Study Abroad Faculty Bios

Ron Felzer – Merritt College – Biology/Natural History

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Ron is a native of the Midwest and received a B.S. degree in Forest Management from Michigan Technological University and a M.S. degree in Forest Science from the University of California, Berkeley. He has written trail guides to the Sierra Nevada for Wilderness Press since the early 1970’s.  Ron has travelled, hiked and studied natural history on six continents.

Ron is retired from full-time teaching after teaching biology, forestry and environmental studies courses at Merritt College from 1970 to 2004. He currently teaches about two natural history field courses per year at Merritt College. Several of his offerings include “Natural History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition from the Rockies to the Pacific”, “Natural History of Western Australia”, “Natural History of the Bay Area-The State Parks, Part I”, “Natural History and Anthropology of Baja, California,” “Jasper and Banff National Parks, Canada,” “Native Americans and the Environment of Vancouver, Island, Canada,” “Amazon in Peru,” “Natural History of New Zealand,” and “Natural History of Costa Rica” In Summer 2010, he taught two 2-week fee-based field courses in Hokkaido, Japan with 4 students and 6 students, respectively. In Summer 2011, he taught one 2-week fee-based field class to Newfoundland, Canada and in Summer 2012, he taught one 2-week fee-based field class to the Swiss Alps, with four students.

Swiss Alps

Isela Gonzalez Santana – Merritt College – Puente English

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I am a tenured English instructor at Merritt College. I am also a co-coordinator of the Puente Program at Merritt.  I was born and raised in San Francisco by Mexican immigrant parents.  I graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in English and received my Masters degree from Harvard University in Education with an emphasis in Language and Literacy.  I would like to consider myself a strong advocate for students and am a strong proponent for assisting students to transfer into public and private universities.  Aside from researching the civil war, students also participated in a service-learning project through fundraising for school and medical supplies that were transported to the most impoverished areas of El Salvador.

In 2007, I created a research class titled English 48, Research of El Salvador’s Civil War and in 2008, I took a group of students to El Salvador with an Oakland-based organization called CRECE- a Central American refugee assistance program.  We stayed in the City of San Salvador and took daily trips to rural areas that were most devastated by the civil war of the ’80’s.  Students met with a variety of organizations that were directly involved with the revolutionary party, FMLN, including women’s groups that are working on self-subsistence living projects.

This trip was an absolute life-changing experience for me and for my students.  I encourage all students to strongly consider enrolling in a study abroad class because it will expand their world-view, connect them to real-world experience and will make them stronger candidates for future research opportunities.

El Salvador

Victoria Robertson – Berkeley City College – Spanish

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Victoria Robertson was born in Moscow (Russia) to a Spanish father and a Russian mother.  In 1971 she moved to Madrid (Spain) where she initiated her studies of the Spanish language and literature.   Victoria holds a Ph.D in Spanish literature from the University of Washington in Seattle.  Since 1991 Victoria has been living in the Bay Area teaching Spanish language and literature in various local universities and colleges.   She has been part of Peralta faculty since 2002.  Victoria has traveled widely in Europe, has been to Mexico, Peru and Cuba and is hoping to see more of the Spanish speaking world in the future.

In June 2013 a group of BCC students took a trip to Cuba.  It was 30 of us, a large group of students eager to learn about a new place, new culture, new social structure.  Even though we had a relatively short time in Cuba, our experience was quite complete.  In a week’s time we explored Havana, visited Hemingway’s estate in Cojimar, spent a day in a self-sustaining community in Las Terrazas, visited museums, neighborhoods, a National School of Ballet, an orphanage and more.  Almost every day we had interesting lectures given by Cuban natives on the topics of health, education and art.  All lecturers were excellent,  and so were our local guides.  We also ate in several “paladares”, the newly open privately owned restaurants, spent an evening at a Buena Vista Social Club and saw a ballet performance.  This is only a very general description of what we did, there was much more.  It’s almost impossible to believe we accomplished so much in just a few days.  Over all it was a great experience.

Cuba (Summer 2013)

Dr. Siri Brown – Merritt College – African American Studies

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Dr. Siri Brown has a passion for imparting the beauty of African history and heritage and a commitment to teaching in a manner that brings the past to life. In the classroom she emphasizes the necessity for historically informed political activism and the power that young people have to make positive change. She was born in Oakland, California and completed her BA in Psychology and Ethnic Studies from the University of Washington. While in college she became active in student issues including the anti-apartheid movement and issues of violence against women of color. As a grassroots organizer she worked in the sexual assault prevention and violence against women movements and became increasingly aware of dynamics of race, class and gender and the need for an inclusive ideology in our liberation struggles.

Desiring to continue her education she received an MA in African American Studies and Ph.D. in History from The Ohio State University. Dr.Brown has been teaching African American Studies for over 15 years and has been the Chair of African American Studies at Merritt College since 2004. While chair she instigated and worked with her colleagues to institute “Black Consciousness Raising Tours” that broaden the Pan-African experience of students by immersing them in engaged learning in Jamaica, Kemet, Haiti, Ghana, Panama, and Cuba. Her department has conducted over 3 trips per year impacting hundreds of students who had never left the country before and were thus introduced to the global Black experience. Most recently (August, 2012) she took 20 students to Jamaica to celebrate Marcus Garvey’s Birthday and do homestays in a rural Maroon Community.

As chair she successfully advocated for the construction of the “Africana Studies Research Center” at Merritt College to open in the summer of 2013. The center houses interactive museum learning modules on computer where students research, learn and test their knowledge on the history of Africa and her people including Oakland’s proud and defiant history of the Black Panther Party whose founding members Huey P Newton and Bobby Seale were Merritt College students. Most recently, Dr. Brown has received a Fulbright Grant form the Department of Education to take 12 OUSD and Merritt faculty to Bahia Brazil for 30 days of intensive research and engagement on the African presence in the region with the directive of creating African Centered curriculum of Diaspora that will be taught in Oakland High Schools.

Her research is on the history of the Black Studies Movement in CCCs and the history of race and rape in 19th century U.S. She is the great granddaughter of a long line of strong ancestors including “Big Mamma” Briggs who passed at 99 years old, the daughter of Victoria Hill and Danny Briggs, and the mother of two sons Olaseni and Manu (17 and 14 respectively).

Andrea V. Lee – Laney College – Dance

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Andrea Vonny Lee is a dancer, choreographer and dance educator, having performed and taught Nationally and Internationally for 20 years.  Lee’s instruction offers an exuberance and unique flare of rhythmic combinations with a technical approach rooted in Modern/Dunham, Jazz and Ballet. Lee’s distinctive style combines her training as a modern dancer with intensive study in Haitian and South African dance.  Andrea completed her dance studies at San Francisco State University with additional training at the Alvin Ailey School of Dance, Martha Graham studio in New York and is highly influenced by her master class trainings with Garth Fagan dance.  She has performed in Cuba, Ghana, and throughout the United States.  Committed towards the on-going curriculum and program development of dance, Ms. Lee developed a course for the Dance Department to support global education in the District and leads the department’s study abroad programs in dance.

Ghana (Summer 2010)