Student opportunities

We're always looking for motivated students that are eager to learn about and apply principles of social justice in their communities.

The Community Knowledge Project has hosted students from UC Irvine as well as from other colleges around the country. Because community health is inherently multidimensional, we encourage students from all departments and backgrounds to get involved. Funding is occasionaly available through the School of Social Ecology or the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.

For more information, please send a statement of interest to 

Meet the Team

Michael James Montoya
Michael Montoya (Director) 
Montoya approaches undisciplinary and (neo)applied research imaginaries with the commitment to epistemological and cultural critique. Informed by sociocultural studies of technosciences and by enduring theoretical concerns with human variation writ large, Montoya's research blends the speculative, the applied, the material and semiotic, with the contingent concerns with solving not merely characterizing - disparate distributions of inequality, suffering, and injustice. Consequently, projects that emanate from Montoya's lab are attempts at creating situated active accounts of human problems that are locatable within stratified fields of unequal power relations.

Visit his 
faculty page.

Victoria Lowerson

Victoria is a PhD student in the Planning, Policy and Design department in the School of Social Ecology at the University of California, Irvine. She is interested in the interrelationship between the social and built environment with health as well as community based research approaches to address root causes of health inequalities. Focusing on food justice during her masters of public health, Victoria has worked on Community Knowledge Project's wellness policy project as well as helping in data collection in the Valencia Soccer Study.  She is currently working on the Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities initiative as a Community Scholar of University of California, Irvine's Community Outreach Partnership Center. 

Connie McGuire

Connie is a doctoral candidate in socio-cultural anthropology who is interested in violence prevention, policy-making processes, and Latin America.  Connie has worked professionally conducting ethnographic research with so-called Central American gang members as well as with policymakers in the Washington DC,  Mexico and Central America.  Her dissertation, "Transnationalizing Gangs in the Americas: Expertise, Advocacy, and the Politics of Policymaking" examines how gangs are increasingly understood as a transnational phenomenon in need of a transnational solution.  Dr. Michael Montoya is her advisor, and she has collaborated with the Community Knowledge Project in its work with Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities project.

Erin Kent
Erin received her PhD in Environmental Health, Science, and Policy with a Concentration in Epidemiology and Public Health from the School of Social Ecology at University of California, Irvine in 2010. Her dissertation project examined socioeconomic disparities in survival and survivorship in adolescents and young adults with cancer, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Erin's research interests fall mainly in social epidemiology and community health, with an emphasis in community-partnered research.  She has worked with both Professor Montoya and the Community Knowledge Project since its inception, including projects with the Valencia Task Force and St. Jude's Medical Center in Fullerton, the California Endowment Building Healthy Communities in Central Long Beach, and the Community Outreach Partnership Center at University of California, Irvine. She is currently working as a Cancer Prevention Fellow at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

Diego Solares 
Diego graduated with Honors from the University of California, Irvine in 2008 with a degree in International Studies. After studying and working in Brazil and Thailand, he went on to serve as a Clinton Fellow in India and a consultant for the Pan American Health Organization. In 2010, he finished a year-long Global Health Corps Fellowship with Partners In Health in Boston is now pursuing a Master of Public Health at the Department of Global Health of the University of Washington and a Master of Public Policy at the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government. Diego is committed to reducing health disparities among most-at-risk populations and advancing the view of health as a human right.

Cristina Bejarano
Cristina completed her MA in anthropology with an emphasis in medical anthropology at California State University Long Beach in 2007. Her thesis, entitled "From Compliance to Collaboration: Alternatives for Trainings in Health Care," addresses the implementation of the cultural competency policy at a southern California hospital. She gathered data from her involvement on the hospital's cultural competency committee, interviews with interpreters, Latino parents of children on dialysis, and an employee survey. Her study resulted in an alternative training curriculum for health care practitioners.

Bradley Jong
Bradley graduated from the University of California,  Irvine in 2009 with a degree in Social Ecology. During his undergraduate career, he worked with Professor Montoya during the 2008 summer to address childhood obesity and the Fullerton Unified School District's lunch program.
  These efforts produced a research paper that was then presented to the Valencia Task Force.  He plans to enlist with the Peace Corps for 2 years before enrolling in a Masters in Public Health program specializing in community health education. With his MPH, Bradley hopes to work for a nonprofit agency in hopes of improving health education, specifically in minority communities, to increase awareness of health topics such as HIV/AIDS and nutrition education. Bradley plans to utilize his background in public health and social ecology to develop and implement innovative programs that will look to the local community to tailor his presentations to best benefit the target audience.

Lauren Bieniek
Lauren is currently a Penn State student studying social inequalities, human rights issues, and social movements. In the future she plans on pursuing a master's degree in public health and/or peace studies. Lauren hopes to do work both globally and locally to combat issues of inequality, specifically in health and women's issues. This summer for the Community Knowledge Project Lauren is researching empowerment and community capacity, specifically as they apply to health issues. Empowerment is the attainment of power and authority in an individual's life, and community capacity refers to the assets of a community that allow it to actively address social problems. Each of these phenomena gives both individuals and communities the ability to take control over their lives and take action for change, leading to less stressful and healthier living.

Teresa Ortega
Teresa is a public history/public service major at Stanford University.  She first worked for the Community Knowledge Project during the summer of 2009 when she participated in the Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities initiative and coordinated the Madison Park Neighborhood Association's seventh annual walk-a-thon and health fair.  This summer she rejoins us as she pursues the independent project of researching and writing a social history of Santa Ana, her hometown.  Her research will then be incorporated into curriculum of a Santa Ana public high school Mexican-American history class.  Teresa is excited to be part of the Community Knowledge Project because of its commitment to facilitating community-led initiatives and fostering alternative spaces and solutions.

Neva Lundy

Neva will be a senior at the University of Notre Dame and is a major in anthropology, with an emphasis in medical anthropology.  Her interest in medical anthropology comes from working with HIV/TB patients in Cambodia as well as independent research in Uganda on the social infrastructure surrounding multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis. Neva also has a strong interest in community development and spent a semester abroad in Uganda focusing on development studies.  She has also worked with micro-finance and agro-forestry NGO's in Tanzania, Burundi and the Dominican Republic studying community development and capacity building.  This summer Neva will be working with Professor Montoya on both the Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities project as well as the study on the Valencia Youth Soccer League.

Mojgan ("Mo") Sami

Mo is a PhD student in the University of California,  Irvine School of Social Ecology studying the nexus between public health, urban planning and community development. She has more than twenty years of international experience working with communities in a variety of capacities; such as junior youth empowerment programs in the United States, community needs assessments in Uganda, participatory monitoring and evaluation in Ghana, training facilitators in the Philippines, conducting community based health research with seniors in Japan, etc.  The motivating force in her life is to interact with scholarship and communities with the principles of justice, equity and equality.

Christina Penfield

Christina is a student at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine.  She has been involved in a project that investigates the strengths and limitations of incorporating community health promoters into a modern clinical setting.  She has worked alongside health promoters from Latino Health Access in Santa Ana to Chiapas,  Mexico to better understand their goals and perspectives.

Jessica Arzate

Jessica is an anthropology student at the University of California, Irvine.  She worked with Professor Montoya for the Inter-Disciplinary Summer Undergraduate Research Experience fellowship.  The name of her project was "The National Children's Study and the Applicability of Community Based Participatory Action Research Methodology", which involved compiling a literature review on the CBPAR and determining whether this type of methodology would benefit the National Children's Study, which she was a student researcher for in 2009.

Caitlin Fouratt

Caitlin completed her BA in Spanish language and literature at Villanova University in 2004.  Caitlin was a Fulbright Scholar to Costa Rica (2004-2005), where she studied Nicaraguan migration and xenophobia in the country. She completed her MPhil in Latin American Studies at Cambridge University in 2006. Her master's thesis focused on the experiences of Nicaraguan women living in squatter settlements in Costa Rica. After completing her degree, Caitlin returned to Costa Rica to work as a research consultant and study abroad program coordinator at the International Center for Sustainable Human Development.  Her research interests involve Central American migration, gender and families, and she has worked with community organizations on a number of issues including migration laws, domestic workers and banana workers' rights. Caitlin is currently developing her dissertation project on Nicaraguan transnational families, and in 2010-2011 she will co-facilitate a University of California, Irvine graduate student reading group on transnational families.

Kristen Gamble

Kristen Gamble is in her third year of a doctoral program in Social Ecology. With an undergraduate degree in Psychology, she has focused her research on social and behavioral aspects of energy conservation, natural disaster preparation, and community participation. Currently she is active in the Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities project where her role as a researcher provides support to the planning process with a focus on the inclusion of community knowledge. Kristen applies interdisciplinary frameworks and a diversity of methodological approaches to research topics in human equity and ecology.

Katia Sanchez

Katia is a second year medical student at the University of California, Irvine and is in the PRIME-LC (Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community) and plans to pursue a master's degree in Public Health. She is passionate about increasing access and quality of healthcare to communities in need. She is currently involved with the Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities project.

Soumar Bouza

Soumar Bouza double majored in Genetics and Anthropology at University of California, Irvine. She started off her career at University of California, Irvine as a biology major with a medical anthropology minor, but decided to major in anthropology after hearing about the Community Knowledge Project. She is passionate about providing health care and health education to those in underserved communities locally and abroad. Soumar plans to go into the medical field and provide patients with care that includes more than just medication

David Liu

David Liu double majored in Anthropology (Certificates in Medical Anthropology, Global Studies and Gender Studies) and Public Health Policy with a minor in Educational Studies. David has been actively involved in Orange County and the University of California, Irvine creating bridges between academic research institutions and disempowered and underserved communities. He is passionate about providing educational opportunities to diverse communities through health programming and community based research to understand the entire complexity of health interventions.  

Matine Azadian

Matine Azadian is a freshman at the University of California, Irvine pursuing a degree in Anthropology to compliment his pre-medical studies. Aside from working with The Community Knowledge Project and other community-based interdisciplinary organizations, his primary research focuses on the molecular development and identification of innovative anti-HIV compounds that target viral HIV integrase proteins. His interest in anthropology lies within the contextual analysis and application of medicine through a holistic, comparative, global, and relativistic perspective. In the future, he plans on pursuing a higher education with the intentions of completing a joint MD/PhD program (in Medical Anthropology).


Marcel Flores

Marcel is a 4th year Public Health Policy and Anthropology double major with a minor in Psychology & Social Behavior and certificates in Medical Anthropology and Global studies. His involvement in the Community Knowledge Project stems from his diverse experiences reaching out to the Orange County community through his leadership in the Public Health Association at University of California, Irvine as its Co-President and volunteering at a free-clinic in Mexicowhere he participated in the diabetes intervention program through the organization Flying Samaritans. Furthermore, his involvement as Public Health Lead in the Engineers Without Borders at UCI cemented his commitment to the community, where he is developing a community health survey and needs assessment for community members in Endana, Kenya. Through this project he hopes to address the need for efficient cook stoves and the issue of indoor pollution and risk of respiratory infections (RI) by utilizing a community-based approach through focus groups and interviews. Outside of the Community Knowledge Project, he is working to expand the University of California, Irvine’s Global Health Research, Education and Translation program, and is a research assistant at the University of California, Irvine MedicalCenter. After completing his undergraduate studies, he strives to receive a Master of Public Health with a focus in the sociomedical sciences or community health. In graduate school, he aims to do field work abroad in the international development setting in order to develop health interventions through capacity building and community empowerment.