What is BEST?
The Bruin Excellence & Student Transformation Grant Program (BEST) supports student efforts to address campus climate-issues at UCLA. To this end, BEST aspires to provide transformative experiences for emerging organizers, activist, and activist-scholars. We support young leaders by providing funding, femtorship, activist trainings, networking, and coordination.
BEST is a student-led initiative receiving funding from UCLA's Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to develop and support student projects that promote an equal learning environment at UCLA. BEST also receives generous support from Gold Shield, Alumnae of UCLA.
The views and opinions expressed on this page are those of BEST and its Leadership Team and do not necessarily reflect the positions or opinions of the University or the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
Who is BEST?
Sayil is a sixth year doctoral candidate at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies within the Higher Education and Organizational Change division. Sayil co-conceptualized and co-founded the Bruin Excellence & Student Transformation Grant Program (BEST). Sayil’s academic research expands upon her campus climate work, exploring the intersections of workplace climate, immigrant populations, and academic productivity among academic migrants and students. Her published article in The Journal of Higher Education was the first study to explore the recent unionization phenomena of the postdoctoral workforce, and the findings were framed within the broader contexts of globalization, institutional power structures, and racial and social hierarchies. Sayil’s dissertation study, Postdoctoral Scholars at the University of California: Constructing a Migrant Identity Within the Workplace, expands upon these aforementioned constructs, and offers a new framework to understand relationships between migrant identity formation and labor experiences. Sayil’s past organizing experience includes being a union organizer for university service workers and academic workers, as well as serving within various capacities as a student affairs professional.
Manpreet Dhillon Brar
Manpreet Dhillon Brar has facilitated classes on race, class, gender, and other social identities at UCLA and at California State University at Northridge. She has completed training for intergroup dialogue facilitation at the University of Michigan and at UCLA. Manpreet has also worked as a diversity trainer with various organizations for over five years. Her work to promote inclusion and acceptance has included two-years of programming and inclusive education for dependent adults with learning and developmental disabilities through UCLA Extension’s Pathway Program. Manpreet is now a third-year doctoral student in Human Development and Psychology within the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. During these past three year, Manpreet has served as a student leader and community activist in many spaces within and outside of the higher education space. Aside from her work with BEST as a co-founder and Program Coordinator, Manpreet has led critical dialogue workshops around the campus and has also created sustainability within the Graduate Undergraduate Mentorship Program at UCLA. Her research focuses on intergroup relations through taking a particular focus on the intersectionality of social identities and discrimination, prejudice, and oppression faced by adolescents from diverse backgrounds. In her "free" time, Manpreet enjoys movies (more as a critic), travelling, spending time with loved ones, cooking creative foods and trying new adventures. The photo here is from her traditional Sikh wedding just over a year ago.
Kareem Elzein is a PhD student in the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. As one of the founding members of the Bruin Excellence & Student Transformation Grant Program (BEST), he has served as a mentor to the Beautiful Mind Project, Cross-Cultural Center pilot program, and Social Justice Advocates. Kareem’s mentorship draws on nearly a decade of organizing experience, including work with the Western Service Workers Association (WSWA) in Santa Cruz County, Ma’an Youth Group and Al-Nakab Center for Youth Activities in Beirut, Lebanon, and White People for Black Lives in Los Angeles. As an organizer, Kareem works to resolve the contradictions between his class, race, and gender privilege and the social justice work that he is dedicated to. He most often finds himself in roles of allyship. As such, he strives to use his amassed privileges to support the leadership of other communities more directly impacted by oppression. Still, as a white man, he believe that he must balance traditional solidarity with direct action within white communities and among men, as an accomplice to PoC-led movements and organizers.
Anthony Tróchez is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Higher Education and Organizational Change Program at UCLA. As a first generation Afrolatino student, he is inspired by educators and scholar/activists who fearlessly envision a world that does not yet exist–a world where our education works to heal from the traumas of imperialism, white supremacy, and consumer-capitalist patriarchy. He care deeply about the interconnections between education and how we chose to and, in most cases, are forced to live on the earth. In studying the intersections of race, gender, class and nature, he has come to believe that cultivating a philosophy and practice of education rooted in simplicity is paramount to re/learning how to live in, and with, the world.