MMUF Cohort 1

2008-2009 Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows 

Ashley Barton '10

Major(s): Environmental Science

Graduate Interest: Environmental Science and Studies

Graduate Studies: Masters Candidate in Environmental Science at the California State University-Fullerton as of Fall 2011

Academic Honors and Awards: John Greenleaf Whittier Scholarship, Georgina Grace Blackburn Scholarship, Dean’s List

MMUF Mentor: Christine Metzger, M.A.

Project Title: Soil Genesis and Landslide Development in the Monterey Formation, Puente Hills, California


Outcrops of the Miocene Monterey Formation in the Puente Hills north of Whittier, California, are associated with a history of mass wasting. Cropping out over a large portion of the southern California coast, the Monterey Formation is composed of siliceous shale, with layers of siltstone, thin sandstone, and hard dolomite. The Monterey Formation is a well known petroleum source rock that has produced significant amounts of oil in California. In this study, we conducted research in the Turnbull Canyon area, located in the Puente Hills, within the La Vida Shale Member of the Monterey Formation. Soils were sampled and described along a transect across the canyon with soil pits above, in, and below landslide blocks. Munsell soil color, ped development, and horizonation were characterized. Effects of aspect and vegetation type were also characterized. Grain size (by mechanical method) and bulk density (by the clod method) of the soils were measured in the lab. Preliminary data suggest that soils on the northern side of the canyon are generally weakly and thinly developed with poor soil structure, contributing to the concentration of landslides in that part of the canyon. Another contributing factor to the landslides in the study area of the canyon is the extensive intervals of folding and faulting within the Monterey Formation. By describing and measuring soil profiles and studying soil properties, this project investigates the role soil has played in the history of mass wasting in the area


Eric Enrique Borja '10

Major(s): Philosophy, Economics

Graduate Interest: Sociology, Philosophy
Graduate Studies: Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at the University of Texas-Austin as of Fall 2011

Academic Honors and Awards: Omicron Delta Kappa (Leadership Honor Society), Phi Sigma Tao (Philosophy Honor Society)

MMUF Mentor: Dr. Geetha Rajaram


Veronica Moreno '11


Major(s): Spanish, French

Graduate Interest: Modern Languages, English Literature, Film Studies

Academic Honors and Awards: Fulbright Scholar (Argentina), Dean’s List

MMUF Mentor: Dr. Marie-Magdeleine Chirol

Project title: The Fundamental Implication of Antithesis in Marguerite Duras' The Lover


As a French writer born and raised in Dia Ginh, Indochina (present day Vietnam), Marguerite Duras offers a very unique perspective on culture and expression. She spent the first eighteen years of her life in Vietnam before returning to France. Many of her novels relate personal and intimate stories focused on sentiment rather than plot. Some of her reoccurring themes include displacement, intense feeling, and the question of identity. As a French writer in Vietnam, many readers expect a nostalgic tale of colonial life; instead Duras presents the other side of life in its raw and intense form. As a consequence, her stories and characters become more personal and intimate to the reader. Antithesis is a literary device used by authors in order to express contradicting ideas that convey an abstract or ambivalent connotation. Duras utilizes antithesis thematically, stylistically, and within the characters themselves to convey the conflicting ideas within the novel. Her work demonstrates the different applications and versatility of antithesis. Critics have labeled her novels Le barrage contre le pacifique  (The Seawall), L’amant (The Lover), and L’amant de la Chine du Nord (The North China Lover) as part of  Duras’ Indo-Chinese cycle, where all three novels unfold the development and evolution of the same narrative. The purpose of my study is to analyze the differences in style, theme, and character development through antithesis primarily in her novel L’amant, while examining the changes that occur in the last novel, L’amant du la Chine du Nord. I have used the English translations of all three novels, and the majority of my study will be written in English with the exception of the study of L’amant de la Chine du Nord.


Celina De Sá '11


Major(s): Sociology

Graduate Interest: Cultural Sociology, Sociology

Graduate Studies: Ph.D. Candidate in Africana Studies at Penn State University as of Fall 2012

Academic Honors and Awards: Ahmanson Scholarship, John Greenleaf Whittier Scholarship, Cum Laude, Dean's List

MMUF Mentor: Dr. Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez

Project Title: Capoeira as a Black Atlantic Cultural Form 


Capoeira is a dance-like martial art founded by African slaves in the tumultuous beginnings of Brazilian statehood. Undoubtedly, capoeira is rooted in rituals and traditions inherent in the African slave population, however its distinctly Brazilian identity may have served to muddy the waters of origin. In over a century the humble beginnings of the slave practice have grown to be Brazil’s national sport as well as an international attraction. The recent emergence of capoeira schools in West Africa brings to light the dynamics of culture in a diasporic context. Drawing on participant observation and interviews I conducted with West African practicitioners, I argue that capoeira acts as a medium for reconnecting to ancestral traditions, as well as exercising pan-African consciousness. While recognizing the African ritual aspects, Senegalese capoeiristas in particular hold a purist view of the sport by maintaining allegiance to Brazil. They do not stray from the Brazilian styles or Portuguese language, giving the impression that they recognize Brazil as the source of origin. With the complexities of the Black Atlantic as a cultural space, there exists a feedback loop of practices that are rooted in Africa, diffuse across the Americas and return again to the source of the diaspora. I aim to explore the transformation of those cultural practices such as capoeira as they adapt to changing environments and are appropriated or re-appropriated.