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.
A message from Vice Chancellor Jerry Kang:
“As Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, I chose to fund the BEST Grant Program because we cannot build equity for all -- my Office’s mission -- without investing in “bottoms-up” initiatives that leverage the experiences, perspectives, and talents of UCLA’s diverse student body. BEST offers a prime example of grassroots action that complements the “top down” strategies born in Murphy Hall. A student-led initiative dedicated to promoting a positive campus climate for all UCLA students, BEST directly furthers UCLA’s core commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion.”
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?
OUR BEST LEADERSHIP TEAM
Amirah is currently a PhD student in the UCLA School of Education. Her research interests revolve around the impact of school ethnic context on identity development as well as the impact of identity on overall school adjustment for African American adolescents. In addition to her academic interests, Amirah has always been passionate about femtorship. A proud alumnus of THE Howard University, a historically Black University, she has spent time serving as a femtor for the UC-HBCU Initiative, which aims to improve diversity within graduate programs across the UCs . Since she started at UCLA she has also played an integral role in the Graduate Undergraduate Mentorship Program (GUM) which works to make graduate school more accessible to students from marginalized and underrepresented backgrounds.
Brenda Lopez is a doctoral student in the department of Social Sciences and Comparative Education at UCLA. Her research centers on students of Color using media as a form of transformative resistance. Brenda was born and raised in Fontana, California and went on to earn her B.F.A. from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU in Film and Television. She is a filmmaker, photographer and storyteller eager to share the experiences of marginalized communities through accessible mediums.
Gadise Regassa is currently a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. Her research interests include exploring the lived experiences of Black college students in selective colleges and universities, the ways antiblackness shows up in organizational change, Black student organizing, and campus racial climate. At UCLA, she cofounded a collective of Black graduate and professional women/femme students called Sisters in Scholarship (SIS). Before starting her doctoral program, Gadise worked at the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs at New York University where she oversaw student leadership initiatives, career prep and mentoring programs, campus-wide events, cultural graduations, and cosponsorships. Gadise attended The Ohio State University and completed a Masters in Higher Education and Student Affairs. During her tenure, she held an assistantship within the OSU Office of Student Life in their Energy Management and Sustainability Office and the Student Athlete Support Services Office. Gadise has a BA in Sociology and Black Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara and wrote an honors thesis investigating the impact of chilly campus racial climates on Black girls attending predominantly White high schools in Southern California.
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.
Hailing from a working-class Midwestern community, Kristen Brock-Petroshius is a long-time racial justice organizer with Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). She is a budding movement-scholar (aka PhD Student) in UCLA's Social Welfare department helping to build and research organizing methods that move dominant U.S. publics’ material, ideological, and emotional investments in white supremacy toward liberation. In translation, her work is about transforming white supremacy through organizing. She is queer and the proud parent of two kiddos.
Dr. Sayil Camacho'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. The findings illustrated the context in which academic migrants can and cannot advocate for themselves, illuminating a spectrum of vulnerabilities that result from their temporary workplace visa status. As a result of this research, Sayil developed a model that interrogates previous class and race assumptions about migrants. This model can be utilized as a tool to measure campus climate for temporary visa holders.
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.