, ranging from brutal harassment to years of subtle slights. Along the way, from cramped laboratories to spectacular field stations, we encounter scientific luminaries - including social scientists, neuroscientists, and psychologists - who provide new perspectives on how to make science itself more diverse, equitable, and open to all. 

Free documentary screening: January 14th-16th (the screening link will be made available to folks who RSVP so that they can view the film at any time during this 48-hour window)

Post-screening panel: January 21st at 1 - 2 PM

Impacts of COVID-19

Guest Panel: 

Maria-Elena De Trinidad Young, Assistant Professor of Public Health

Dr. Young is a scholar of immigrant health whose research seeks to understand the impact of the US immigration system on the well-being of immigrants and their families. Dr. Young focuses on citizenship and policy as systems of inequality to advance knowledge on health inequities based on the legal status and how health inequities are driven by state and local policies.  

Dr. Young will share recent findings from her study of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Latino immigrants in rural California. The findings show that Latino immigrant families in regions such as the San Joaquin Valley are paying a triple financial toll during the pandemic—at work, at home, and on their health- all while being excluded from economic assistance due to legal status. As a result, they are facing food insecurity and mental health risks.

Whitney Laster Pirtle, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Whitney N. Laster Pirtle is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and McArthur Foundation Chair in International Justice and Human Rights at the University of California, Merced (UC Merced). She received her B.A. from Grand Valley State University and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from Vanderbilt University. At UC Merced, she has affiliations with Public Health and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies departments and directs the Sociology of Health and Equity (SHE) Lab. Dr. Pirtle is an award-winning author, teacher, and mentor. Her research explores issues relating to race, identity, inequality, health equity, and Black feminist praxis. Her work has been published in academic journals such as Ethnic & Racial Studies, Social Science & Medicine, and Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, as well as public media websites such as The Atlantic, Huffington Post, and Feminist Wire. Supported by funding from a Ford Foundation post-doctoral award, she is currently completing a book manuscript that explores the formation and transformation of the “coloured” racial group in post-apartheid South Africa. She continues to produce research on racial disparities in Covid-19, and in addition, her co-edited volume Black Feminist Sociology: Perspectives and Praxis is forthcoming with Routledge Spring 2021. She recently won the 2020 A. Wade Smith Award for Teaching, Mentoring, and Service from the Association of Black Sociologists.

Dr. Pirtle will explore the following: Health sociologists have long explained how socioeconomic status, and later racism, are basic root causes of health disparities. I extend this work to argue that racial capitalism, or the idea that racialized exploitation and capital accumulation are mutually reinformed systems, structure health inequities. Furthermore, these intersecting systems are exacerbated in the face of additional forms of oppression and in times of health crises. Synthesizing early reports and preliminary empirical studies, I demonstrate how such multiple, overlapping mechanisms shape the excess deaths in COVID-19 across racial lines. This analysis demonstrates that health inequities will continue to be replicated unless we can fundamentally change our unequal system.

Jennifer Howze-Owens, Senior Instructional Designer for Academic & Emerging Technology

Jennifer is a Senior Instructional Designer in the Academic & Emerging Technologies unit of OIT. Most of her work involves supporting faculty integration of technologies that help with the teaching and learning process and offering best practices to support the equitable and inclusive delivery of content. Since joining campus in July, she has developed and co-led large faculty workshops and really enjoys working 1-on-1 to provide immediate solutions. She will complete her Ed.D. in Educational Psychology & Technology this coming spring. 

Jennifer Howze-Owens will expand the conversation to Accessible Online Engagement: Now and Beyond so it can apply to the entire UC Merced population. Jennifer will cover needs and requirements associated with engaging with others in online environments, offer ways to humanize meetings and class experiences through community-building and demonstrate multiple means of representation for every type of learning style.

Charah Coleman, Financial Wellness Coordinator

Charah is an MBA candidate at CSU Fresno.  Previously founding the Money Management Center at CSU Fresno, Ms. Coleman currently serves as the founder and coordinator of UC Merced’s new Financial Wellness Center. Charah is an award-winning financial educator recognized for her philanthropy, economic justice, and financial empowerment within the Central Valley. Charah is passionate about protecting the environment and its wildlife. She believes that we are on this earth to display compassion and better the communities around us.

Charah will speak to COVID-19’s financial impact on students, their families, and how this ultimately may affect their student success.  She offers ways staff and faculty can assume a supportive role to students experiencing economic disruption.

Equity, Justice & Politics

Jessica Trounstine earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from UC San Diego in 2004 and now serves as the Foundation Board of Trustees Presidential Chair of Political Science at UC Merced.   Before joining UC Merced in 2009, Professor Trounstine served as an Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Policy at Princeton University.   She is the author of 19 peer-reviewed articles, 6 book chapters, and two award-winning books, Segregation by Design: Local Politics and Inequality in American Cities (Cambridge University Press) and Political Monopolies in American Cities: The Rise and Fall of Bosses and Reformers (University of Chicago Press).  Professor Trounstine’s work studies the process and quality of representation in American democracy.  She is focused on the ways in which formal and informal local political institutions generate inequalities.  Professor Trounstine’s scholarship is mixed-method; reliant on historical analysis, case studies, experiments, and large-n quantitative analyses.  She has served as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Justice, city governments, and various community organizations; and serves on numerous editorial and foundation boards.  As the 4th political scientists hired at UC Merced, Professor Trounstine has played a crucial role in helping to build the university. 

Dr. James R. Jones is an assistant professor of African American Studies and Sociology at Rutgers University-Newark. He received his PhD in Sociology from Columbia University in 2017. His research investigates representation and inequality inside of American democratic institutions. He studies the experiences of Black government workers as a way to understand the complicated relationship between race, power, and inequality in state institutions.

He is currently completing his first book, The Last Plantation, which represents the first major study of racial inequality in the congressional workplace. The title draws on the fact that members of Congress and their staff have applied this telling nickname to the legislature in order to highlight how the institution is exempt from the very policies and principles it is tasked to create and implement (including federal workplace laws). In the Last Plantation, Dr. Jones draws upon the plantation metaphor to analyze the racial constituents of Congress and examine how race and racism are produced and maintained within the congressional workplace and the Capitol at large. This manuscript is adapted from his doctoral dissertation which won the Robert K. Merton award for Best Dissertation from the Department of Sociology at Columbia University.

Dr. Jones is a leading expert on congressional staff diversity. He has authored two groundbreaking policy reports on racial representation among congressional staff. His research demonstrates that racial minorities are underrepresented in both top and junior staff positions on Capitol Hill. His recently published “The Color of Congress” with Pay Our Interns, which documents how White students dominate congressional internships. His first public policy documented the underrepresentation of racial minorities in top staff positions in the Senate for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. The report garnered widespread news coverage including exclusives with The Atlantic and The Washington Post. In 2017, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer adopted policy recommendations from the report to increase racial diversity amongst democratic staff and improve transparency in staff decisions.

Dr. Jones research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Dirksen Congressional Center, Columbia University, Duke University, and Princeton University.

Struggle and Excellence in Queer Literature

William Johnson is a Brooklyn based essayist, cultural critic and editor. His writing has appeared in numerous art catalogs and periodicals: Boy Book: A Pictorial Study Of Urban Male Nudes in a Contemporary Urban Setting, A Question of Beauty, works by Anika Wilson, and "I Knew It Was Your Arm ... :" works by Doug Group. He is a contributing arts and culture writer for CrushFanazine. He is also the editor and publisher of Mary Literary, a literary journal dedicated to showcasing queer/gay writings of artistic merit.


Sofya Aptekar is an associate professor of urban studies at the City University of New York School of Labor and Urban Studies. She conducts research on a variety of immigration-related topics, including DACA, experiences of undocumented youth, medical screenings, naturalization, and military service. 


By: Lorene Fisher, M.A.

In our tumultuous landscape, we are surviving. But what does it look like to thrive? Movement is powerful in how we respond and care for ourselves -physically, mentally, and spiritually. In this session, we will engage in some movement practices and dancing to release the pressures, anxiety, and stress we may be feeling, and move into reflective dialogue to shift and challenge our perspectives. We will utilize movement practices as a tool to express who we are and how we engage, to then transform how we move about our daily lives. We hope you will join us for this interactive session and dialogue, and yes, we will move our bodies! All UC Merced community members of all abilities are welcome; no dance or movement experience is necessary!


By: Eileen Kogl Camfield, M.A. & Ed.D. & Jamie Moore, MFA & PhD Graduate Student

As we expand our equity discourse on campus, it is important to consider ways to create an empathic dialogue with our students. Not only can this dialogue happen in our (virtual) interactions with them, but empathy can be coded into our class materials and curriculum. This session will help you unpack the hidden curriculum of your course by examining the language and messaging of key course documents, providing suggestions for revisions, and opening a dialogue about revising course policies. We will also model an example of extending course outcomes to include policies and practices that actively build community in a moment we could easily feel distanced.


By: Lorene Fisher, M.A. & Jess Evora

How many times do we come into a space, ready to present the best solution or idea, ready to lead our team with confidence, when we suddenly pause with the question ringing in our mind, “Do I Really Belong Here?” Maybe, your question is “Am Ithe right one for this job?” or “who am I to _____?” If these questions have ever popped in your head, if you have ever doubted your abilities, or not taken an opportunity because you haven’t seen folks who look like you doing it, then you have experienced imposter syndrome. When we add onto this our current circumstances amidst COVID-19, the unease and uncertainty of budgets, promotions, and job stability can weigh us down and lead us to further doubting our skills and talents. In this virtual dialogue, we will further explore imposter syndrome and come together to build our toolkit to combat it, so that we all can live and lead authentically to our fullest potential.


By: Marjorie Zatz, Vice Provost and Graduate Dean; Samuel Traina, Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development; Chris Kello, Associate Dean; & Rose Scott, Vice Chair of IRB --moderated by: Hala Alnagar and Maria Ramirez Loyola

Amid all the changes associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital to have a conversation specifically tailored to address the emerging questions that graduate students may have during this uncertain time. We cordially invite all graduate students to join us in conversation with Graduate Dean and Vice Provost Marjorie Zatz, Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development Samuel Traina, Vice Chair of the IRB Rose Scott, & Associate Dean Chris Kello to be Interim Vice Provost and Graduate Dean beginning July 1 as we address graduate student concerns regarding the impact of COVID-19 on their research and overall livelihood.


By: Angi Baxter, M.A.

As we all struggle to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, many do not consider how our vulnerable populations can be more deeply impacted. This session will look at how the LGBTQ+ community's marginalization could create more targeted disparities during this time.


By: Guillermo Ortiz and Breeana Sylvas

When climate change and its impact are often discussed, the conversation tends to focus on occurrences of extreme weather events such as wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, heat waves, and drought. Unfortunately, it is rare for the dialogue to include discussions of equity despite the disproportionate impact climate change will have on frontline communities. According to the U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment—written by a team of more than 300 experts and vetted by 13 federal agencies—low-income communities and communities of color are the most vulnerable to climate effects and other environmental hazards. This is due to the legacy of siting industrial facilities near these communities and other discriminatory housing and infrastructure policies. These factors have left these communities with the fewest resources to prepare for and recover from extreme weather events. To hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels and safeguard frontline communities from climate change impacts, climate action must be built on a framework that is centered on achieving economic, racial, and environmental justice.


By: Tania Gonzalez, Ph.D., Associate Director, Counseling and Psychological Services and Armando Contreras, Assistant Dean of Students

In a recent KFF poll, nearly half (45%) of adults in the U.S. reported their mental health has been negatively impacted due to stress and worry over COVID-19. Social isolation, financial insecurity, family/relationship conflict and adjustment to remote work are some examples of what many are trying to navigate during these challenging times. Please join us in a discussion about the impact COVID-19 has had on our mental health. As a campus community, we will engage in supportive conversation, as we explore challenges and highlight resources available to strengthen our mental and emotional well-being.


By: Jess Evora, Associate Director, The Souza Leadership Center

Both your confidence and self-esteem are not actual character traits. They are states of being that must be consistently nurtured, in the same way your physical health and mental health must be nurtured. Without practicing consistent habits, your confidence and self-esteem will retreat deep inside you and become out of reach. This session will provide a brief overview behind the science of confidence, and discuss how your level of confidence is connected to both resilience and overall well-being. We’ll then discuss strategies you can begin right away to increase your confidence and your ability to remain resilient in challenging times.

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