RCA Student Alumni Profiles

Claudia Maria Lopez | Vicente LovelaceAlma Esperanza Villa Loma | Tsering Wangmo

    Claudia Maria Lopez

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    RCA Mellon Fellow Now Assistant Professor at CSU, Long Beach

    Claudia Maria Lopez is a UC Santa Cruz alum, graduating in June 2017 with a Ph.D. in Sociology with designated emphases in Latin American and Latino Studies and Feminist Studies. Born in the Bay Area, Claudia is the daughter of immigrants, and grew up listening to stories of her father’s experience as a Bracero, migrating from Chiapas, Mexico, and her mother’s journey from Colombia. Her childhood house was a home base for immigrants, family and friends, who had just arrived to the United States. Listening to the adults talk at the table, she was struck by their stories of displacement, due to lack of work in Mexico or the Colombian civil war. These early experiences later influenced her decision to become an academic in the field of migration and citizenship.

    After high school, Claudia enrolled in Long Beach City College (LBCC) with the goal of becoming a photojournalist. After taking a Sociology course, her career as a social scientist was born. She completed an A.A. in Liberal Arts at LBCC and a B.A. in Sociology with a concentration in Criminology from San Jose State University. Inspired by her family’s history, her graduate work in Sociology at UC Santa Cruz expanded her interests on forced migration.

    Supported by a Eugene-Cota Robles Fellowship and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as a Graduate Fellow (2016-17), Claudia's dissertation examined the dynamics of internal displacement on the urban integration and citizenship status of Colombian peasants. Funded by various other entities, such as the Social Science Research Council and the Research Center for the Americas at UC Santa Cruz (known then as the Chicano Latino Research Center), the project drew from over five-years of ethnographic fieldwork in Medellín. Dedicated to mentoring through research, Claudia was a graduate student mentor for the different undergraduate research programs, and a consultant and translator on the research project, No Place Like Home; a project co-led by Professor Steven McKay and Professor Miriam Greenberg of Sociology to explore and describe the housing crisis in Santa Cruz.  

    Claudia's life was able to come full circle back to Long Beach in August 2017. Claudia is currently an assistant professor of Sociology at California State University, Long Beach and working on her book manuscript, The Life-Cycle of Forced Migration: The Lives and Politics of Displaced Citizens in Medellín. She is also beginning a community-based student-led project on housing displacement amongst immigrant populations in Long Beach.

  • Vicente Lovelace

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    Former RCA URAP Student Graduates from Oxford University with Master's in Migration Studies

    Vicente Lozano Lovelace graduated in June 2017 with a Combined Bachelor's Degree in Latin American & Latino Studies/Politics. Growing up, Vicente’s parents modeled intellectual curiosity and a life of service through their careers as veteran Bay Area educators. While his initial public service interests were animal rights and environmental conservation, stories of his Mexican, Irish, Italian, and Lebanese heritage persuaded him to pursue a career in immigration reform. Career interests transformed into a passion for understanding mobility, ultimately leading to the beginning of his academic career in the Latin American & Latino Studies Department in 2015.  

    Alongside completing an accelerated degree program as a Regents Scholar, Vicente left a record of notable academic and extracurricular accomplishments. He served on the CLRC/RCA URAP team for the Nuestras Historias project in his first year and he designed a digital humanities project on truth and objectivity in “post-fact politics” with funding from the inaugural Digital Humanities Fellowship. Vicente is the recipient of the 2017 John Dizikes Writing Prize for his Politics thesis on labor protections under the Trump administration. His proudest achievements at UC Santa Cruz were coordinating community outreach for local nonprofit advocacy organizations, including the Santa Cruz County Democratic Central Committee, the Student Union Assembly, the Beach Flats Urban Garden Coalition, and the Romero Institute. 

    In July 2018, Vicente graduated with a Master of Science (M.Sc) in Migration Studies from the University of Oxford as the youngest member of his cohort. His Master’s thesis challenges “utopic” visions of a sanctuary city that can shield undocumented residents from harm, arguing that sanctuary city ordinances indemnify local governments from federal immigration enforcement more often than they protect undocumented residents from arrest/deportation. He used his experience in the Beach Flats neighborhood in Santa Cruz after a 2017 clandestine immigration enforcement operation terrorized neighborhood residents as the empirical basis for his work. The thesis was recently selected to appear as a presentation for the 2019 Urban Affairs Association conference in Los Angeles. Vicente hopes to graduate law school one day and become an attorney at the forefront of the sanctuary city debate and other mobility-related policy issues.

  • Alma Esperanza Villa Loma

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    Recent Undergraduate Continues Her Education at UCLA*

    UC Santa Cruz alum, Alma Esperanza Villa Loma, graduated from UC Santa Cruz in June 2018 with a double major in Sociology and Latin American and Latino Studies with a minor in History of Art and Visual Culture. Alma was born in Huejotitán, a small town in Jalisco, Mexico. She eventually overcame a speech impediment as a young child that teachers used as a justification to not educate her. Thanks to her mother, she learned to read at home. Alma learned English after migrating to the United States. In 2015, she transferred to UC Santa Cruz from El Camino College in Compton.

    Alma had many accomplishments during her time as a Slug. She conducted surveys and in-depth interviews as part of No Place Like Home, a study of the affordable housing crisis in Santa Cruz County sponsored by UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Labor Studies. In Fall 2018, Alma enrolled in the master’s program in Urban and Regional Planning at UCLA, where she’ll continue to develop her research on the impact of the affordable housing crisis on Latinxs in Los Angeles. For this project, she’s already conducted one-on-one interviews with over 45 people. Working at the intersection of the social sciences, humanities, and arts, her research aims to transform not only academic disciplines, but society. 

    Alma was also an undergraduate intern at the Research Center for the Americas, RCA (formerly the Chicano Latino Research Center, CLRC) from 2015–2018.  During her last two years as intern, she helped build the CLRC/RCA Archives, which is now housed at the University Library.  Alma also presented her research on affordable housing crisis on Latinxs in L.A. at the RCA's Student Forum in April 2018Click here to see a video of Alma's presentation.

    *Thanks to Dr. Catherine Ramírez for her assistance in creating this student profile

  • Tsering Wangmo (Dhompa)

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    RCA Mellon Fellow Now Assistant Professor at Villanova University

    Tsering Wangmo (Dhompa) graduated from UC Santa Cruz in June 2018 with a Ph.D. in Literature. Born a refugee in India and raised in the Tibetan refugee communities in India and Nepal, Tsering grew up believing that the only place she could belong to was yet to come. As a “citizen” of a refugee community, or as she writes, a “refugee-citizen” she was acutely aware of the significance of ideas of belonging and the social legibility of refugees. Narratives of loss and the precarity of an interminable displacement shaped her understanding and experience of exilic life.

    Tsering joined the M.F.A. program in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University after completing a M.A. in English Literature from Delhi University, India. After graduating with an M.F.A. in poetry she worked for a decade in a San Francisco-based non-profit organization that supports Tibetan refugees in India and Nepal. It was also during this time that she began writing a book on her mother’s nomadic village in Tibet and began considering enrolling in a graduate program.

    Tsering’s dissertation From the Margins of Exile: Democracy and Dissent within the Tibetan Diaspora, argues that the Tibetan project of nation building under exilic conditions must be seen as a constant negotiation between a politics of deference and unity, on the one hand, and a politics of dissent and difference on the other. A year-long fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as a Graduate Fellow (2016-17) helped her examine how the desire for belonging in the context of displacement shapes writings by Tibetans precariously located both within and outside Tibet––members of one of the contemporary world’s most prominent stateless nations and refugee communities. The Fellowship supported Tsering’s research travel to 12 Tibetan refugee communities spread across India, and to interview as many as 50 Tibetan refugees.

    Tsering is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Villanova University. She is currently working on a book of poems titled Nation: a Transitive and a collection of nonfiction essays that explore mobility, exile and refugee-citizenship. The poems and essays also discuss the life-or-death dimensions of place when it comes to the displaced, and the dispossessed.