Research Assistants

Listed in alphabetical order by last name

Clara Alvarez Caraveo
Research Assistant

Clara Alvarez Caraveo is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Southern California. She received her Bachelor’s from Cornell University, where she majored in Sociology and minored in Demography, Inequality Studies, and Policy Analysis and Management. Clara’s research interests include immigration, policy, healthcare access, and welfare reform. Her current work focuses on access to the social safety net among immigrant and mixed-status families.

Previously Clara worked as a research analyst at the Urban Institute, where she examined a wide range of research topics, including healthcare workforce diversity, supports for immigrant families, access to the social safety net, and insurance coverage for pregnant and postpartum women. She employs mixed-method approaches to understand how policy patterns need and access to government assistance.

Clara is from Catalina Island, a small island off the coast of southern California. She belongs to the strong and vibrant Mexican immigrant community of the island, for which she dedicates her research career to changing their world for the better.

Nicolas Gutierrez III
Research Assistant

Nicolas Gutierrez III is a Ph.D. student in Sociology at the University of Southern California. He holds a Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology from San Diego State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology, Law, and Society from the University of California, Irvine. His research focuses on urban poverty governance, frontline policy implementation, and grassroots organizing around the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness.

At SDSU, Nicolas worked as a research assistant with the Project for Sanitation Justice and the Homelessness Survival Strategies lab, where he explored public restroom access, the criminalization of poverty, racialized policing, and attitudes toward homelessness and homeless-serving facilities. His master’s thesis examined the perspectives and lived experiences of unsheltered residents and mutual aid organizers regarding homeless encampment sweeps in Los Angeles, CA.

Nicolas was born and raised in West Adams, where he continues to live and advocate for housing and mobility justice. As a lifelong Angeleno, he loves his city, acknowledges its flaws, and dedicates his research career to advancing his vision of Los Angeles as a truly “just city” for all. In his free time, Nicolas enjoys solving puzzles, watching Dodgers games, and eating his way through LA.

Alvin Makori
Research Assistant

Alvin Makori is a third-year Ph.D. student in Urban Education Policy at the University of Southern California. Concentrated in k-12 education, his research primarily investigates how students and families navigate through major learning disruptions (e.g. COVID-19 pandemic, gentrification). Alvin completed his BA in Law, History, and Culture at the University of Southern California, and he is a former research assistant at the Center on Reinventing Public Education.

Shawntae Mitchum
Research Assistant

Shawntae Mitchum (she/her/hers) is a Ph.D student in Sociology at the University of Southern California (USC). She received both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Sociology from California State University San Marcos. Her research interests include anti-Blackness in higher education, the role of student activism on college campuses, state violence by way of law enforcement agents and crime/punishment. Her current work seeks to examine how the racial uprisings of Summer 2020 and the heightened visibility of anti-Black racism in higher education transformed the work of Black educators involved in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts on their campuses.

Prior to attending USC, Shawntae worked as an adjunct faculty member in a community college where she co-created the first campus-based Black Community Ally Training designed to address anti-Black and systemic racism on campus. In the process of training over 200 college faculty, staff and administrators she has collected various forms of qualitative and quantitative data for use in a larger project on the role of allyship in dismantling anti-Black racism in higher education.

As a mother of two, Shawntae lives every day hopeful that the work she does is contributing to making the world a better place for her children to live. She enjoys playing and spending time with her children, riding bikes on the beach, and binge watching Netflix shows in her (very minimal) free time.

As of Fall 2023, Shawntae is one of three co-editors of the Equity Research Institute Blog.

Brandon Saucedo Pita
Research Assistant

Brandon Saucedo Pita (he/him) is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Southern California, with research interests in the intersections of expressive cultural practices, identity formation, and political struggles in Mexican American communities. Raised in the vibrant Brighton Park neighborhood on the Southwest side of Chicago, Brandon draws inspiration from his upbringing and ancestral roots in Michoacán, México.

A graduate of Haverford College, where he was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, Brandon majored in Sociology and double-minored in Growth & Structure of Cities and Latin American, Iberian, and Latina/o Studies. He also completed a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, traveling globally to study the development of Mexican immigrant communities through engagement with artists, cultural centers, and state-led initiatives focused on Mexican musical traditions and other expressive cultural practices.

Brandon’s research focuses on the Los Angeles-area Norteño music scenes, exploring their relationship to collective identity formations, transnationalism, and political expression. He has previously conducted research at Bryn Mawr College and Northwestern University on related topics, including Mexican Chicago’s underground Hip Hop movement. Outside of his academic pursuits, Brandon is an avid videographer and enjoys watching documentaries and sci-fi films, playing Rocket League, editing travel music videos, and producing melodic rap beats.

Gabbie Santos
Research Assistant

Gabbie Santos (she/her) is an incoming first-year law student at UCLA School of Law. At UCLA Law, she will be a member of the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy and the Critical Race Studies Program. Gabbie graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Southern California, with a B.A. in Law, History & Culture, a B.A. in Psychology, and a minor in Forensics & Criminality. Gabbie’s personal experiences sparked her interest in pursuing a person-centered legal career. Witnessing xenophobic immigration laws and discriminatory policing practices target communities of color, she developed her passion to be a zealous advocate for underserved groups.

As a previous Citizenship Project intern for Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AJSOCAL), she assisted clients who put off their citizenship applications for years due to financial concerns, language barriers, or general anxiety about the process. Through AJSOCAL, Gabbie recognized the power of non-profits in empowering communities to confidently engage with legal systems. As a Jails Project Intern for ACLU SoCal, she worked with incarcerated individuals in filing conditions complaints to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. By amplifying the voices of incarcerated individuals, she fought to ensure basic care in LA jails – ranging from mental health care, religious services, and access to medical treatment.

Through her future legal career, Gabbie hopes to continue advocating for those at the intersections of crimmigration, especially individuals with untreated mental health conditions.

Alicia Võ
Research Assistant

Alicia Võ (she/her) graduated from the University of Southern California with her MA in Sociology. Her thesis analyzed the effect of regional racial demographics on the potential for multiracial coalition, with a focus on Asian American communities. She attended Harvey Mudd College and received her BS in Computer Science and Asian American Studies. During college, she conducted research in natural language processing to evaluate children’s oral reading skills. Afterwards, she did human-centered design research to preserve indigenous health practices in Vietnam. Her variety of experiences reflects her love for learning and inherent curiosity of the world. For the next phase of her career, Alicia wants to conduct community-engaged research, envision improved governance models, and investigate the social change ecosystem.

Undergraduate Interns

JayLoni Fisher
Undergraduate Intern

JayLoni is an undergraduate intern at ERI, deeply excited to contribute tenacity and creativity to ERI projects, while further developing his capacity to engage complex societal issues, meaningfully, compassionately, and effectively. Currently, he is a sophomore enrolled at the University of Southern California in the process of crafting an individualized study that engages his combined interests in arts and advocacy.

At a young age, JayLoni developed a passion for the arts that was cultivated and nurtured through community arts programs throughout South LA and Inglewood. Upon transitioning to high school, his awareness of the pervasive biases and inequities existent in education extensively expanded through his own experiences as the sole Black, male-identifying, student in his class of roughly sixty-three students. Enabled by an eagerness to improve his school’s culture and its capacity to support students made vulnerable by systemic and interpersonal racism, disparate socio-economic conditions, and deficient educational resources, JayLoni was able to establish a sense of belonging and purpose as an advocate, not only for himself but also for other students at his school and throughout the South LA community, at-large.

Last year, JayLoni wrote an ode to his community, art, and advocacy that was featured in the Emmy award-winning arts and culture series, “Artbound”. Check it out here: