Emerging Diversity Scholars Fellowship Recipients

2019-2020 Recipients

Name: Katherine Desiree Abarca

Kathy Abarca is originally from Los Angeles, California. She graduated magna cum laude from Westminster College with a bachelor degree in Sociology and a bachelor degree in Justice Studies. After graduation, she was Racial Justice Associate at the ACLU of Utah where she helped establish the Racially Just Utah Coalition and served as coordinator. She is currently a Master of Social Work student studying child welfare and a Master of Public Administration student studying nonprofit management and public policy analysis. Ms. Abarca is highly engaged in her campus and the broader community. At the University of Utah, she is involved in the Voices of Diversity club engaging community members in difficult but critical dialogue, organizing the interdisciplinary Breaking the Pipeline symposium to end disproportionate school discipline, and participates in community-engaged learning including a public policy clinic, nonprofit start-up clinic, and internship at Action Utah. She led the effort to incorporate Racially Just Utah into a nonprofit and has served as the Executive Director since 2018. In this position, she has been highly engaged in advocacy and public education efforts. These efforts include legislative lobbying for issues related to juvenile justice reform, educational equity, immigrant rights, and environmental racism, mentoring student activists, writing reports, and engaging in grassroots coalition work. She looks forward to a long career in public service in positions that enable her to work towards intersectional racial justice through policy advocacy, program management, education, and dialogue facilitation. She is very grateful for the Graduate School Diversity Office’s generous support of her education and honored to receive the Emerging Diversity Scholars Fellowship.

The College of Social Work has challenged me to think holistically in terms of health and also in tackling social justice issues from the micro to the macro level. The professors and staff are experts but also approachable and caring for students. I deeply appreciate the College’s support in my pursuit to become a change-making macro social worker.

Name: Amira Trevino

A native to the Pacific Northwest, Amira was born and raised in Vancouver, Washington, where she attended Clark Community College and Washington State University-Vancouver. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology and is now in her second year of the Counseling Psychology PhD program. Prior to attending the U, Amira worked with community members to support sexual assault survivors, low-income families, and first-generation students. She also actively supported research on diversity in higher education, health behaviors and affect, as well as suicide prevention among Veterans. Currently, Amira is supporting research on social justice in higher education, tools to aid difficult conversations with youth (i.e. bullying, race), improving higher education services for underrepresented students, and informing clinical services for veterans with traumatic-brain injury. Her own research focuses on identity development, specifically conversations around cultural identities in the therapeutic space. As someone who sits at an intersection of marginalized identities, Amira aims to use her experiences to elevate oppressed people through research and client-centered services.

The strongest quality of the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Utah is their student body. Courageous, driven, and empathetic, the students of the Counseling Psychology program do their best to support one another. This can be seen in student led initiatives that encourage students to have dialogue around cultural differences, repair relational ruptures, and model cultural humility for others in the department and university, overall. I am grateful to have found community in this program, and owe many thanks to my peers for their vulnerability, authenticity, and strength.

2018-2019 Recipients

: Torle Nenbee

Torle Nenbee was born in Ogoni, Nigeria and with her family came to America on a Refugee Visa. She was relocated to Utah when she was 11 years old. She received her citizenship at the age of 21 years old. She earned her Bachelor’s of Sociology degree at the University of Anchorage Alaska. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer for three years in Lesotho, Africa. She is now attending college at the University of Utah where she is receiving her Masters of Social Work with a concentration in Health and a graduate certificate in Leadership, Justice, and Community Practice. She is currently interning at University Neighborhood Partners serving multi-cultural individuals with diverse backgrounds and will be interning at The Huntsman Cancer Institute in the upcoming year. After graduation, she hopes to continue serving this population on a macro level and continue working in the health field.  A future plan of hers is to one day pursue a PhD.

One of the strongest qualities of the University of Utah, Masters of Social Work Program is the professors are professional, knowledgeable, and personable with their students. They prepare students by giving them the necessary tools to assess each individual client using the holistic approach. Each class is designed with an experienced professor to challenge and strengthen the student’s ability to enter the workforce and be prepared to administer to a range of diverse clients. The program collaborates with the community to provide the proper internship placement with agencies providing a range of experiences for the students.


Name: Jesica Rose McCombs

Jessica loves the Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry because they are a lot like a big diverse family. Their students and faculty represent over 10 different countries which is great because they all work together to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable bringing their own unique perspective.

: Camara Chea

Camara is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Counseling Psychology doctoral program, housed in the College of Education. A Central Valley native, she was born and raised in Modesto, California. She attended the University of California, Santa Cruz for her undergraduate degree, where she majored in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. Camara cites her opportunities outside the classroom, in working with a diverse student body, as being transformative to her personal development and trajectory. In her role as a Resident Advisor for two years, she helped foster a safe and inclusive environment for other students through guidance and programming. As a Peer Educator at her university counseling center for four years, she worked to increase mental health awareness and combat stigma by outreaching to her campus community via workshops, events, and publicity. In addition, her experiences on social Psychology research teams similarly stimulated her strong interest in social justice. As the daughter of Cambodian genocide refugees, Camara is especially interested in addressing mental health disparities in various communities and striving toward more desire-based frameworks that highlight marginalized individuals’ and groups’ resilience, strengths, and complexities. Her research interests include refugee mental health and well-being as well as racial-ethnic identity construction and development. She was drawn to the Counseling Psychology doctoral program at the University of Utah for a number of reasons: the program’s commitment to multicultural perspectives and social advocacy, the comprehensive research and clinical training, the emphasis on professional identity and development, and the strong alignment of her research interests with Dr. Karen Tao and other faculty. Her first year experience in the program—enhanced by peer and faculty mentorship as well as supportive and necessary campus resources such as the Graduate School Diversity Office—has since then only affirmed her decision to join the U of U community.

During her first year in the Counseling Psychology program, Camara was particularly grateful for the sense of community she experienced with her peers and faculty in the program, especially in being a woman of color adjusting to living in Utah and being away from family. She highlights the Counseling Psychology program’s support as its strongest quality, citing how those intentional and meaningful efforts of peer and faculty mentorship facilitated her sense of belonging, safety, well-being, and personal and professional growth. Reflecting back, Camara notes that that the program’s holistic and developmental approaches to mentorship, advising, and supervision were instrumental to providing space for her to grow as a critical thinker, scholar, leader, writer, communicator, researcher, clinician-in-training, and future psychologist. Camara appreciates the program’s commitment and openness to diversity and multiculturalism for pushing her to continually reflect on her identities, biases, and assumptions, and beliefs and values, along with welcoming her own marginalized identities, experiences, and perspectives as sources of empowerment, complexity, and strength. Looking forward, Camara is excited to improve departmental and program climate, center diversity-related efforts, strive toward enhanced community building efforts, and be involved in upcoming clinical training, research, and professional development experiences.


2017-2018 Recipients

Name: Eliot Sykes
Originally from Massachusetts, Eliot has lived in Utah since 2004. In 2011, he completed my master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Utah. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Education in the Education, Culture and Society (ECS) Department. His research focuses on black masculinity, early childhood education and curriculum and instruction. When Eliot is not studying he enjoys building bicycles, motorcycling, surfing, skiing and playing soccer. As a student in the ECS, he has enjoyed working with his professors and colleagues in and outside of the classroom. Professors in ECS have offered him new perspectives on issues in education, provided thoughtful critiques to push his thinking and have served as mentors in helping him to grow as an academic writer. The community of students Eliot has had a chance to engage with have also helped him push him in my thinking and provided space for his own ideas to develop. Overall, the faculty, staff and students in ECS have assisted him in his growth and understanding of education and his place within the field.

: Elias Javier Flores

As a first-generation American born to Mexican parents, Elias Javier Flores had a rather large city upbringing often mixed with small town encounters. He has lived in multiple Latin American countries including Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia to name a few. The living and transportation condition in these countries have led him to focus on public transportation, pedestrian and bicycle planning, as an area of interest. Prior to enrolling at the University of Utah, he worked for several planning organizations dealing with city and transportation planning issues. Most recently, he has worked with the Utah Transit Authority, looking at bus stops throughout the entire transit system and how they affect customer trust and ridership. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Geography from Brigham Young University.

Name: Isidoro Guzman

Hometown: Ojai, California
Undergraduate University: University of California, Santa Barbara
Isidoro was born and raised in the small Southern California town of Ojai, California. After high school, he went on to study Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara where afterwards, he went on to get my Masters in Mexican-American Studies at San Jose State University. Currently, Isidoro is completing his doctoral work within the Department of Education, Culture, and Society where my research is focused on communities of color who have engaged in autonomous movements, the development of autonomous education for self-governance, and decolonize curriculums. My love and passion for this research has been influenced by a number of experiences and people that range from my parents, my Latinx community, my professors, close friends, and comrades who have pushed me as a son, a student, a thinker, and a community member. Without the knowledge that those experiences and people have imparted within me, my journey and privilege as a doctoral student would have been intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually incomplete and for that I am eternally grateful. That said, I am also extremely grateful to have joined the Department of Education, Culture and Society. as it has provided to be a place that has really nurtured my intellectual curiosities. I think ECS’s strongest quality is that it is a department that houses very likeminded groups of students and professors that understand and think through the site of education in a holistic manner; and who genuinely believe in its importance as a site that Cana be at the forefront of social, ecological, and political change. All in all, it’s been a blessing and a privilege to be a part of this department.