CSI Staff



Karthick Ramakrishnan


Karthick Ramakrishnan is professor of political science and associate dean of UC Riverside’s School of Public Policy. His research focuses on civic participation, public opinion, and immigration policy in the United States. He is the author, most recently of The New Immigration Federalism(Cambridge, 2015), and is founding editor of the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics (JREP). Ramakrishnan is the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships from places such as the Russell Sage Foundation, Woodrow Wilson Center, and Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). He has over 1,000 news appearances, including in the New York Times, Economist, Los Angeles Times, PBS Newshour, and MSNBC. Ramakrishnan received his Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University. [More info]





Marlenee Blas Pedral

Associate Director

In her role as associate director, Marlenee manages projects as well as internal and external outreach for the Center. Marlenee brings a wealth of experience from her prior roles as a counselor in the UC Riverside Career Center, where she led the university’s work study engagement with employers both on and off campus and helped found the Butterfly Project, which provides internship experiences and professional development to undocumented students. In 2015, Marlenee completed a Fulbright Fellowship in Brazil, where she studied affirmative action policies, affordability and access to higher education. Raised in Inland Empire, Marlenee is eager to build strong, thriving partnerships in the region. [More Info]







Paola Avendano

External Affairs Associate

Paola is responsible in building and maintaining meaningful relationships for the Center with a variety of stakeholders at the local, regional, and statewide levels. Before joining the CSI team, Paola was a Field Representative for the District Office of Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez - 52nd District, in which she built long term partnerships with local communities, provided constituent services, and executed successful event planning. She also brings grassroots organizing and project management skills from her work as a field organizer for the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project in East Los Angeles, a non-profit that focuses on increasing civic engagement within the Latinx community. Raised in San Bernardino, CA and a proud graduate of UC Riverside, Paola understands the complexities of the region and is determined to boost the Center’s impact in the Inland Empire and beyond.



Gary Rettberg

Research Manager

Gary conducts and manages research and data analysis on projects that engage our various community and policy research partners. Gary graduated with a Masters of Public Policy from the University of California, Riverside in 2019. His academic work focuses on community and economic development through the utilization of the arts in urban areas. In addition, Gary was awarded the Western Riverside Council of Governments Public Service Fellowship in 2018 and served as Public Policy Fellow for the City of Calimesa. During his time in Calimesa, he assisted in the writing of several city policies including the creation of Calimesa’s new fire department. Previously, he held the position of Director of Communications & Business Development for the Pomona Chamber of Commerce where he worked to build relationships between local businesses, nonprofits, and government organizations. Through this work he helped support economic and community development in the San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles County. Gary is dedicated to producing high-quality research and reports that inform better policies, increase investments, and strengthen community.



Sono Shah

Researcher and Center Associate

Sono is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of California Riverside, with research interests in race & ethnicity, political participation, and civic engagement in the United States. Sono’s dissertation focuses on Asian Americans and Latinos and their campaign contribution behavior where he uses administrative records from the FEC as well as survey data from the National Asian American Survey. Sono brings years of experience in the analysis of big data, and in making policy research and demographic data more accessible to various audiences. [More info]






Sunny Shao

Researcher and Center Associate

Sunny is a Ph.D. student in Political Science at the University of California Riverside. In spring 2017, Sunny joined, which features demographic data and policy research on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. She is interested in race & ethnicity, immigration, social media, political mobilization, and political participation. Her current research project focuses on political participation and civic engagement among Chinese Americans on social media platforms.



Steph DeMora

Researcher and Center Associate

Steph is a Ph.D. student in Political Science at the University of California Riverside, with research interests in gender, race & ethnicity, and political participation in the United States. Her current research focuses on the political participation and civic engagement among women in the US. In 2019, Steph joined the Center for Social Innovation to work on Census 2020 outreach efforts, focusing specifically on reaching hard to count populations in California.


Esau Casimiro Vieyra 

Researcher and Center Associate

Esaú is a Master of Public Policy student at the University of California Riverside with a concentration in Race and Immigration. Esaú’s interests include immigration policy, public opinion, political participation, and immigrant integration. Recently, Esaú has taken interest in GIS and the potential applications that it can have on immigration. In addition to CSI, he is part of the WRCOG Public Service Fellowship Program and is currently placed in the County of Riverside Executive Office – Homelessness Solutions.


Patricia Apilado

Student Assistant

Patricia is a fourth-year Public Policy student in the University of California-Riverside with a concentration in International/Foreign Policy and Policy Institutions & Processes. Last Fall 2018, she was part of the UCDC Program and interned for the Internet Education Foundation (IEF) as a Digital Marketing Intern. Through her work in IEF, she was able to be part of the State of the Net Series 2019. Patricia is interested in international relations, foreign affairs, American politics, education and tech policy. As a student assistant, Patricia has redesigned the CSI website and manages other CSI-related websites.


Eric Calderon

Student Assistant

Eric is an undergrad Public Policy student emphasizing on Policy Institutions/Processes and International/Foreign Policy after transferring from East Los Angeles College. As a student assistant, he supports the center with its many different projects such as the launch of the Racial Data website, its involvement in the Inland Empire Complete Count Committee for the 2020 Census and the Inland California Rising summits. He hopes to share his experiences and knowledge while further advancing his professional career by learning from the community he serves. 


Adrian Fonseca

Student Assistant

Adrian Fonseca is third year Business Administration student with a concentration in Information Systems in the School of Business at UCR. As a student assistant for the Center for Social Innovation, he has focused on projects associated with the six-month fellowship program and a member of the scheduling team for CSI. In addition to CSI, he is involved with the Association of Latino Professionals For America and TRIO Scholars Student Support Services. He looks forward to continue contributing and developing as a professional with the team.


Tammy Marquez

Student Assistant

Tamara Marquez is a 3rd year Media and Culture Studies major currently pursuing a double major in Spanish at UCR. She is passionate about volunteering and being part of organizations that give back to the community, specifically to the undocumented community as she can relate to their struggle. Tamara’s recent internship experiences have encouraged her to pursue a career in the marketing industry or communications. With the opportunity of helping the social media/marketing team at the Center for Social Innovation she hopes to find a passion that will guide her towards Graduate School. Tamara enjoys taking photos of friends and editing them.

CSI Faculty


Cecilia Ayon-Profiles

Cecilia Ayón

Director, Immigration Working Group

Cecilia Ayón is an Associate Professor at the School of Public Policy. Her research broadly examines factors that promote and hinder Latino immigrant families’ wellbeing, health disparities, and intervention development and evaluation. Her research has been founded by the Silberman Foundation and the Foundation for Child Development. She is currently carrying out a large mixed methods study on the ethnic-racial socialization process among Latino immigrant families. The study examines the impact of restrictive state level immigration policies and discrimination on parenting practices.



Michael Bates

Co-Director, Economic Mobility Group

Michael Bates is an assistant professor of economics and co-director of the economic mobility group at the University of California, Riverside. He earned his Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 2015, where he studied labor economics, econometrics, and the economics of education. His work brings economic analysis to labor and education policy, employing and developing rigorous statistical methods to uncover causal and generalizable effects. This work has been published in leading economic and education journals such as the Journal of Labor Economics and the Journal of Education and Behavioral Statistics and has been discussed in the Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, and on NPR. [More info]



Loren Collingwood

Co-Director, Civic Engagement Group

Loren is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at University of California, Riverside. His research and teaching interests include American politics, political behavior, race and ethnic politics, and political methodology. He received his Ph.D. in political science from University of Washington in 2012, and his B.A. from California State University, Chico, with a stint in between at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research in Washington, DC. His dissertation and upcoming book examines cross-racial political campaigning where candidates and voters are of different racial/ethnic backgrounds. [More info]


Kevin M. Esterling

Kevin M. Esterling

Senior Researcher, Civic Engagement Group

Kevin Esterling is professor of public policy and political science at the University of California, Riverside. His research identifies the conditions that lead citizens to engage constructively in public discourse. His latest book is Politics with the People: Building a Directly Representative Democracy (with Michael Neblo and David Lazer, forthcoming on Cambridge University Press). His work has appeared in many academic journals such as Science, The Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, The American Political Science Review, and Political Analysis. His work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. He received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago in 1999.


Catherine Gudis-Profiles

Catherine Gudis

Co-Director, Place Making Group

Catherine Gudis is Director of the Public History Program at UCR and teaches classes in public history and 20th century U.S. history, building on her twin interests in modern consumer culture and cultural and urban constructions of race, space, and place. For more than 20 years, Gudis has worked as a curator and consultant to art and history museums and in the field of historic preservation and has received public and private grants to conduct community-engaged scholarship. Gudis was a Scholar at the Getty Research Institute in 2012-13, and has held fellowships at the Huntington Library and at Harvard University’s Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History. She received her Ph.D. in American Studies (with distinction) from Yale University, where she also won the Yale Teaching Prize.


Francisco Pedraza-Profiles

Francisco Pedraza

Co-Director, Civic Engagement Group

Francisco I. Pedraza (Ph.D. University of Washington, 2010) is a political scientist at University of California, Riverside with appointments in the School of Public Policy and the Department of Political Science. He is the coordinator of the Politics of Race, Immigration, and Ethnicity Consortium. Francisco’s research centers on political attitude formation and political behavior, with a special emphasis on the attitudes and behaviors of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. His research draws on sociological, psychological, and policy processes theoretical frameworks to better understand individual-level policy preferences, electoral candidate preferences, political knowledge, and other political orientations like trust in government. His substantive research interests also include the relationship between immigration policy and health policy. [More info]


Ellen Reese-Profiles

Ellen Reese

Director, Economic Mobility Group

Ellen Reese is Professor of Sociology and Chair of Labor Studies at the University of California, Riverside. Her research focuses on gender, race, and class, welfare state development, social movements, and poverty and work. She is author of They Say Cutback; We Say Fightback! Welfare Activism in an Era of Retrenchment (2011, American Sociological Association’s Rose Series) and Backlash Against Welfare Mothers: Past and Present(2005, University of California Press). She is also co-author of The World Social Forums and the Challenges of Global Democracy (2007, Paradigm Publishers) and co-editor of The Wages of Empire: Neoliberal Policies, Repression, and Women’s Poverty (2007, Paradigm Publishers) and A Handbook of World Social Forum Activism (2012, Paradigm Publishers).