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Diversity Staff

George Sanchez - Vice Dean for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives

George J. Sanchez, professor of American Studies & Ethnicity and History, was appointed Director of College Diversity in April 2008.  He is responsible for ensuring that the USC College fundamental commitment to the benefits of a diverse College community is effectively translated into best practices in areas such as faculty recruitment and retention, graduate student programs, and undergraduate research experiences and advancement.  He works with all College departments to address what the commitment to diversity means in various disciplinary settings.  To ensure the College efforts have an impact beyond the immediate community, he works with a variety of national organizations and foundations on the development of special programs and research agendas.  Given the importance of this work and the breadth of these responsibilities, he reports directly to the Dean of the College.

An award-winning scholar of Chicano history and immigration who joined the College faculty in 1997, Sanchez is director of the USC Center for Diversity and Democracy. He is the former director of American studies and ethnicity, a program he helped build into one of the top American and ethnic studies departments in the nation. Sanchez helped bring to USC a $3.6 million James Irvine Foundation grant supporting underrepresented doctoral students when he was director of the Irvine Fellowship Program. A renowned mentor, he has served on the advisory board for both the USC Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program and the McNair Scholars Program.  He has placed thirteen former Ph.D. students in tenure-track positions throughout the United States.  A former president of the American Studies Association, he now chairs its Committee on Graduate Education. Sanchez also serves on minority scholars committees of the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association. 

Sanchez’s 1993 book, Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900–1945 (Oxford), earned six awards in fields such as immigration history and Western history. His article “ ‘What’s Good for Boyle Heights is Good for the Jews’: Creating Multiracialism on the Eastside During the 1950s” won the 2005 Constance Rourke Prize for best article appearing in American Quarterly. He is also series co-editor of American Crossroads: New Works in Ethnic Studies from University of California Press, which has published twenty-five works in that field over the past decade, many that have won major scholarly awards in a variety of disciplines.  He is presently working on a book about the impact of Mexican migration upon late 20th century Los Angeles culture, and a historical study of multiethnic interaction in East Los Angeles.  Sanchez received his bachelor’s from Harvard in 1981 and his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1989. Before USC he taught at UCLA and the University of Michigan.

Alexis Moreno - Assistant Vice Dean of Diversity and Strategic Initiatives

Alexis Moreno joined the Office of Diversity and Strategic Initiatives in January 2014. Prior to USC, Alexis was Assistant Director of Research and Evaluation at Special Services for Groups (SSG), a Los Angeles based nonprofit organization. While at SSG, she worked with community members, nonprofit staff and other stakeholders on program development, assessment, and community based research with the goal of empowering all stakeholders to collect and use program data. Alexis has also served as Assistant Director of the Center for Community Based Learning at Occidental College, where she built civically engaged leaders and scholars among faculty and students. While at Occidental, she was selected for California Campus Compact’s Bridge Building Leadership Initiative, a fellowship dedicated to developing promising leaders of color in the field of university-community partnerships.

Alexis holds an M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA. She is trained as a community organizer, a facilitator for civic reflection, and an oral historian. She has been active in researching community histories, and served as a Planning Commissioner for the East Los Angeles Local Area Planning Commission.

Kimberly Allen- Assistant Coordinator, Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows Program

Kimberly Allen currently holds the position of Director of Special Projects for the USC Dornsife Office of Academic Programs. Her duties include the management of administration, program data collection, and fellowship allocation for the 23 PhD programs at USC Dornsife and the oversight of USC Dornsife’s undergraduate research programs SOAR and SURF. Kimberly attended the George School in Newtown, PA and then earned her B.A. in Theater Arts from Brown University. She came to USC five years ago with a background in the entertainment industry and the field of education. She has worked in administration for theater, film and television productions, as well as educational programming development at Major League Baseball. 

Jessica Lovaas - Coordinator, Trojan Guardian Scholars Program

Jessica Lovaas is a doctoral candidate in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Her work focuses on the policing of high school youth, both in the classroom, through curriculum censorship and the banning of ethnic studies, and on the streets, through visual surveillance and physical criminalization. A former guidance counselor in the New York City public school system, she continues to work for increased college access and the decriminalization of youth in California, running critical test prep trainings, writing project-based curricula, and organizing for legislative reform.

Floridalma Boj Lopez

Floridalma Boj-Lopez is a doctoral candidate in USC’s Department of American Studies and Ethnicity.  Self-identified as a 1.5 generation Maya-Kiche and raised in Los Angeles, she uses her family history and life experiences to guide her research project.  Her research examines forms of cultural maintenance among Guatemalan Maya migrants and second generation Mayas in Los Angeles, especially as they relate to envisioning and living just, decolonial and indigenous politics.  She received a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz and an M.A. from California State University, Northridge.

Carlos Francisco Parra - Graduate Research Assistant

Carlos Francisco Parra is a doctoral student in the USC Department of History. Based on his experiences growing up along the Arizona-Sonora border, he focuses on the issue of cultural identity formation among Mexican and other Hispanic groups in Northern Mexico and the greater U.S. Southwest. His research focuses on the political and economic development of the international boundary between Mexico and the United States as well as the ideological forces that played a role in the ways in which borderlands residents on both sides of the border came to understand themselves as either Mexicans or North Americans. Prior to attending USC, he attended the University of Arizona and the University of New Mexico and also served as a public high school history teacher in his home community. His current work within the Office of Diversity and Strategic Initiatives centers on the History in a Box Project in which he coordinates a public history research project on the Los Angeles east-side neighborhood of Boyle Heights.

Felicitas Reyes - Undergraduate Research Assistant

Felicitas Reyes is a double major in American Studies and Ethnicity and Communications. She began working for PERE/CSII last November and has helped assist in outreach events and other administrative duties. She is also the undergraduate research assistant for Vice Dean George Sanchez in his office of Diversity and Strategic Initiatives. Felicitas has just begun her second year at USC and has already dove into multiple organizations that she finds very important. One of these include working with the Roots Foundation as the administrative director, which focuses on creating events that promote mental health and wellness for the women of Skid Row.  She will also continue involvement in Chicanos for Progressive Education as the executive assistant and continue involvement as a member of the Latino Fellowship.  Not only that, Felicitas will continue to work on a community engagement project known as History in Box that works to collect certain items that depict historical themes which will be utilized in Boyle Heights’ classrooms. Lastly, Felicitas hopes to start her own research project with undocumented youth and Freedom University in Georgia as an extension of her previous immigrant research in Japan.

Katrina (Rissi) Zimmerman- Undergraduate Research Assistant

Rissi Zimmermann is an undergraduate student studying Theatre and Dance at the University of Southern California. Rissi joined the Office of Diversity and Strategic Initiatives in August 2014 focusing her work on the planning of events for the USC POSSE 1 and USC Visions and Voices. Rissi has performed in a variety of Dance productions throughout Europe, New York and Los Angeles and during her studies at USC has conducted a variety of research projects regarding community building and moral engagement through the performing arts. In 2013 she took her research to Europe and, under Dr. George J. Sanchez’s mentorship, explored in what way culture and moral values can influence the work ethic at dance institutions. That same year Rissi founded the Los Angeles based SOKAMBA Performing Arts Company which she has been co-directing since January 2013 and meanwhile has produced three shows with. The SOKAMBA Performing Arts Company is emphasized on fostering community through the arts and eventually hopes to provide a space in which classes, workshops and projects of all art mediums can be provided to people of all ages and from all backgrounds in a warm and welcoming way.