Presentation by Ten 2020-21 AAUW Fund Recipients

The three purposes and general goals of the AAUW Fund:
1. Removing Bias from Today’s Education
2. Fighting for Fair Play and Economic Equity
3. Advancing Women Leadership Opportunities

In the last year, the AAUW Fund was able to raise an incredible 3.5 million dollars that provided 24 grants to women throughout California. These exceptional recipients will pursue academic work and lead innovative community projects to empower women and girls.

Last October, I heard from ten of these amazing women, who each gave a brief talk via zoom.

After listening to these women speak, I was inspired to make a donation to the AAUW Fund and I hope you will, too.   We all can offer support, no matter the amount.  Let’s take up the challenge!

Miriam Rabinovitz, VP, AAUW Fund

To donate to the AAUW Fund, please go to:

Read on to find out about each of these 10 recipients’ challenges and accomplishments and their dedication to creating a world in which we can all thrive!

Becca Brunner
PhD candidate at UC Berkeley
Studying Wildlife Conservation in Ecuador

Becca grew up being raised by a single mom in the Midwest. She likes to refer to her background as moving from “cornfields to jungles,” as even as a child, she had an early interest in frogs. They have now become her focus of study in Ecuador. She is fascinated with their biodiversity and their ability to push and pull between their environment and the survivorship of their species.

Becca’s main interest currently is with the vocalization of frogs and their ability to stratify by sound frequencies in different environments.

Quite recently, Becca found a brand-new frog species in Ecuador and named the species in honor of her mother, LINDA, which means beautiful in Spanish.

Currently, Becca also spends time with younger girls who haven’t yet been brainwashed to think that “frogs are gross”! In working with these girls, she feels that changing societal stereotypes and notions will help to empower them as they grow into young women.

Amie Campos
PhD candidate through UC San Diego in Chile
Amie is on a Fulbright scholarship as well

Amie is another young woman who has found inspiration from her mother, a current frontline health worker during the COVID pandemic.

Amie’s research explores the effects of colonization on native indigenous populations. She works with indigenous people who were forced to move and lost their lands but are still trying to claim legitimacy to these lost lands.

After doing much research in this area, Amie is currently in the process of writing a book on this topic.

Constance Ilok
Post-Doc Studies at UC Irvine

Constance’s specialization is in exploring the college-going decisions and trajectories of low-income single mothers of color. Her special interest is in addressing 21st century college students who, like her, are students of color.

In her research she has found that 90% of single mothers are low income women of color who are facing marginalization and inequity in their access to college educational opportunities.

Constance is particularly interested in trying to address and change the narrative about the illusion of choice often depicted in the media regarding higher education. Much of her research is dictated by her own personal experiences in trying to navigate successfully through academia.

Lizette Solorzano
Currently finishing her last year of a PhD program at USC.

Lizette benefitted from DACA (Federal Dream Act which gave temporary amnesty to certain undocumented young people), and her interest in studying immigration comes from her own background and personal family experience.

Lizette grew up with Mexican American parents. Her grandparents migrated to the US in the 1960’s from Jalisco, Mexico. Lizette has always been interested in the immigrant integration experience.

From her studies, she has learned that 25% of the immigrant population are undocumented.

Lizette is currently examining the mental health effects such as depression, fear, and worry that are sadly most prevalent in the DACA population due to the precariousness of DACA.

In addition to writing her dissertation and continuing her research, Lizette volunteers as an advocate in the effort to organize to save DACA. She is hopeful that one day permanent immigration reform will be a reality for herself and others like her.

Rochelle McFee
Graduate PhD student, Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego.

Rochelle’s research is in Jamaica and her academic focus is exploring how laws, policies, and judicial practices shape gender-based violence there. In her research, she has discovered that the Jamaican media, based on old colonial enforced practices, exploits and encourages sexual violence of women and girls.

Rochelle is most interested in helping to develop a new legal framework that will support individual personal gender choices and reduce current and longstanding gender-based sexual violence, resulting in some healing for those who have been the victims of this exploitation.

Maria Jose Navarrete
PhD candidate at UC Berkeley

Maria grew up in Ecuador and decided to obtain her degree in the fields of ecology and evolution. Like Becca, she too, was interested in studying amphibians and particularly frogs. Her focus is on studying the diversification of amphibians in high altitude environments.

Maria’s goal is to help empower indigenous communities through conservation.

Yvonne Zhang
Student at the American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles

Yvonne, who grew up in a low-income neighborhood raised by a single mother, has always had a love of films. Early on, she realized she’d like to be a filmmaker and a director of her own film.

A major roadblock for her has been the knowledge that females are greatly underrepresented in the film director’s chair, as films have traditionally been directed by white males.

It is Yvonne’s goal to change that situation. Because of AAUW’s scholarship support, Yvonne is currently working writing the screenplay for a film. The film will explore the lives of three generations of women.

Yvonne is dedicated to writing stories that will help women make sense of their lives, and help validate and empower marginalized women in an ongoing effort to broaden their life and career opportunities.

Claire Breining
Student at UCSF, Health and Medical Sciences

Claire’s academic focus is on helping to reduce the racial disparity in health care practices, particularly in the area of birthing among immigrant women and children. Claire’s interest in this grew out of her experience as a birthing doula.

Through her work as a doula and nurse midwife, and through her studies on maternity health care, Claire discovered that there is a definite disproportionate distribution of resources that affect women of color resulting in pregnancy-related deaths. About 700 women die each year in the US as a result of pregnancy-related complications. One-third to one-half of this group are women of color.

Because the number of obstetricians in the US is high compared to other Western countries and the number of corresponding midwives is low, Claire is interested in establishing a program that will create increased opportunities for midwives and doulas from diverse communities.

Claire believes that this effort will help to build trust and education for birthing mothers and will greatly help to improve birth outcomes in this country, particularly for women of color.

Feather Ives
Candidate for Master’s in Public Health (MPH)
University of Nevada, Reno

Feather’s interest is focused on assisting college students, particularly women of color, in their ability to find success in their college experience, enabling them to better pursue their college goals and discover new opportunities post-college.

As a woman of color, Feather found that many women of color, particularly first-generation college students struggle financially during their college years. Their challenges are far greater than those of the white population, and these students of color need more support with basic needs to help them reach their full potential.

Feather’s research noted that the issue of hunger also presents a barrier to student success and degree attainment.

To this end, Feather started her own food security resource program called the Richmond Promise located in Richmond, California. Her program, which she hopes will become a national effort, provides technical training and resources to assist women in their transition to new careers and educational opportunities.

Denise Mitchell
Student of Botany and Plant Science , UC Riverside.

Unlike her fellow AAUW Scholarship recipients who presented today, Denise has been a science educator for the last twenty-five years.

Denise has mentored many of her students. Midway in her prior career, Denise decided to go back to academia to further study her long-standing interest in botany and plant science. Late into her career, Denise realized that she would like to teach students how to be good stewards of our natural world and to inspire them to better take care of our planet.

Denise is currently in a program that will help her to combine her background in teaching with a focus on studying three different ecosystems in connection with their ability to withstand heat and draught.

Her ultimate goal is to enlighten future students of hers and the next generation on the great need for them to develop a reverence for life as caretakers of our precious planet.

To donate to the AAUW Fund, please go to: