Announcing Inaugural SDSU Master’s Research Scholarship Recipients

Eleven College of Arts and Letters Master’s Students Awarded Scholarships

By Leslie L.J. Reilly

Graduate students from creative writing, sociology, anthropology, geography, Latin American studies, history, political science, and linguistics were selected as the first cohort of the inaugural SDSU Master’s Research Scholarship. Students are each awarded $10,000 to contribute toward continued research in their chosen field.

The program is designed to provide direct, much-needed financial support to SDSU master’s students who contribute to research, scholarship, or creative activity in their particular area of academia.

The scholarship directs institutional funding to support recruitment, retention, and timely degree completion for excellent graduate students who are engaged in scholarship advancing the university's goals for research and creative activity. Scholarships are awarded to continuing and entering master’s students through a competitive process.

Nominated by graduate advisers, CAL students represent a wide swath of academic research and creative endeavors. Following a preliminary review process at the college level, an advisory committee reviewed nominations according to a rubric developed by the committee and Graduate and Research Affairs, and the recipients were selected.

Read more about each winner’s area of focus.

BenchekrounSarah’s thesis work, tentatively titled “Low-Cost, Open-Source Methods for 3-D Digital Documentation in Applied Cultural Heritage Preservation,” focuses on widely-available tools such as photogrammetry, off-the-shelf LiDAR used in the autonomous vehicle industry, and consumer-grade aerial drones to democratize the digital preservation of cultural heritage (archaeological sites, monuments, historic buildings, and other landmarks). By providing low-cost workflows accessible to a wider array of stakeholders, her work has the potential to help decolonize digital archaeology and increase the speed at which endangered cultural material can be digitally preserved.

AmeneyroBrent’s poetry has been featured in songs, publications such as the San Diego Poetry Annual and Seven Circle Press, as well as in a large-scale art installation. He has served as the managing poetry editor for the American River Review and is currently serving as an editorial assistant for Poetry International. He graduated with honors from California State University Sacramento and is currently an MFA student at San Diego State University. He was the recipient of the 2019 Sarah B. Marsh Rebelo Poetry Scholarship, 2020 San Miguel Poetry Week Fellowship, and was selected to read at SDSU’s RE:BORDER bi-national conference.

LiGrace Li is a current MFA in Poetry student at SDSU. She has completed a year as the assistant to the MFA director. She was the recipient of the Sarah B. Marsh Rebelo Excellence Fund Fellowship for 2019-20. She has also interned for Poetry International and worked as a Rhetoric and Writing Studies Writing Fellow. In Fall 2020, she will begin working as a Teaching Associate for the RWS Department. She received a BA in English, summa cum laude, from UCLA, where she was on the Dean’s Honors list and received honorable mention in the Herman Memorial Prize from the Academy of American Poets. Her poetry is published in Red Wheelbarrow magazine and UCLA’s Westwind journal. She was a finalist for the Jane Underwood Poetry Prize, judged by Rick Barot. 

ArakiRyoko’s research focuses on hydrology and water resources, especially understanding rainfall-runoff processes through observation and modeling at a watershed scale. Ryoko is particularly interested in soil moisture, how it controls water cycles, how to represent the process in modeling, and how to leverage the simulation results for flood and drought management.

Ryoko’s master’s thesis aims to capture the dynamic signatures of soil moisture around the globe. By analyzing soil moisture data observed through clusters of sensors, the research addresses the question: how does the soil moisture respond to rainfall and climate variability under diverse land-uses?

While an undergraduate in Japan, Ryoko investigated groundwater and soil moisture interaction in humid tropical forests with scientists in Indonesia. As a research assistant of Associate Professor Hilary McMillan, Ryoko examines the uncertainties in discharge measurements at several San Diego catchments. At SDSU, Ryoko has organized a group of water graduate students to facilitate social and academic interaction.


Janie’s research focuses on the Boxer Rebellion that took place in China from 1899 to 1901. The movement is famous for its intense rejection of Western influence in China, and for its targeted killing of foreign missionaries and Chinese Christian converts. Existing scholarship on the Boxer Uprising has characterized it, first and foremost, as an anti-foreign movement, and has focused primarily on the violence directed at the foreign missionary community across North China. Janie’s thesis research complicates this picture in important ways by recasting it as an intra-Chinese as well as an anti-foreign conflict, and by putting front and center the experience of native Chinese converts to Christianity, who made up the vast majority of those killed during the movement.  She focuses specifically on the lack of support that Chinese Christian converts received not only from the imperial Qing government, but also from the missionary community and the Western powers seeking to stamp out the violence.

Rodriguez Sophia plans to address the health concerns of our many migrant, refugee and multi-generational families with heritage in Latin American cultures. Sophia has expanded her research interests into a comparative analysis that allows her to analyze the similarities and differences in cancer outreach between a Latin American based public health program and the one she knows in the U.S. Sophia will document how issues of culture, SES, rural/urban location, gender, and other such parameters form specific approaches to community engagement by health care professionals. This knowledge will allow her to improve outreach to such populations here in the U.S. as well as work with colleagues in Latin America on health issues in the future. Sophia has initiated contact with various clinical and governmental health agencies that work on colorectal cancer screening in Argentina and was recently awarded a Tinker Foundation Field Research Grant by the Center for Latin American Studies to travel to Argentina as soon as it is safe to do so. Sophia’s passion for creating equitable and accessible health care that respects the cultural nuances of migrant, refugee, and multigenerational families will be the focus of her doctoral degree in medical anthropology.

SavageSarah’s current research focuses on analyzing language and embodiment in reported speech. By examining talk-show interviews, such as The Ellen Show, she uses a discourse analytic framework to analyze the various resources employed in the retelling of a story. Earlier research focused exclusively on the language used in reported speech; however, in the 1980s the field began to expand beyond the use of language alone and study the interaction of various semiotic recourses employed by interlocutors. Sarah’s research continues to add to this by studying voice patterns, gesture, stance, laughter, and co-participation of the speaker and hearer. She intends to continue expanding upon her research by examining larger data sets and including additional phenomena such as gaze to analyze how multimodalities are used in the crafting of a story. She further aims to apply this methodology to language pedagogy to examine how teachers use semiotic resources to create successful learning experiences for students.

GallagherNicholas’s research focuses on Latin American politics after the end of the Cold War. Far from the promised “end of history,” the American unipolar moment has led to unchecked American wars of aggression in Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East; the persistence of crippling economic crises; and the continued consolidation of power in the hands of oligarchs. Nicholas’s research follows two threads in the post-Cold War period: first, how U.S. interactions with Latin America pursue the same fundamental interests as the preceding era; second, how Latin Americans have struggled to break free from American domination and pursue independent paths of development. He focuses on continuities between the military regimes of the Cold War and their democratic successors, the re-framing of American power from anti-communist struggle to a war on drugs or terror, and the consolidation of American economic power in Latin America. What’s more, Nicholas’s work examines how the “Pink Tide” governments attempted to chart independent paths of development and evaluates their successes and failures.

LiraManuel’s area of focus is the intersection of political movements in Latin America and the impact of American foreign policy. He is interested in the conditions that foster successful political movements and the spread of ideas. In particular, he plans to research Latin America’s “pink tide,” which lasted from the late 1990s through the early 2000s. During this period, several left-wing figures came to power in countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, and Bolivia. Their rise to power was marked by redistributive economic policies, mass mobilization of Indigenous groups, and calls for stronger Latin American cooperation. These countries also united in condemning imperialism and the influence of the United States on the region, hindering the United States’ ability to make political gains. The “pink tide” is of great importance because of its lasting impact on Latin American politics and American foreign policy.

DiamondLorise’s thesis proposal outlines an inquiry into the rhetorical functions of location, space, and linguistic messages, a comparison between policy statements and written messages from Chief Diversity Officers that encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion on university campuses and the spaces where those messages are either spurned or enacted. Conducting site visits and fieldwork at three minority-serving institutions, Lorise intends to connect scholarship in rhetoric, cultural studies, and critical race theory and contribute to contemporary conversations about equity and inclusion in higher education. Moreover, research findings will offer insights to campuses and initiatives committed to the academic success of diverse student populations through both policy and practice.

Al-Naiem The protests throughout the United States that were sparked by the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor have seen police response in full riot gear, the use of tear gas and non-lethal projectiles on peaceful protestors, and have generally exposed the U.S. public to the issue of police militarization. This volatile situation led to Kariar’s research question: Does increased militarization lead to an increase/normalization of violence amongst officers/law enforcement agencies? More specifically, he plans to examine how the excessive use of military equipment, via transfers through the U.S. Department of Defense program (Pentagon 1033), not only increases the dimensions of militarization (material, cultural, organizational, operational) but how the heavy use of this program might overwhelmingly affect communities of color. To achieve this, his thesis will match data on the 1033 program concerning police expenditures on military equipment with data on police brutality while controlling for community variables gathered from the U.S. Census.

Learn more details about the scholarship.