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Mellon Mays Fellows, class of 2018

Charles Aprile '18

Charles Aprile is currently a junior special majoring in Urban Studies with a minor in Russian. His central interests include the connection between ideology and migrant subjectivity, as well as the productive force of space in human relations. Over the summer, Charles participated in the University of Chicago's MMUF-Summer Research Training Program, where he reviewed scholarly work on the social production of space, Islam in Russia, migration and belongingness. His summer research informs his current project and senior thesis, “Building Home: The process of Tajik Belonging in Moscow,” a planned ethnographic study focusing on the social, economic, and political processes affecting the everyday lives of Tajik construction workers as they navigate the city-space. In general, Charles's scholarship focuses on how geopolitical and economic trends are localized in shaping spaces and affective human relations. He plans to pursue a PhD in Sociology.

Maria Castaneda '18

María is a junior at Swarthmore special majoring in Peace and Conflict Studies and Spanish with a minor in Latin American Studies. Her research interests lie in understanding the complexities of immigration between the US and Mexico. Specifically, she is interested in the experiences of female migrants and the nuances of being a documented migrant versus a migrant without documents. 

Born in Mexico and raised in North Carolina, María’s experiences as an undocumented person in the United States have heavily influenced her research interests. This past summer she was in Mexico City working with Centro de los Derechos del Migrante where she did research on the systemic discriminatory practices against migrant women within the H2 visa program. 

On campus, María works as a student liaison for immigration issues at the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility where she works to connect student’s academics with volunteer opportunities in the Philadelphia area. She is also a Writing Associate at the campus writing center and serves on the executive board of WOCKA, a group supporting women of color on campus, and ENLACE, a Latinx student group at Swarthmore. 

Lydia Koku '18

Lydia Koku is originally from Toronto, Canada by way of Cherry Hill, New Jersey. As a junior at Swarthmore, she is currently pursuing an Honors special major in Sociology and Educational Studies with a course minor in Psychology. Lydia's academic and personal interests explore sociological explanations for a wide array of traumatic experiences that African American youth face, as well as subsequent mental health implications. This past summer, Lydia served the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education as a Research Assistant for the Engaging, Managing, and Bonding through Race (EMBRace) project -- a seven-week therapeutic intervention designed to assist local Black parents and their children communicate about their experiences of racial trauma and stress and adopt successful coping strategies for future encounters. Though she is currently studying racial trauma, she later hopes to address issues of interpersonal violence (sexual assault, gun violence, etc.) from a sociological lens. Ultimately, as a professor of Sociology (specializing in social psychology), Lydia plans to link her research with mental health interventions for African American communities.

On campus, she works as a Diversity Peer Advisor (DPA) and as the Senior Programming Coordinator at the Black Cultural Center.

Gabriela Key '18

Gabriela Key is an honors Classical Studies with an honors minor in Latin. Gabriela’s interests lie in both archeology and religion. Thus far she has focused mainly on early Greek religion, but she is interested in exploring ancient Roman religious traditions as well, and especially hopes to do research on the influence of the East on Greek and Latin religion. She hopes to pursue a PhD in prehistory and archaeology after graduation. 

Other than studying, Gabriela enjoys playing on the Swarthmore College Women’s Rugby Club, for which she has been an officer three out of her five semesters on the team. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, she grew up hiking, camping, and foraging for mushrooms. Her favorite activities include spending time in the outdoors and cooking for friends.


Christopher Malafronti '18

Christopher grew up in Newark, DE, a town that he still likes to call home from time to time. Born in Guatemala, he was adopted when he was six months old. He is still trying to go back to this day. A junior, Chris has created an Honors special major at Swarthmore that he has titled Critical Mixed Race Studies. This major is based in the Sociology/Anthropology department and pulls from the Psychology, History, Spanish and English departments. He hopes to pursue a career in academia where he can bring his own mixed race perspective to his scholarly work as well as to the classroom.

In his free time, Chris enjoys watching Coen Brothers movies, impromptu disco dance parties with his friends, running despite tight IT bands, and acting in the various Senior productions. He wouldn't be where he is without the love, support and encouragement of mentors, friends, and family.