Graduate Profiles

Sarah Sexton - Race and Gender in American Music and Film

Sarah Sexton is the owner & co-founder of OIM Records, an independent record label based out of Oakland, CA. She has spent the last 8 years as a talent buyer for a variety of Oakland music venues, a go-to curator for music festivals and crawls through the East Bay area, and as a minion for music industry greats such as AEG Live and High Road Touring. Since finishing her Bachelor’s degree in UC Berkeley’s American Studies program in 2019, she was hired to open, staff, and manage the music streaming platform Bandcamp’s premier record store and performance space in the heart of downtown Oakland’s entertainment district. Sarah currently resides part time in Oakland and part time in Maui, Hawaii where she plans to open an artist-in-residency program on the island. When she’s not starting record labels or booking artists, she’s off causing trouble, trying not to get caught, and never saying sorry. Get it Kitty.

African American Studies 142AC - Race and American Film
American Studies H110 - Honors Seminar: Bay Area in the 1970s
Ethnic Studies 100 - Comparative Ethnic Literature
Gender and Women's Studies 102 - Transnational Feminism
History 125A - History of African-Americans and Race Relations in the United States, 1550-1861
Sociology 163 - Popular Culture

Thesis Radicalizing The Mainstream: An Analysis of Boots Riley's Film Sorry To Bother You through the lens of Oakland Social Movements from 2009 to 2018

Oakland has long been a site of subversive political resistance. Whether via community advocacy or popular culture trends, there has always been a thread to follow when seeking to understand the dark underbelly of American racial, class and gender politics. The Town, acting as a beacon for revolutionary underdogs and artists for change, has consistently transcended local community—directing national trends, and dishing up topics of discomfort for “white America” into the national public sphere for discussion. These parallel paths of politics and art that have commanded America’s attention culminate in Oakland as a prime case study of the ways that the work of a local community can create and sustain momentum within the greater public eye and rattle the cage of our reality. Sarah’s honors thesis illustrates this potential by analyzing social and political concepts explored by musician and filmmaker Boots Riley in his debut film, Sorry To Bother You, through the lens of three Oakland based social movements between the years of 2009 to 2018. These movements include Black Lives Matter, Occupy Oakland, and the Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire. While each of these topics have made their way into Riley’s repertoire because they intimately affected the city he calls home, they also tackle underlying issues that incubate problems for people of myriad backgrounds; such as police violence, income inequality, and gentrification—thus enabling a grander conversation of dissent at a national scale.

Tyana Cullen - Social Inequality in the American Schooling System

After graduation Tyana moved back to San Diego and is completing a Master’s in Teaching at Point Loma Nazarene University, where she will also receive a Multi-Subject and Mild/Moderate Disability Credential. Additionally, Tyana also serves as an Academic Coach in the High Tech High schooling system, where she is responsible to ensure that students with disabilities and learning differences have full access to the general education curriculum by providing tutoring, small group instruction, and one-on-one support. After completing the Master’s, Tyana plans to teach elementary school and eventually pursue a doctoral degree.


Chicano Studies 110 - Latina/o Philosophy and Religious Thought
UGIS 120 - Introduction to Applied Language Studies
UGIS 110 - Introduction to Disability Studies
Education 188B - Native American Education: Critical Issues and Possibilitiesd Religious Thought
Education 183 - High School, The Movie
Education 190AC - Critical Studies in Education

Thesis Visual Aid or Visual Distraction?: Multimodality and Classroom Theming as Methods of Immersion


Tyana’s honors thesis analyzes how classroom spaces have not developed at the same pace as teaching methodologies and how this disjunction is ruining the student’s ability to be immersed into the classroom curriculum. An ethnographic project that cross-referenced data from eight separate K-5 classrooms to showcase the teachers’ ability to provide multimodal lessons, Tyana’s research showed that all of the teachers successfully provided multimodal lessons, but have not altered their classroom spaces to play a part into the visuality of the lessons. Lastly, the thesis argued that the presence of unused items on the walls, with posters that were unrelated to actual curriculum, and teachers’ minimal collaboration with students disrupted the theme of their classrooms, creating more distraction than scaffolding to help students learn.

Doug Schowengerdt - Queer Art and American Cultural History

After graduating with honors in American Studies and a minor in Art History, Doug quickly began making work influenced from the concepts explored in their research and writing. Currently, Doug works as a cultural correspondent for the brand consultancy agency, the projects*, and lives in Berlin, Germany while pursuing a Master’s in American Studies (Amerikanistik) from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

African American Studies 111 - Race, Class, and Gender in the United States
LGBT 146 - Cultural Representations of Sexuality
Gender and Women's Studies 126 - Film, Feminism, and the Avant-Garde
History of Art 186C - Art in the Later 20th Century
History of Art 192H: Seminar:: Modern/Contemporary Art
History of Art 192T - Seminar: Evolutionary Aesthetics and the History of Art

Thesis The Authenticity of the Faux: A Queer Sensibility to Art Making

Doug’s honors thesis explores the associations between queerness and artificiality through analysis of several contemporary artworks made by queer Americans, connecting them with the historical treatment of queer people in modern U.S. and Western culture. Artificiality is a perceivable quality in art which relates to the artist’s conceptual engagement with their respective subject matter, artistic medium, or material. Therefore, Doug argues, artificiality relates to many kinds of art production across disciplines, industries, and identities. The concept of artificiality serves as an example of a queer artistic sensibility, meaning a manner of producing, perceiving, or engaging with art which signifies or favors queerness. While not comprehensive for all queer artists, artificiality proposes a theory of interpreting art unrestricted by style or material which links many forms of queer artistic production beyond mere subject matter or identity.

Rachel Kovinky - Food Systems and American Communities

Following graduation, Rachel moved to Washington D.C. for the summer, where she interned for National Public Radio in their Event Sponsorship department. While she loved her time at NPR, Rachel knew that she wanted to end up back in the Bay Area. She has since accepted a full-time offer with the San Francisco Parks Alliance, a local nonprofit that champions and improves parks and public spaces across the City. Moving to San Francisco and working for the Parks Alliance has allowed Rachel to further pursue her passions for environmental equity, community engagement, and of course, parks. In the years to come, Rachel intends to pursue a Master’s degree in City Planning and continue working at the intersection of people, place and public good.


City Planning 118AC - The Urban Community
City Planning 119 - Planning for Sustainability
Environmental Design 181-134 - Outdoor Recreation - University of Copenhagen
Geography 130 - Food and the Environment
Sociology C115 - Sociology of Health and Medicine
Sociology 139F - Selected Topics in Social Inequality: Social Problems of the Food Industry

Thesis From Potato Patches to Community Collectives: The Roots of Revitalization in Detroit

Since the late nineteenth century, Detroit has repeatedly relied on urban gardening programs, especially when faced with economic turmoil and sociopolitical tensions. Through isolating and examining several key time periods and their respective urban gardening programs, Rachel’s honors thesis argues that the city and its civic leaders turned to vacant-lot cultivation as a means of addressing larger structural issues, recognizing that there is something inherently powerful in the act of reclaiming vacant land and teaching people how to cultivate it. Further, she argues that this correlation between gardening, self-determination, and hope is ultimately what motivates Detroit’s predictable return to urban agriculture time and time again.

Elsie Wiley - Food, Power, and Policy in the U.S.

Having already established a decades’ long family business in the property management and maintenance field in North Oakland, California, and after completing the research for her capstone senior thesis project, Elsie plans to pursue a Master’s in demography where she can continue to study the intersections of human population and social justice in Oakland.


Legal Studies 184 - Sociology of Law
Education 198 - Directed Group Study
Public Policy 101 - Introduction to Public Policy Analysis
Sociology 169F - Cultural Perspectives of Food
UGBA 192T - Corporate Social Responsibility

Thesis Homelessness in Oakland, California, 2015 to Early 2019

After observing a trend in which many formerly middle-class and long-term Black residents of Oakland lost their homes and remained unsheltered, Elsie wanted to know what accounted for the change and to understand the programs and policies that sought to address the challenge of homelessness in Oakland and across the U.S. Using ethnographic methods, case studies, and the close reading of government documents and news coverage of the crisis in homelessness in Oakland, Elsie’s senior thesis offers a critique of neoliberal economic policies and how they shape place and ideas of home and being housed. Beginning from the premise that all citizens have the right to shelter, Elsie’s thesis argues for socialized housing and universal basic income.

Tanvi Agrawal - Consumer Culture and Social Media

Tanvi is pursuing their technical curiosity at a cybersecurity company, Cloudflare, where they are a business development representative. They keep up with their love of theater by writing reviews for online newspaper, Theatrius, assistant directing professional productions, and coaching actor friends.


Sociology 121 - Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Social and Cultural Context
Business Administration 167 - Special Topics in Marketing
Computer Science 195 - Social Implications of Computer Technology:The Social Life of Computing
Film 120S-131 -Italian Media- UC Center, Rome
Industrial Engineering 190B - Advanced Topics in Industrial Engr & Operations Research: Entrepreneurial Marketing & Finance
History of Art 190 - American/British Art

Thesis Beyond Human: Augmented Reality Technology and the Making of Human 2.0

Tanvi’s honors thesis explored the future of augmented reality. Drawing on the work of media theorists Nathan Jurgenson and Inge Hinterwaldner, Tanvi invited their readers to view AR technology as an infinite number of interfaces that can be interacted with, and thus hold to possibility to launch humans into a world of human augmentation, transhumanism, or “human 2.0.” Arguing that AR is not an elitist technology, but one that has not become ubiquitously useful yet, Tanvi’s honors thesis adopted the theory that AR development starts with consumers as a grounds for experimentation for developers, then moves into areas in which it makes the most impact, such as in medicine and engineering, before it returns to consumers in forms/interfaces that are most useful to them. The core goal of this project was to center the positive evolutionary idea of human 2.0 and the elevation of human capability beyond what is naturally/organically/primitively possible.

August Jay - Social Inequality and American Youth Culture

After graduation, August moved to Oakland and worked in a variety of positions. With the goal of becoming a practicing psychotherapist, they will pursue an MSW at Columbia University’s School of Social Work where they will participate in an advanced clinical social work practice beginning Fall 2020.

Psychology N160 - Social Psychology
Sociology 111AC - Sociology of the Family
Psychology 144 - Emerging Adulthood
Sociology 130 - Social Inequalities
Ethnic Studies 144AC - Racism and U.S. Law
American Studies 101 - The Teen Age

Thesis How Dr. Seuss Became White: The Hegemony of Whiteness against the Ethnic Other Found in Political Cartooning on the U.S. Homefront

August’s senior thesis examined the early career of Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. Through close studies of Geisel’s political cartoons published during the Second World War in New York’s daily newspaper, PM and later published as Dr. Seuss Goes to War, August’s thesis traced how his critiques of noninterventionism, denunciations of European fascism, and support for Roosevelt’s foreign and domestic policies were drawn at the expense of American citizens. Against a backdrop of both the history of white ethnics in America and of the expansion and contraction of citizenship in points of crisis, August’s thesis paid particular attention to how Geisel drew a line between Japanese Americans and other Americans.

Emma Bianco - Cold War Politics and American Culture

Emma plans to pursue a Master’s and Ph.D. in history to continue studying the emergence and changing ideologies of Republicanism and extreme conservatism, particularly women’s role in redefining local party politics in California.

American Studies 101AC - World War II
American Studies 101 - Golden Age of Advertising
American Studies 101 - The Great Exhaling: Culture, Politics and History, 1946-1952
American Studies 102 - California, the West, and the World
History 171C - The Soviet Union
History 130 - American Foreign Policy

Thesis “A Subversive Monstrosity:” The Right Wing’s Struggle with History Education in Orange County, California, 1965-1970

Emma’s honors thesis explores the development of the 1960s right-wing movement in Orange County, California—a place nationally recognized as a grassroots leader in the conservative restoration epitomized with the Nixon and Reagan campaigns. In order to document and fathom this political revolution, Emma developed a specific case study: Orange County’s adoption and backlash to the eighth-grade American history textbook, Land of the Free: A History of the United States. The burgeoning right wing’s response to this text sparked public debates and contributed to the mobilization of radical right groups in Orange County, given the region’s affluent suburbanites and white supremacist mindset. Emma’s thesis also considered concurrent liberal intellectuals findings on similar radical movements, and the degree to which this incident lends itself to or detracts from these theorists’ findings on extreme conservative ideologies.