Ph.D. Students

Cohort 1 2016-2017


Peter Bjorklund Jr. was a high school social studies teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area for seven years, during which time he earned an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from Santa Clara University. He left the classroom in 2014 to pursue an Ed.M. in International Educational Development at Teachers College, Columbia University. At TC, his interests centered around education in emergencies and quantitative methods. During the summer of 2015, he spent four weeks in Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwest Kenya piloting a teacher training program for teachers in emergency contexts, and conducting research on teacher identity in refugee teachers. Currently he is working on an international study, funded by the State Department Bureau of Populations, Refugees, and Migration, that examines the intersections of global education policies, national education policies, and local schooling practices and how they affect access to quality education for urban refugees in the Global South. He is also working on a paper exploring the effect of PISA scores on public confidence in education in 27 countries. In transitioning back to domestic education, where his true passion lies, his primary research interests will center on teachers and teacher identity, namely how social, personal, and interactional factors influence teacher identity and practice. He is also excited to explore teacher-student relationships and the impact they can have on students’ achievement, academic identity, and overall well-being. Outside of class he is an avid reader, San Francisco Giants fan and Chelsea Football Club supporter who enjoys spending time with his new Boxer puppy Ajax.


Mariko Cavey graduated with an M.S. in Counseling with a specialization in School Counseling from San Diego State University, and a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Education Studies from UC San Diego. Her career in education began with teaching enrichment courses at the middle school level, followed by school counseling in K-12 urban and rural settings, and then lecturing for the Department of Counseling and School Psychology at San Diego State University. Situated in a social justice framework, she principally concentrated on addressing systemic inequities, and advocating for first-generation college-going students and indigenous populations. Mariko has consulted on reform efforts at local, state, and national levels. Her writing can be found in textbooks and journal articles in the fields of school counseling and higher education. Mariko currently works with undergraduate students at UC San Diego, and divides her time between teaching seminar courses, providing academic advising, and overseeing field research projects and collaborations with community sites. Her research interests include the following: exploring ways to enrich undergraduate students’ experiences with service learning in education settings, figuring out how to enhance the impact of university-school-community partnerships, and studying strategies to improve educational outcomes for students attending public schools with historically low high school graduation and college-going rates. Outside of academia, Mariko enjoys spending time with her husband and family, training in Muay Thai kickboxing, attending music concerts, and working with youth in the community.


Katherine Arias Garcia was born in Lima, Peru and raised in Los Angeles, CA.  She received her BA degrees in Ethnic Studies & Psychology from UC San Diego, and a Masters in Education with an emphasis in Multicultural Counseling from San Diego State University, Community-Based Block program.  As a first generation college student herself, Katherine has dedicated her time advising and mentoring first generation students to reach higher education.  Prior to joining the Education Studies department, Katherine worked for SDSU TRiO programs Upward Bound, Talent Search and Health Careers Opportunity Program, with students from middle school to college.  Katherine currently serves as the UC San Diego School of Medicine PRIME Health Equity Coordinator working with diverse medical students, strengthening university and high school partnerships and community engagement projects.  Katherine is passionate about social justice and equal access to education.  Katherine’s research interests are access and retention of underrepresented students, social climate, pipeline, STEM education and Latino/a student college experiences.  Katherine enjoys spending time with her husband and bulldog and being engaged in community activism.


Jessica Miguel is a Fresno, California native. Jessica's research interests lie in examining the language and cultural practices of students with special needs within and outside the school system, with a particular focus on students from historically underprivileged backgrounds. Currently, she is co-researcher on a study that looks to provide better access to Early Intervention programs among Mexican heritage families and their children with Autism. Her past research has included the examination of 3-5 year old students with Special Needs in Dual Language Immersion classrooms, and helping conduct research on the latino literacy practices of student mothers at the university level.Jessica holds a B.A. in International Development from UCLA and a M.Ed in Multilingual Multicultural Education from CSU, Fresno. Jessica is also a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Philippines '10-'12, and was named the 2016 University Graduate Medalist at Fresno State.


Ramon Stephens recently earned a Master’s in Education from California State Long Beach and two separately conferred Bachelor of Arts degrees from University of Washington. He is interested in applying his talents in a research and teaching capacity at UC San Diego. A long-time proponent of student retention and resilience, Ramon has contributed his skills to advance the recruitment and retention efforts of several institutions and nonprofits.  Examples of abilities include the implementation of culturally relevant recruitment and retention methods for the University of Washington, Bothell campus during his appointment as an advisor in diversity recruitment.  Such methods not only contributed to the institution becoming the fastest growing campus in the state of Washington, but also the most diverse of all three University of Washington campuses. Equally noteworthy, Ramon conceptualized and launched a 501 (c)(3) to empower high school students from low-income, underrepresented areas to embrace academic efforts through music and the arts. Ramon hopes to share elements of his background that he knows will allow him to make a sustained contribution to the Education Studies program.


Melissa Warstadt previously earned dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Women and Gender Studies at California State University Fullerton (CSUF) where she was a part of Social Psychology lab studying outcomes for LGBTQ individuals. She went on to earn her Master of Arts in Experimental Psychology at CSUF where she studied the post-school outcomes of adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). After completing school, she taught at a private high school and taught courses at CSUF which helped solidify her interest in education as a discipline. Her research interests include higher education outcomes, educational psychology, student populations with ASD, intersecting inequalities in education, and quantitative methodology.  A returning San Diego native, she enjoys the outdoors, the beach, hiking, and playing with her dog.


Hayley Weddle received her BA degree from UC Santa Barbara, double majoring in Accounting and Sociology.  She completed her MA in Higher Education Leadership at San Diego State University, where she developed a passion for research related to access, equity, and student success. Following her time at SDSU, Hayley worked for several years as a staff member at UC San Diego advising the undergraduate student government.  In this role, she oversaw the development of the campus’s first food pantry, and currently represents UC San Diego on the system-wide Food Access and Security committee.  Additionally, Hayley serves as a project assistant for the SDSU Minority Male Community College Collaborative (M2C3), contributing to research regarding the outcomes for students from underserved backgrounds.  As a doctoral student, Hayley is excited to extend her student success research to the K-12 system, and is especially interested in assessing and addressing students’ instructional needs.  When she’s not busy researching, Hayley enjoys spending time with her identical twin sister, and practicing yoga.