Improving human trafficking policy worldwide. Social movements’ effects on presidential elections. Mathematical models for redistricting without bias. Underrepresented college students’ access to resources. Importance of free play for children’s psychological development. The School of Social Sciences is proud to count among its graduate students five winners of UCI’s Public Impact Fellowship for projects that span the social sciences and demonstrate significant potential for public impact. In total, UCI’s Graduate Division awarded 14 Public Impact Fellowships including four distinguished fellow awards. Below, learn about research projects being pursued by soc sci’s outstanding winners striving to make a difference – all of who hope to pursue professorships at top tier universities after completing their Ph.D.s at UCI.


megan brookerMegan Brooker
Sociology Graduate Student 

Megan Brooker studies social movements, politics and culture. Her dissertation examines how social movements influenced and responded to the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Haverford College and her MPA at Washington State University. She’s currently a Podlich Research Fellow at the Jack W. Peltason Center for the Study of Democracy. She’s published work on the emergence of Indivisible, a nationwide network of progressive activists working to stall the Trump agenda, and on the characteristics and outcomes of social movement coalitions. She’s also pursuing research on the effects of Barack Obama’s 2008 election on the social movement organization Iraq Veterans Against the War and on the cultural effects of the Occupy Movement. She’s a pedagogical fellow with the Division for Teaching Excellence and Innovation at UCI, and she trained incoming teaching assistants during the 2018 TA Professional Development Program. In 2018, she received both an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award and the Robin Williams Student Paper Award. She’s mentored both undergrads and graduate students in DECADE PLUS, Graduate InterConnect, and Competitive Edge – all programs which promote academic diversity and inclusion at both the undergraduate and graduate level.


tania docarmoTania DoCarmo
Sociology Graduate Student

As a graduate student in sociology, Tania DoCarmo studies law and society, migration and human trafficking. She has a bachelor’s in social science from Washington State University; a master’s in anthropology from the University of North Texas; a master’s in sociology from UC Irvine; and in 2017, she completed an interdisciplinary graduate-level emphasis in law, society and culture with UCI Law. She is the recipient of a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and a UC Berkeley Human Rights Fellowship. Her paper on United Nations workspaces and human trafficking won the Best Graduate Student Paper Award from the American Sociological Association’s Global and Transnational Sociology Section. Her research focuses on the social construction of global problems such as human trafficking, why these constructions find their way into social and legal institutions when and how they do, and their subsequent consequences for disadvantaged populations. Her dissertation focuses on contemporary human trafficking policy, and she’s also working on a collaborative interview-based study of asylum seekers detained in California detention centers, and a study analyzing how advocates use personal storytelling for change. She also studies global initiatives intended to improve civil and human rights through technological innovations such as blockchain and big data. Prior to her acceptance into UCI’s graduate program, DoCarmo worked more than 10 years with nongovernmental organizations in Brazil, Cambodia and the U.S. in human rights, sexual violence, and trafficking. She is often invited to consult for local and international counter-trafficking nonprofits to assist with program evaluations, ethical research strategies and assisting with practitioner-scholar collaborations. This experience shapes and motivates her interest in conducting scholarly research that is not only theoretical, but relevant outside of academia.


alma garzaAlma Garza
Sociology Graduate Student

Alma Garza studies issues related to culture, social class and race within institutions of higher ed. Her research helps explain how underrepresented college students – first generation, working class and racial ethnic minorities – have unequal opportunities to achieve the same academic outcomes as more privileged counterparts. She’s found that first gen college students are more likely to graduate with a bachelor’s degree if they attend a university that is located at a greater distance from their permanent residence. These findings are important not just for students’ college enrollment decisions but also for how regionally accessible universities engage students unable to travel long distances for college.  Additional work spans a variety of distinct methodological approaches and broadens understandings of how limitations in resources and institutional support hinders underrepresented students from attending college or developing important academic skill sets once there.  She’s a Eugene Cota-Robles and Ford Foundation Fellowship recipient, and her work has also been supported with grants from UC MEXUS and the National Science Foundation. Garza earned her bachelor’s in government and marketing at the University of Texas-Austin, master’s in sociology at Oklahoma State University, and master’s in social science with a concentration in demographic and social analysis from UC Irvine.


sarita rosenstockSarita Rosenstock
Logic & Philosophy of Science Graduate Student

As a graduate student in logic & philosophy of science at UCI, Sarita Rosenstock studies how formal mathematical methods give insight into real-world systems. She’s currently pursuing research to adapt several mathematical tools for developing unbiased political boundaries and applying them to real voter data. Rosenstock earned her bachelor’s in mathematics and philosophy from Bard College at Simon’s Rock, and her master’s in mathematical behavioral sciences at UC Irvine. In 2018, she received the UCI Lauds and Laurels Outstanding Graduate Student Award and over the summer, she was awarded a fellowship to the Voting Rights Data Institute at Tufts and MIT where she began her work on applying mathematical models to redistricting. Rosenstock is the executive officer of UCI’s new student group, The Feminist Illuminati, through which she leads a diverse group of undergrads in a coordinated effort to combat hateful rhetoric on campus. The group received UCI’s Inclusive Excellence Spirit Award in 2018 and used the funds to bring to campus Teen Vogue executive editor Samhita Mukhopadyay to talk about feminist activism. 


emily sumnerEmily Sumner
Psychology Graduate Student

Emily Sumner studies the importance of independent exploration for children’s psychological development. Her research has shown that children are more interested than adults in exploring and learning, rather than winning prizes. A doctoral student in the Department of Cognitive Sciences, she has implemented academic studies which call to task parental focus on risk rather than child competence. Her work contributes to the national conversation on benefits – not just risks – of independent and autonomous experiences for children’s development. Sumner earned her bachelor’s with high honors in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. There, she earned the dean’s award for undergraduate research for her work on children’s language development. Since coming to UCI, she’s earned the John Yellot Scholar Award and the Christian Werner Fellowship in support of her work. She’s also a Virtual Reality Brain Jam Hackathon winner for a collaborative project she worked on with video game programmers that resulted in a virtual reality measure of risk propensity in 48 hours.


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