Fellowship Awardee Bios

Excellence Through Diversity Scholars Fellowship Recipients

Name: Amira Trevino

A native to the Pacific Northwest, Amira was born and raised in Vancouver, Washington, where she attended Clark Community College and Washington State University-Vancouver. Her interests led her to major in Psychology and minor in Human Development. As a member of several historically marginalized groups, Amira was motivated to use her personal experiences and education to empower others who also sit at an intersection of marginalized identities. Thus, she went on to support community members in varying ways, such as providing crisis support to victims of sexual assault, post-secondary education planning for historically underserved students, and psychoeducation and skill-building opportunities for children and families from low-income backgrounds. In addition to her direct service work, Amira has actively supported research projects with topics ranging from diversity in higher education, to health behaviors and emotion regulation, to improving health care services for veterans with varying levels of suicide risk. As a 1styear student in the Counseling Psychology doctoral program, Amira aims to continue her mission of elevating oppressed people through research and client-centered services.

At the core of her studies, Amira believes that all people should get the services they need, no matter how they look, sound, or amount of money they have. This perspective has only magnified her desire to investigate methods to minimize disparities in access to quality mental health services and education. She found a shared passion with her now-advisor, Dr. Karen Tao, strengthening Amira’s desire to join the Counseling Psychology doctoral program at the UU. The warm, inviting culture of the department and Salt Lake City overall was only “icing on the cake,” further cementing Amira’s decision to join the department. Amira hopes to use her experiences to support her newfound community in SLC and looks forward to the many opportunities for personal and professional growth that her time at the UU will bring.

Name: Madison Abele

Madison Abele was born and raised here in Salt Lake City, Utah. Madison is currently a research assistant for Dr. David Derezotes in the University of Utah’s College of Social Work. Madison’s educational background consists of an Honors Bachelor of Social Work degree with a minor in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Utah. During her time as an undergraduate, because of the concerning rates of maternal and infant mortality rate, she completed an honors thesis that looked at the quality of low-income pregnant women’s prenatal care here in the Salt Lake Valley. Madison was also a part of a Culture and Mental Health Praxis Lab, where she and other students partnered with Latino Behavioral Health Services to research the level of mental health awareness in the Latino community here in Utah. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work and hopes to eventually pursue a doctoral degree. Her previous experience during her undergraduate sparked a desire in research and she anticipates it will become a passion of hers. She aims to work in the healthcare setting and is looking forward to completing her practicum at the University of Utah’s Neurology Department this upcoming year.

Madison was attracted to the University of Utah’s Master of Social because of her immensely positive experience during her undergraduate. Madison had the opportunity to work with some of the faculty during her research where they were not only helpful but supportive in her decisions. Madison has received nothing but encouragement from her professors and advisors, which led her to the Master’s program. She is very inspired by some of the research that is taking place at the College of Social Work, and she is excited to be a part of it.

Emerging Diversity Scholars Fellowship Recipients

Name: Torle Nenbee

Torle Nenbee was born in Ogoni, Nigeria and with her family came to America on a Refugee Visa. She was relocated to Utah when she was 11 years old. She received her citizenship at the age of 21 years old. She earned her Bachelor’s of Sociology degree at the University of Anchorage Alaska. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer for three years in Lesotho, Africa. She is now attending college at the University of Utah where she is receiving her Masters of Social Work with a concentration in Health and a graduate certificate in Leadership, Justice, and Community Practice. She is currently interning at University Neighborhood Partners serving multi-cultural individuals with diverse backgrounds and will be interning at The Huntsman Cancer Institute in the upcoming year. After graduation, she hopes to continue serving this population on a macro level and continue working in the health field.  A future plan of hers is to one day pursue a PhD.

One of the strongest qualities of the University of Utah, Masters of Social Work Program is the professors are professional, knowledgeable, and personable with their students. They prepare students by giving them the necessary tools to assess each individual client using the holistic approach. Each class is designed with an experienced professor to challenge and strengthen the student’s ability to enter the workforce and be prepared to administer to a range of diverse clients. The program collaborates with the community to provide the proper internship placement with agencies providing a range of experiences for the students.

Name: Jesica Rose McCombs

Jessica loves the Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry because they are a lot like a big diverse family. Their students and faculty represent over 10 different countries which is great because they all work together to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable bringing their own unique perspective.

Name: Camara Chea

Camara is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Counseling Psychology doctoral program, housed in the College of Education. A Central Valley native, she was born and raised in Modesto, California. She attended the University of California, Santa Cruz for her undergraduate degree, where she majored in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. Camara cites her opportunities outside the classroom, in working with a diverse student body, as being transformative to her personal development and trajectory. In her role as a Resident Advisor for two years, she helped foster a safe and inclusive environment for other students through guidance and programming. As a Peer Educator at her university counseling center for four years, she worked to increase mental health awareness and combat stigma by outreaching to her campus community via workshops, events, and publicity. In addition, her experiences on social Psychology research teams similarly stimulated her strong interest in social justice. As the daughter of Cambodian genocide refugees, Camara is especially interested in addressing mental health disparities in various communities and striving toward more desire-based frameworks that highlight marginalized individuals’ and groups’ resilience, strengths, and complexities. Her research interests include refugee mental health and well-being as well as racial-ethnic identity construction and development. She was drawn to the Counseling Psychology doctoral program at the University of Utah for a number of reasons: the program’s commitment to multicultural perspectives and social advocacy, the comprehensive research and clinical training, the emphasis on professional identity and development, and the strong alignment of her research interests with Dr. Karen Tao and other faculty. Her first year experience in the program—enhanced by peer and faculty mentorship as well as supportive and necessary campus resources such as the Yuput Diversity Office—has since then only affirmed her decision to join the U of U community.

During her first year in the Counseling Psychology program, Camara was particularly grateful for the sense of community she experienced with her peers and faculty in the program, especially in being a woman of color adjusting to living in Utah and being away from family. She highlights the Counseling Psychology program’s support as its strongest quality, citing how those intentional and meaningful efforts of peer and faculty mentorship facilitated her sense of belonging, safety, well-being, and personal and professional growth. Reflecting back, Camara notes that that the program’s holistic and developmental approaches to mentorship, advising, and supervision were instrumental to providing space for her to grow as a critical thinker, scholar, leader, writer, communicator, researcher, clinician-in-training, and future psychologist. Camara appreciates the program’s commitment and openness to diversity and multiculturalism for pushing her to continually reflect on her identities, biases and assumptions, and beliefs and values, along with welcoming her own marginalized identities, experiences, and perspectives as sources of empowerment, complexity, and strength. Looking forward, Camara is excited to improve departmental and program climate, center diversity-related efforts, strive toward enhanced community building efforts, and be involved in upcoming clinical training, research, and professional development experiences.