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Community Connections Fellowship

The UC San Diego Arts and Community Engagement initiative offers an annual fellowship for graduate students to create meaningful partnerships with community organizations, with an eye toward education, engagement and divergent experiences with the visual and performing arts.

Student initiated, the fellowships enable students to carry out clearly defined projects related to their area of interest, providing students with an opportunity to build community through the arts while also gaining practical experience that may influence their research, academic focus or career trajectory. 

“The arts offer a unique way to understand the world that connects and surrounds us. We experience different perspectives; we are moved, inspired and renewed. More than this, the arts can be a key element in bringing people from divergent viewpoints together to create vibrant communities, in which many voices are heard and welcomed, and society itself can be transformed.” — Susan Narucki, Arts and Community Engagement director

The 2021 – 2022 Fellows

agwunchakelechi agwuncha, Department of Visual Arts

Community partner: Haitian American Museum of Chicago

Project: “heart” is a documentary film directed and produced by kelechi agwuncha. It observes a growing aquatic community in Haiti, and reveals the untold stories of the 2021 Haitian National Swim Team, their Olympic veterans and Haitian aquatic athletes. Partnering with the Haitian American Museum of Chicago, kelechi looks to spark dialogues and exhibitions that illuminate the experiences of Black individuals, as integral to historical aquatic experiences of freedom, play and survival.

kelechi agwuncha (s/he, they) is pursuing her MFA at the UC San Diego Department of Visual Arts. They often address sporting culture through estatic, experimental interventions using video art, film and slippery sonics. She received her bachelor’s degree in cinema with a minor in television studies and Africana studies from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. His work has been shown through OTV-Open Television, Chicago Architecture Biennial and PBS Film Festival to name a few. 


Melissa CisnerosMelissa Cisneros, Department of Theatre and Dance

Community partners: Centro Estatal de las Artes (Rosarito, Baja California), Centro Cultural Tijuana (Tijuana, Baja California), Centro Cultural de España en México (Mexico City) and Teatro de La Rendija (Mérida, Yucatán)

Project: “Procesos en Diálogo” is a transdisciplinary platform for artists, groups and art collectives to share ideas, strategies and methods behind the creative process and practice. Allying with four cultural partners in Mexico with the purpose to shorten the distance among the North-Center-South of the country, Melissa and team promote equity, diversity and inclusion through creative networks and collaborations between artists and cultural centers, elevating the contemporary scene of Spanish-speaking artists.

Melissa Cisneros is currently an MFA candidate in dance-making and performance. She studied choreography at the School for New Dance Development, and Fine Arts at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. She works as an independent artist developing and promoting creative projects related to dissemination of contemporary performing arts in Mexico and abroad.


Carlito EspudoCarlito Espudo, Department of Literature

Community partners: Bayanihan Community Response San Diego, and Filipino Migrant Center

Project: In collaboration with Bayanihan Community Response San Diego and the Filipino Migrant Center, Carlito and their volunteers plan to build community among San Diego high school students in underserved locations and populations through the empowering and self-expressive medium of zines.

Carlito Espudo is an MFA candidate in the UC San Diego Department of Literature. They received their bachelor of arts degree in sociology (queer and gender studies) and English language and literature (creative writing) from College of the Holy Cross. Their publication “boy if” (2019) won the OutWrite D.C. chapbook contest in poetry. 


placeholderMaria Rios-Mathioudakis, Department of Visual Arts

Community partner: Holly Drive Leadership Academy

Project: The Imagination Club hosted by the Holly Drive Leadership Academy (HDLA), will manifest as a series of weekly workshops in which Maria works with HDLA students to flex their imagination muscles through the making of art. HDLA students will also make two trips to UC San Diego to engage with art and artists, culminating in an art exhibition at their school and the Department of Visual Arts Open Studios.

Maria Rios-Mathioudakis is a socially engaged artist based in San Diego, currently in her first year as an MFA student. She has been collaborating with communities across the region on art projects for more than 10 years, and received her bachelor's degree from UC San Diego.


Kathryn SchulmeisterKathryn Schulmeister, Department of Music

Community partner: San Diego Coastkeeper

Project: Inspired by the San Diego Coastkeeper Six Cleanup Challenge, Kathryn will compose for and create "Sounds for Sustainability: A Live Creation Series" that will feature public, musical events in six different coastal, inland and urban environments in San Diego County. All live creation events will involve a neighborhood cleanup, removing litter and debris from the site and creating music out of the trash that undoubtedly takes a toll on the city and its natural habitats. 

Kathryn Schulmeister is a professional double bassist, interdisciplinary artist, educator and scholar with international performance experience. She is pursuing her Doctor of Musical Arts at the UC San Diego Department of Music, and received her master of music degree from McGill University and bachelor of music degree from New England Conservatory.

2020 - 2021 Fellows

  • Teresa Díaz de Cossio

    Teresa Díaz de Cossio

    Department of Music

    Project: The Festival de Música Nueva, Ensenada is a new music program that will gather UC San Diego faculty and graduate students, and musicians from the south of the border in Ensenada, México. In collaboration with the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, they will be leading a series of workshops, classes and concerts open to the community.

  • Sam Mitchell

    Sam Mitchell

    Department of Theatre and Dance

    Project: Sam worked with Rosy Simas Danse and New Native Theatre in Minnesota on a series of workshops for Indigenous and BIPOC communities. Additional workshops at UC San Diego, and with Guthrie Theatre (Minneapolis), Sherman Indian School in Riverside, Calif. and the Ikidowin youth program in Minneapolis.

  • Becca Rose

    Becca Rose

    Department of Literature

    Project: This online literary journal aims to create a space of creative response to our current moment of transformation due to the global pandemic. Titled "Kaleidoscoped," this space will act as just that — a collection of many refractions of experience — gathering the written and visual art of women, queer, trans, and BIPOC folks across Arts and Humanities disciplines, and across the boundaries of social distancing.

    Watch: "Across the Boundaries of Social Distancing" >>
    Read: Kaleidoscoped >>

  • Paul Roth

    Paul Roth

    Department of Music

    Project: Radio Future Hour, in collaboration with San Diego community radio station KNSJ (89.1FM), spotlights the many exceptional and diverse youth-led movements for change in our region. Young community leaders are commissioned to create podcasts for radio play and online streaming archive that presents and explores their work, showing the potentials and visions they bring for tomorrow.

    Listen: Radio Future Hour >>

  • Miguel Zazueta

    Miguel Zazueta

    Department of Music

    Project: The project "Voices for Playas de Tijuana" has the goal to create a dialog between the artistic group Radical: Vocal Ensemble and the Committee of Citizen Security of Playas de Tijuana in order to develop an artistic product that helps this community to reach their goal of making Playas de Tijuana a safe place to live.

    Watch: "Voices for Playas de Tijuana: A social-dialogue community project" >>