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Summer 2021 Program Participant Spotlight: Areli Ariana

Areli Ariana is part of the University of Michigan Graduate Student Cohort of the Summer 2021 U-M/UPR Curriculum Design Program. Learn more about Ariana and why they chose to apply to this year’s program below!

Areli Ariana

Areli Ariana is a third-year dual-degree Master of Public Health and Master of Urban and Regional Planning student. They are driven by their love for their community and aims to plan for community resilience in the face of climate change through intentional emergency preparedness that encourages community involvement. 


My previous teaching experience and public health background helped prepare me for the UM/UPR Curriculum Program on Global Health. My academic interests include planning for community resilience in the face of climate change, with an investment in the intersection of immigration status, gender, socioeconomic status, and race. I applied to the program because I am eager to learn from Puerto Rico educators and draw on my passion for interdisciplinary curriculum design. I am excited to see how my pedagogical talk on Trans Health in Japan is adapted to best meet the needs of Puerto Rican Teachers.

– Areli Ariana on their decision to apply to the 2021 Summer Program

Summer 2021 Program Participant Spotlight: Paloma Contreras

Paloma Contreras is part of the University of Michigan Graduate Student Cohort of the Summer 2021 U-M/UPR Curriculum Design Program. Learn more about Contreras and why she chose to apply to this year’s program below!

Paloma Contreras

Paloma Contreras is Ph.D candidate in Biological Anthropology. She obtained a B.A. degree in Anthropology from the University of Chile. In her doctoral research, Paloma investigates the effects of water insecurity in physical and mental health among women from Mexico City, using a biocultural approach. She is also studying the socio-cultural aspects that influence the use of lead-free glazes in artisanal ceramic cookware in Mexico. Paloma’s research interests include environmental health, biocultural anthropology, and Latinx studies. 


As someone who identifies as Latinx, I strongly believe that sharing what I have learned about health and environmental justice with non-academic communities is tremendously important and motivating. I thought the UM/UPR Curriculum Program on Global Health would be a great opportunity to collaborate with educators with the goal of presenting my research in an engaging and challenging way. I also applied to this program because I strongly believe that K-12 Puerto Rican students can benefit from analyzing and understanding complex health issues from a global perspective that centers equity and justice. I hope my participation in this program serves to facilitate resources for Puerto Rican teachers to bring into their classrooms!

– Paloma Contreras on her decision to apply to the 2021 Summer Program

Summer 2021 Program Participant Spotlight: Linda Camaj Deda

Linda Camaj Deda is part of the University of Michigan Graduate Student Cohort of the Summer 2021 U-M/UPR Curriculum Design Program. Learn more about Camaj Deda and why she chose to apply to this year’s program below!

Linda Camaj Deda

Linda Camaj Deda is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Michigan Medical School. She majored in Biomolecular Science and Spanish at the University of Michigan. Her interests include diversity and health equity, immunocompromised populations, and asylum medicine. She plans to apply for residency in Dermatology and make asylum medicine part of her future career.  Outside of medical school, Linda enjoys dancing Albanian valle with her family, watching legal dramas, and eating dessert.


I am very passionate about educating and mentoring students. Prior to medical school, I taught Spanish language to third, fourth, and fifth graders at Pittsfield Elementary and Martin Luther King Elementary through the Ann Arbor Languages Partnership (A2LP) and I taught various subjects through the Student Connection to K-12 students. During medical school, I have enjoyed mentoring and coaching three pre-medical students.

I was very excited when I came across the opportunity to collaborate with Puerto Rican teachers on developing a global health curriculum. I applied to the UM/UPR Curriculum program because I thought this was a fantastic opportunity to exchange knowledge and present my research with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) as a topic for teaching.

My work focuses on the psychological effects of migration and forced family separations on Central American asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border. The aim of my pedagogical talk is to inspire educators and to engage students with qualitative methods as a tool for learning, research, and advocacy.

– Linda Camaj Deda on her decision to apply to the 2021 Summer Program

Summer 2021 Program Participant Spotlight: Daniel Iddrisu

Daniel Iddrisu is part of the University of Michigan Graduate Student Cohort of the Summer 2021 U-M/UPR Curriculum Design Program. Learn more about Iddrisu and why he chose to apply to this year’s program below!

Daniel Iddrisu

Daniel Iddrisu is pursuing a Masters degree in International and Regional Studies with an African Studies specialization. He obtained a BA degree from the University for Development Studies, Ghana (2017). He worked as a teaching assistant with the University for Development Studies, (2017/2018). His research focuses on gender, development, and health. He is currently writing his thesis on “Female-headed households and access to healthcare services for children within such household in Ghana”.


I applied for this program because I view it as an opportunity to share my research for others to benefit from the knowledge been generated. Also, a program of this nature that brings a lot of scholars from different academic backgrounds, provides an atmosphere to learn new ideas and perspectives that will be beneficial for both sides, and also create an opportunity for future collaborations.

– Daniel Iddrisu on his decision to apply to the 2021 Summer Program

Summer 2021 Program Participant Spotlight: Janaki Phillips

Janaki Phillips is part of the University of Michigan Graduate Student Cohort of the Summer 2021 U-M/UPR Curriculum Design Program. Learn more about Phillips and why she chose to apply to this year’s program below!

Janaki Phillips

Janaki Phillips is a 6th year PhD candidate in sociocultural anthropology. After her original dissertation research was interrupted by the pandemic in 2020, she made the difficult decision to switch her dissertation research topic to a comparative project on the digital practices of tarot readers in Mumbai and Los Angeles. She is interested in how tarot is being used as a divinatory tool, what other forms of spiritual and social practices it is embedded in, and how people negotiate their futures and uncertainty through the medium of tarot. Her new project is being supported by a Rackham Humanities Research Fellowship. 

She is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the UM-UPR curriculum design program for the second time, and is excited about connecting High School teachers in Puerto Rico with innovative teaching materials.

Summer 2021 Program Participant Spotlight: Andrea Elmore

Andrea Elmore is part of the University of Michigan Graduate Student Cohort of the Summer 2021 U-M/UPR Curriculum Design Program. Learn more about Elmore and why she chose to apply to this year’s program below!

Andrea Elmore

Andrea Elmore is from Michigan and received a BSW from Mississippi Valley State University, and is a recent MSW graduate from the University of Michigan. Her focus is a global perspective in the Caribbean and Latin America, assisting youth in understanding their right to education and/or job training.


I applied to this program because of my passion to educate youth to understand their environment and history. By helping youth grow and better their lives for themselves and their environment there can be progress in global health.

– Andrea Elmore on her decision to apply to the 2021 Summer Program

Summer 2021 Program Participant Spotlight: Emma Willoughby

Emma Willoughby is part of the University of Michigan Graduate Student Cohort of the Summer 2021 U-M/UPR Curriculum Design Program. Learn more about Willoughby and why she chose to apply to this year’s program below!

Emma Willoughby

Emma is a 3rd year PhD student in the Departments of Health Management and Policy and Political Science studying food policy and public health governance. She has cross-disciplinary training in sociology, international health policy and political science. Her regional specialization includes Vietnam.


Before starting my PhD I lived abroad teaching high school students in South Korea where I worked collaboratively with fellow Korean teachers. Our lessons were multi-disciplinary, required lots of student engagement, and involved teaching difficult social and political issues. I thought this collaborative program with the University of Puerto Rico would be a great chance to offer up my skills, learn from educators, and contribute to cross-cultural collaboration. I also thought it was a cool opportunity to share my research interests in food security and public health directly with teachers.

– Emma Willoughby on her decision to apply to the 2021 Summer Program

Summer 2021 Program Participant Spotlight: Sydney Fine

Sydney Fine is part of the University of Michigan Graduate Student Cohort of the Summer 2021 U-M/UPR Curriculum Design Program. Learn more about Fine and why she chose to apply to this year’s program below!

Sydney Fine

Sydney Fine is pursuing a Master of Public Health in Global Health Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Prior to coming to the University of Michigan, Sydney attended The College of Wooster for a B.A. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and worked at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center conducting research on the evolution of HIV. Her current research at the University of Michigan involves characterizing non-influenza, non-SARS-CoV-2 respiratory viruses during the pandemic year in Dr. Emily Martin’s lab. She spent this past summer as an Infection Prevention intern at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When she’s not thinking about viruses, she’s often thinking about what new recipe to bake, where to go on an outdoor adventure, or puns.


I am extremely passionate about educating young people and providing them with exciting opportunities to explore topics in which they are interested. I have been teaching and mentoring students in a variety of capacities for many years and could not pass up this opportunity to connect with Puerto Rican teachers to aide in curriculum development. Additionally, I am a relative newcomer to the field of Global Public Health and had every intention to do my internship abroad this summer had it been safe to do so. I was so thrilled to come across an opportunity to engage with populations outside of the contiguous United States virtually to attempt to apply some of my newfound skills from my first year of coursework. This program was a fantastic way to interact with Puerto Rican educators, build my skills in curriculum writing, and talk about shared research interests with many new colleagues.

– Sydney Fine on her decision to apply to the 2021 Summer Program

Summer 2021 Program Participant Spotlight: Sheng Zou

Sheng Zou is part of the University of Michigan Graduate Student Cohort of the Summer 2021 U-M/UPR Curriculum Design Program. Learn more about Zou and why he chose to apply to this year’s program below!

Sheng Zou

Dr. Sheng Zou is an interdisciplinary media scholar and a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan’s International Institute. He completed his Ph.D. in Communication at Stanford University. His research interests span a range of topical areas, including global media industries, new media and social transition, digital journalism, platform economy and labor, emerging technologies and governance. Zou has written extensively

on various aspects of popular culture, media/tech, and politics in China. He also had rich experience teaching about globalization, digital media, technology and society at Stanford. Recently, he has been working on a research project that examines COVID-related mis- and disinformation in a transnational context.


I applied to the U-M/UPR Summer 2021 Curriculum Design Program because I recognize the importance of teaching global health topics in the COVID era not just from STEM perspectives, but from the standpoint of social sciences and humanities. We should enable students to grapple with the complex politics in the construction of discourses around health issues, and the meanings people assign to these issues. That is what I encourage the teachers and educators in Puerto Rico to do when they introduce health topics into their classrooms. My participation in this program is also motivated by my belief in the significance of boosting the exchange of knowledge and educational resources across different communities. I would love to translate my research and expertise into resources that Puerto Rican teachers can access to inspire their students. 

– Sheng Zou on his decision to apply to the 2021 Summer Program

Summer 2021 Program Participant Spotlight: Lilia Popova

Lilia Popova is part of the University of Michigan Graduate Student Cohort of the Summer 2021 U-M/UPR Curriculum Design Program. Learn more about Popova and why she chose to apply to this year’s program below!

Lilia Popova

Lilia Popova is a fourth-year medical and public health student (MD/MPH candidate). She has a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Stanford University. Her research interests include health disparities, health services, and environmental epidemiology. She plans to apply for residency in Pediatrics.  


I applied to the UM/UPR Curriculum program to share what I’ve learned from my education and research at Stanford and Michigan with Puerto Rican teachers and to practice teaching to a different audience–educators. I hope that this work will help create engaging lesson plans for Puerto Rican students and broaden their outlook on the opportunities available to pursue careers in medicine, public health, history, and academia in general. I also had done history research in my undergraduate education that directly related to this year’s UM/UPR theme of Global Health that I thought would be a fun way to engage young learners. This was the perfect way to share this work with a broader audience and hopefully introduce students to the fun of history. 

– Lilia Popova on her decision to apply to the 2021 Summer Program