Activism

Protecting Maunakea

Thanks to its clear skies and stable weather, Maunakea, a dormant volcano on the island of Hawai'i, is the best place in the northern hemisphere to do astronomy. Thirteen telescopes have already been built on the summit, and these telescopes have made numerous advances in astronomy --including my PhD thesis-- possible. These telescopes have also been built without the consent and at the expense of native Hawaiian people. In July 2019, construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) was due to begin, but the access road was blocked by kia'i (protectors) and dozens of kūpuna (respected elders) were arrested. From this galvanizing event, a movement for Hawaiian self-determination was born. To this day, kia'i continue to hold space on Maunakea Access Road, standing in Kapu Aloha (respectful, nonviolent resistance) to prevent the desecration of their most sacred mountain.

I joined kia'i on Maunakea and presented ho'okupu (an offering) to the kūpuna. For the one week I was there, learned as much as I could by helping out around the pu'uhonua (sanctuary/camp), speaking with anyone willing to share with me, and attending classes at Pu'uhuluhulu University. I returned to California with a clear understanding of the relationship between science and imperialism and I continue to help the movement in any way I can. I have since joined the Astronomy Brothers as a guest on their podcast and participated in a panel for the We Are Maunakea film screening at Loyola Marymount University, and have several seminars and panels planned in the coming year.

To learn more, visit https://www.puuhuluhulu.com/ or follow #wearemaunakea, #tmtstillshutdown, #aoletmt on Instagram or Twitter. To help out, you can add a signature to the petition to stop TMT, donate, or spread the word!.

On-Campus Leadership

Below you will find projects that I have led, created, or catalyzed. All center around a common theme of creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students.

POWUR is a graduate student-run organization formed in 2018 to enact progressive change in the Physics Department at UC Riverside. The 'x' in Womxn is meant to acknowledge the complexity of gender and clearly include our trans and nonbinary friends. Our focus is to provide a friendly and inclusive environment and positively influence the climate in our workplace. We organize social events, group excursions, seminars, and meetings with colloquium speakers. We advocate for transparency in departmental decisions and continually call attention to issues that affect our community's most vulnerable members.

In the past year, we have implemented a system for students to suggest colloquium speakers to invite, increasing the diversity of visiting speakers substantially. Currently, we are taking on the (extremely polarizing and surprisingly difficult) task of designating unisex restrooms in the Physics building.

During my first quarter as POWUR president, we more than doubled meeting attendance and membership by holding socials and emphasizing intersectionality and solidarity in our message. We held our first inclusivity seminar, which focused on microaggressions and fostering a positive racial climate in our workplace. This first seminar was very well attended and widely discussed, so it will be the first of an ongoing series. We are currently hosting meetings with each candidate for the Advancing Faculty Diversity position, and advocating for student input in the hiring process. We plan to collaborate with the new faculty hire to institute progressive cultural and tangible change in our department and in our university.

I also created and maintain the POWUR website.

Universities offer a wide variety of resources for almost any struggle or barrier a student might face. However, finding and using these resources --particularly while in crisis-- can be an overwhelming task. Graduate school can be hostile and competitive, so students often feel isolated when personal challenges arise. These problems are often compounded by various aspects of a student's identity and experience, such as ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and economic class.

So, I established a program where trained and trusted graduate student volunteers offer confidential support and mentorship to their peers. I wrote a training manual containing on- and off-campus resources for mental and physical health, career development, financial support, crisis management, and suicide prevention. Since allies are peers, this program provides a non-threatening, accessible way to access campus resources while offering companionship so no student needs to face their problems alone.

Co-Founder of R'Grad Peer Support Groups

While compiling resources to start Physics Grad Allies, I met many motivated graduate students across campus. The campus Wellness Liaison and several women in the Psychology department had been thinking of organizing support groups for graduate students. My idea to build a support network of knowledgable peers, trained in crisis management, catalyzed the project. We organized weekly confidential, peer-led support groups focusing on a wide range of issues affecting graduate student life, such as mental health, time management, and workplace conflicts.

R'Grad Peer Support Groups meet Every Monday Fall Quarter 2019 through Dec. 2nd.