Jigna Desai is a professor in the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies and the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Minnesota. She researches issues of race, gender, and sexuality in media. She has also written extensively on issues of racial and gender disparities and social justice. She has long been an advocate for underrepresented students of color within higher education.  For the last decade, she has focused on the role of digital learning in the classroom; she is especially interested in how digital tools can be integrated to empower students and further social justice. Desai also researches how to support the civil rights and disability rights of autistic people. Connect with her on Twitter: @feMNistProf.

Kari Smalkoski is a researcher in the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. Her research and teaching focus on masculinity, gender and identity, inequality, education and political economy, and youth. She writes about Asian American youths’ experiences in and out of schools. Kari is currently writing a book about Hmong youth, which is influenced by her many years as a teacher in high school and college classrooms.


Srija Chatterjea-Sen is a first-generation, South Asian, aspiring journalist. She recently graduated from UMN with a B.A in Communications Studies, with a Global Studies minor concerted in Human Rights and Justice, and the Islamic World. She is a returning intern to the MYSS program and is consistently awed by the vulnerability and creativity that students engaged with MYSS share. She is also interested in youth education, and how teaching students to embrace the implications of their identities and actions can shape them to be empathetic leaders, creators, and thinkers.

Jojo Greniger is a senior at the U of M! My degree will be in American Studies with a minor in Political Science. I am an only child from a small town in Northern MN. I am especially interested in education and using music as a tool for learning. In my spare time I like reading and watching documentaries, and my Hogwarts house is Gryffindor.

Jesse Her is a Junior here at the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities. I transferred from St. Cloud State in hopes of pursuing a BS in Computer Science, but life happened and now I’m pursuing my passion in writing and hope to one day become a journalist, reporting for BuzzFeed or VICE News. I am the second youngest of 11 siblings. I love writing, photography and videography. On my spare time I hang out with my friends, play volleyball when the weather is warm and nice, gaming, reading about the news, and traveling.

Bruno Indig is a Junior at the University of Minnesota studying History and Political Science, both with a focus on social justice. I am particularly interested in pursuing a future in the educational realm. My dream is to be a teacher, although I’m not sure if my future lies in the United States or abroad. In my free time I love taking long walks, watching soccer and spending time with my friends.

Zack Machacek is a junior at the University of Minnesota. He is pursuing a degree in history as he immerses himself in the vast world of education while taking courses in social and racial justice within school settings. Zack plans to graduate in 2020 and then pursue a Master of Education before becoming a social studies teacher in either a middle or high school.

DeAnna Moeller is a senior at the University of Minnesota graduating in May with a degree in Gender, Women, Sexuality Studies and a minor in Leadership. She enjoys reading, painting, watching Netflix with her girlfriend Abbi, and playing with her ten pets. She is passionate about social justice and hopes to work advocating for Queer youth in her future career.

Judy Nguyen is a 5th year literary, cultural, and feminist studies major. Full time beagle and plant mama studying (and struggling with) life through literature, language, and a litanies of theories. Her passions include reading, writing, cooking, looking at dog blogs, thinking about food justice and food sovereignty, and watching things grow.

Nathan Perez is originally from Milwaukee, WI, is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities studying Sociology and Global Studies. He is a member of the DirecTrack to Teaching program and intends to pursue a career in education after graduation. He also works as a Tutor and Teaching Assistant for the TRiO Upward Bound program, mentoring low income and first generation high school students as they strive for college readiness and professional life. When not in class or at work, you can find him procrastinating homework through sports, music, TV shows & movies, the outdoors, or simply chilling with friends and family.

Emily Wolyniec is in her final semester, studying History with a minor that focuses on Racial Justice in Urban Schooling. She plans on becoming a social studies teacher that brings social justice to the forefront of her classroom, so the Minnesota Youth Story Squad is a great place for her to grow and learn from students. She is passionate about engaging in critical discussion with students to imagine and work towards a better world for all. When she needs to recharge, she spends plenty of time with her two dogs.

Intern Alumni

Michelle Abdon is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota. She loves immersing herself in the Twin Cities’ spoken word poetry scene and is an avid videographer and artist. Michelle has seen the way art can empower and liberate her peers and is always trying to find ways to use art as a way to mobilize social change. She is ecstatic to be a part of this team and looks forward to reimagining the ways we support youth through multi-media, storytelling, and community building.

Jada Brown is in their third year of undergraduate at the University of Minnesota pursuing an individually designed major in American Indian Studies, Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies, and Global Studies. They are a local musician and spoken word poet who is passionate about engaging in creative resistance work. Being able to mentor and work alongside middle schoolers in creating and sharing their own digital stories is really important and exciting work as they recognize that knowledge is power that we can all use to resist, make change, and heal as individuals and our communities.

Katie Erickson is currently a senior at the University of Minnesota. She anticipates to graduate this May -majoring in Philosophy with a minor in Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies. After graduation, she plans to work with art and youth in whatever creative form that ends up taking!

Lizz Fong is a Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies and Creative Writing student at the University of Minnesota. She enjoys reading, writing, and cooking.

Jasmine Gill is a senior creating an individualized degree in Communications, Sociology, and Technical Writing at the University of Minnesota. She is currently the Communications Director for MYSS. This internship brings together her three core values of community, storytelling, and empowerment. In her spare time, she enjoys consuming pop culture media and trying out local coffee shops.

Kylie Halverson is a senior at the University of Minnesota in Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies and Anthropology. She came to this project with an interest in Arts Education reflective of her own education background. She graduated from the Perpich Center for Arts Education where she was afforded her own opportunities to work with mentors on expanding creative thinking and cultivating her voice and standpoint. That experience was especially influential over her growth and interests as an adult and she says she can only hope to provide a similar mentorship for the students in the project.

Kub Hang is a rising senior with a focus in Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance and a minor in Asian American Studies. He is a second generation Hmong American and the youngest of seven children. Kub has worked at the State Capitol as a Capitol Pathway’s Intern with the focus on education policy. This past summer, he was an intern with Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP), based in Los Angeles, that focused on developing and bringing forth more representation of Asian Pacific leaders in various work sectors. Currently, he is a student coordinator for the Asian Pacific American Resource that works with first and second year API college students.

Sammy Miller is a senior at the University of Minnesota, majoring in Psychology and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. They are passionate about social justice, mental health advocacy, self care, and empowering others. Eventually, Sammy plans on going to graduate school for either social work or counseling.

Cali Odeen is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, majoring in Biomedical Engineering and minoring in Gender Women Sexuality Studies. She is, at her core, a creative, a trait not often found in the biomedical engineering field, pushing her to find opportunities to innovate through art. Having mentored kids since the age of 12, Cali is passionate about this opportunity to give young voices and outlet to talk about important social justice issues.

Emely Sanchez is a student of Gender Women and Sexuality Studies and Chicano Studies at the University of Minnesota. She is in a constant search for information and inspiration. She is a creator of art. She is interested in developing ways get youth to use and view art as a life-long tool because creativity should be cultivated, integrated and embraced by the education system.

Lexus Stokes is a second-year undergraduate student majoring in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. She has a special interest in sexual health education, and works as a Teaching Assistant for the course Sexuality Matters, in addition to working as a coordinator for the U of M student group SHADE (Sexual Health Awareness and Disease Education). Lexus is a strong believer in the ability of youth and art to create social change, which drew her to this partnership.

Sam Thompson is a senior, graduating this May with a degree in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, with a Public Health minor. She graduated from North High School in Minneapolis, in 2006. She is a huge geek, spending her free time playing board games and attending science fiction conventions. Her dream is to teach sex education to high schoolers.



Lars Mackenzie headshotLucas Lynch has his Master’s degree in Latin American Studies and a Bachelor’s in Anthropology. He is particularly interested in how to address race and racism in curriculum to support educational equity in middle and high school contexts. He finds the MYSS effort particularly unique, powerful, and relevant for his own interests to support social justice and educational equity in school systems. In his free time, he likes to fish, play tennis, camp, take road trips, and spend time with his family.