Skip to content

Student Spotlight

UC Merced English majors and recent English graduates are doing extraordinary things. Here are some of them:

• Congratulations to Serenity Espinoza on her 2024 honors thesis, and to Hayden Namgostar, the English program's outstanding graduating student for 2023-2024!

• Several English majors and minors and English program alumni including Sam Brown ('24), Nicole Agpuon ('24), Sofia Andom ('22), Marcy Poe Martinez ('18), Hayden Namgostar ('23), Cat Flores ('22), Mahea Larosa ('22), Will Darpinian ('22), Tierney Bowden ('25), Alan Molina ('24), and Emily Pu ('24) worked on and off stage on Shakespeare in Yosemite's 2024 productionA Midsummer Yosemite's Dream. It was seen by around 850 people in Merced and Yosemite National Park.

• Several English majors wrote, directed, designed, and acted in an original play about environmental injustices in California, presented to almost 200 audience members on campus and at Playhouse Merced in December, 2023.

• Congratulations to our class of 2023 honors cohort for the successful completion of their honors theses: Vivana Gomez, Luis Mendez, and Katie Roseman. Congrats, too, to Darah Carrillo Vargas, the English program's oustanding graduating student, and all the class of 2023 English majors! 

• Brandon Cooper ('22) is working as a private detective, and reports that he calls on the skills he learned studying literature in unexpected ways! As a student, he won The Carter Joseph Abrescy and Larry Kranich Library Award for Student Research Excellence for a research paper that he wrote titled "The Laughter of the Madman: Sudden Enlightenment and Yeatsian Happiness."

• Alumna Fabiola Chavez ('16) began a new role in 2023 as the archives specialist in UC Merced's library, as detailed in this recent article.

• Remy Sumida-Tate ('22) has been admitted to the prestigious English PhD program at University of Washington, where they began their doctoral work in Fall 2023.

• Sofia Andom ('22) is using her outdoor experience from Shakespeare in Yosemite and her passion for education as an Experiential Leadership Educator for Pathways Travel, which takes students in grades 6-12 on trips to national parks, other countries, college campuses, and more.

• Ying Wei Anna Zhang ('22) recieved the outstanding student award for the class of 2022, and completed a highly successful honors thesis on Chinese fan fiction as part of the honors program. Through the UROC-H program, she conducted research in summers 2020 and 2021 on the role theatre can play in the fight for environmental justice. She interviewed theatre directors and scholars from around the world and helping to create the EarthShakes alliance, a global consortium of theatres committed to foregrounding ecology in their plays.

• Cat Flores ('22) was chosen to be the UC Merced student commencement speaker, and is now working on her PhD in English at UC Davis. Cat is also a composer and musician. In summer 2020, she composed the music for the bilingual production of Richardo el Segundo (Richard II) produced and filmed by Merced Shakespearefest, and in springs 2021 and 2022 she wrote and performed music for Imogen in the Wild and Love's Labor's Lost, produced by Shakespeare in Yosemite. 

• Kaelyn Hughes ('22) was featured in the LA Times discussing the impact of AmeriCorps on her life and how her stipend helps her pay for tuition and rent, and also furthers her goals of becoming a teacher.

• Andrew Hardy ('21) is working as a writer and copy editor for Mid-Valley Publications, where his writing is being published, and as a teacher of drama with Playhouse Merced's Play Anywhere! program, using his English degree in both positions.

• Jose Ramirez ('20), Mahealani Larosa ('22), and Emma Greenleaf ('20) wrote essays about digital performances in spring 2020, which were recently published in Shakespeare Bulletin. They are the first undergraduate students to be published in this prestigious academic journal, the leading journal for the study of Shakespeare in performance. 

• In fall 2021,The Michigan Quarterly Review published "A Night at the Theatre: On Chaos and Fate," by Eddie P. Gomez ('14). After UC Merced, Eddie earned his ​​​MFA in creative nonfiction from Fresno State. His writing centers on food and travel and has also been featured in Small Print Magazine; Post Road Magazine; Your Impossible Voice MagazineFlies, Cockroaches, PoetsThe Normal School Online; and 34th Parallel. He is currently working on publishing a book, Chasing Life: A Memoir on Movement, People, Coffee and Food.

• Maria Nguyen-Cruz ('20) began working as an English and Language Arts middle school teacher at Voices College Bound Language Academy. While at UC Merced, they conducted research with the UROC-H program (where their work was written up here), participated in Shakespeare in Yosemite and Merced Shakespearefest productions, and served as president of the Feminist Students Association.

• Diana Lara ('20) also works at Voices College Bound. Diana received highest honors for her honors thesis "In the Age of Fanfiction: Redefining Literary Readership and Authorship in the Twenty-First Century," and recieved UC Merced's Distinguished Student award upon graduation. 

• Conor Morgan ('18) was accepted to Johns Hopkins University's MA program in Communication, with a concentration in Corporate and Non-profit Communication, which will begin in fall 2022.

• Several English majors took part in the creation of Shakespeare in Yosemite's first feature length film, Imogen in the Wild, which can be viewed for free here. Sofia Andom ('22) stars as Imogen, and Andrew Perez ('21), Amber Loper ('21), Andrew Hardy ('20) and Kate Templeton ('21) act in the film. Cat Flores ('22) and Rena Johnson ('22) both wrote and performed original music for the film, and William Darpinian ('22) served as director of sound and a film editor. Brandon Cooper ('22) and Rilee Hoch ('21) also video edited the project, and William Serg George ('19) was a camera operator. Sam Flores ('22) and Remy Sumida-Tate ('22) worked on props and costumes, Monica Perales ('18) was on the research team, and Katherine Hernandez, Abigail Raven, and Preethi Merugumala worked on educational resources for the film, which has recieved praise from prominent Shakespeare and environment academics.

• Almost immediately after graduation, Amber Loper ('21) was hired to be the sophomore English teacher for Gustine High School. 

• Sofia Andom ('22) gave a briliant interview to the Cymbeline in the Anthropocene project, talking honestly about approaching Shakespeare and the outdoors as a woman of color. Sofia stars in Imogen in the Wild, a new film by Shakespeare in Yosemite. She will also be starring in Shakespeare in Yosemite's 2022 live production of Love's Labor's Lost in April.

• Savie Luce ('21) graduated with High Honors in the English program after completing their brilliant honors thesis, “Asexual Erasure Undone: A Short History of Asexuality in 19th- to 20th-Century Literary Classics." Savie was hired by Yosemite Unified School District and began teaching in Fall 2021, they are now a student in UC Merced's Interdisciplinary Humanities PhD program.

• We congratulate the record-breaking honors class of 2022, who wrote the following theses:

Brandon Cooper, “Romanticism and the Modern Era of Conspiracy”

Cathryn Flores, “Digital Theatre: A Musical Process”

Viviana Gomez, “Becoming La Virgen de Guadalupe: Coatlicue’s Journey and Her Influence on Modern Chicanx and Indigenous Communities”

Kaylin Insyarath, “The Effects of Literary Fiction on Empathy”

Arianna Mengel, “Blurring Lines to Broaden Perspective: Gender Expression in Past and Present Shakespeare”

Isaac Gallegos Rodriguez, “Contrasting Creation: Analyzing Mesoamerican and Abrahamic Creation Narratives”

Remy Sumida-Tate, “Echo: Audio Horror in Podcasting”

Ying Wei Zhang, “Wangxian in the West: English Fan Translations and Reception of Chinese Boys’ Love in Western Fandoms”

• In Summer 2021, English majors Remy Sumida-Tate and Miranda Rosas conducted research on poetry and podcasts with Dr. Fatima Burney, and Sofia Andom, Isaac Gallegos Rodriguez, Serena Johnson, and Mahea LaRosa conducted research on the LA Women's Shakespeare Company and Harlem Shakespeare Festival with Dr. Katie Brokaw. These projects are sponsored by the UROC-H program, which provides undergraduate research opportunities to Engish majors.
• Samantha Shapiro, '20, began a Masters in Public Health in Environmental Health Solutions program at University of North Carolina, Billings, in Fall 2021. Alejandra Salgado, '19, was admitted to the University of Washington Masters of Educational Policy program, which she began in Fall 2021.
• Chris Ingle, '20, was chosen to represent his class at UC Merced's virtual commencement in May 2020. He spoke eloquently about overcoming many obstacles on the route to getting his degree.
• Serena Johnson, '22, created and performed "7 Rings (Hamlet Remix)" in Spring 2020 and "stuck with u (Paradise Lost edition)," brilliant tributes that fans of Ariana and British literature will love in equal measure. They were two of several creative projects created by UC Merced students for their English classes while under lockdown. Rena also composed and performed music for Imogen in the Wild, the 2021 Shakespeare in Yosemite film, and will be appearing in the 2022 live performance.
• Xotchitl Garibay, '19, began a new job with the National Park Service as an interpretive ranger for Golden Gate National Recreation Area in Spring 2020. While at UC Merced, Xotchitl was involved in the Yosemite Leadership Program, and worked for the Vernal Pool literary magazine and the Undergraduate Research Journal. Her experience in the English major and in these activies gave her the passion for nature and the communication skills needed to succeed in this exciting job, where she will be teaching visitors to the park about the area and the importance of preserving the natural world.
Monica Perales, '18, graduated from UC Merced with honors and as a published poet. She worked for Restore Merced, a non-profit dedicated to creating economic and social opportunities for residents of Merced, and in 2022 began a new job at a law firm.
• Natalie Robertson, '18, and Bias Collins, '19, are pursuing PhDs in English at UC Davis and in Literature and Disability at UC San Diego, respectively. 
• Shawna Lin Murdock, '17, was hired by Yosemite National Park after graduation and now works in the legal profession in San Francisco.
•  Jennifer Zamora, '16, earned a masters in Interdiscplinary Humanties at UC Merced, founded a non-profit in San Diego for women who have experienced sex trafficking, worked in a law firm, and recently recieved her realtor license.
• Latasha Means, '12, is the technical services coordinator of the UC Merced library. She celebrated 10 years in that position in 2023.
Shavone Charles, '12, is a first-generation American performance rapper-songwriter, entrepreneur, activist and marketing and communications executive in the technology industry, recently named as one of the 30 most influential tech entrepreneurs under 30 by Forbes magazine. She is currently the Director of Consumer Communications at VSCO, photo-editing app and social platform. She was the first African-American woman to ever be hired onto both Twitter and Instagram’s communications teams. While at Twitter, She helped co-found Twitter's first employee resource group for African American employees, Blackbirds. s Head of Global Music and Youth Culture Communications at Instagram, Shavone helped create Instagram's first-ever Black History Month program in 2018, which reached more than 19 million on Instagram and featured a series of first-time initiatives, including a #BlackGirlMagic partnership with Spotify and the launch of the #CelebrateBlackCreatives program. In early 2019, Shavone founded Magic in Her Melanin, and released two musical projects: "SITH" and "4C" which premiered by Dazed & Confused Magazine and Billboard respectively. She was UC Merced's first ever alumna graduation speaker in 2018, and in summer 2020 led a workshop for UC alumni. 
If you have a story idea for this page, please email Professor Gao at 
Updated 2023