2023-2024 Executive Board

Co-President: Kayla Fernando | kayla.fernando@duke.edu

My name is Kayla Fernando and I’m the Co-President of Duke F1RSTS. I’m a second-generation Filipino-American from Long Island, New York and graduated from Boston College in 2018 with a degree in biology. I’m a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Neurobiology Department studying plasticity mechanisms involved in motor learning in the cerebellum. I consider myself a first-generation graduate student because I’m the first in my family to pursue a graduate degree and the first to have been educated entirely in the United States. Outside of lab, I like to cook and practice Filipino martial arts.

Co-President: Minel Arinel | minel.arinel@duke.edu

My name is Minel Arinel, and I am the Co-President of Duke F1RSTS. I am a first-generation Ph.D. student in the Department of Neurobiology, studying the gut-brain communication and psychedelics in zebrafish. As an international student from Turkey, I hope to help other first-gen students with similar backgrounds, so feel free to reach out!

Treasurer: Nitin Luthra | nitin.luthra@duke.edu

My name is Nitin Luthra and I am the Treasurer of Duke F1RSTS. I am a first-generation learner from India currently pursuing a Ph.D. in the English Department. My research interests include critical and political theories of ethics, human rights, and violence. I am presently studying post-colonial literatures with a particular emphasis on contemporary refugee cultural texts. I have taught and advised undergraduate students from rural/working-class communities and underrepresented populations at higher educational institutions in India and the U.S. for several years. Having first-hand knowledge of the struggles faced by learners from communities with limited resources to support their education, I hope to share my journey with and provide support to first-gen scholars from across the world.

Co-Outreach Coordinator: Paula Collado Cordon | paula.collado.cordon@duke.edu

Hi everyone! My name is Paula Collado, and I am one of the Outreach Coordinators of Duke F1RSTS. I am from Granada, Spain, and I moved to Orlando, Florida for my undergrad. I am a third-year Ph.D. student in the Biology Department studying the effects of salt stress in plant immune response. As an international, first-gen graduate student, I am very excited about sharing my experience with those who have similar situations to mine, and I look forward to engaging with everyone and create a solid support system during this new chapter of your lives! Feel free to reach out if you want to chat about Duke F1RSTS, life in Durham, sports, or anything else!

Co-Outreach Coordinator: Tatiana Farmer | tatiana.farmer@duke.edu

Tatiana Farmer was born and raised in North Carolina. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she double majored in Global Studies and Psychology with a minor in Japanese. Tatiana participated in a range of internationally oriented extracurricular and professional opportunities. She traveled to Japan three times through the Kakehashi project, as a Gilman scholar, and as a FLAS recipient. After graduating, Tatiana joined a law firm in North Carolina. Tatiana will be pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Policy at Duke University before entering the Foreign Service as a Public Diplomacy Officer. Tatiana enjoys learning languages and has studied Japanese and Korean at university. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, traveling, and watching food blogs.

Communications Director: Jess Portillo | jessica.portillo@duke.edu 

Hello, my name is Jess Portillo and I am the Communications Director of Duke F1RSTS. I am a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology investigating host-microbe interactions. Being a first-generation graduate student of Salvadoran descent, I aspire to be a valuable resource for other first-generation students.

Institutional Support Initiative: Eric Rios Soderman | eric.riossoderman@duke.edu

My name is Eric Rios. I am a former tutor and Data Analyst from the Student Support Services program in USC, Puerto Rico. The program actively served first generation, low-income, and disabled students. The majority population we served was primarily low-income and first generation. Throughout my time there, I found it very rewarding to help students acclimate to studying in Higher Ed and learn skills needed for them to thrive as adults. This included technology workshops, resumé sessions, tutoring in subjects known to be high risk for students, as well as other activities. I joined the Duke F1RSTS organization as an extension of the process I started years before. Just like the rest of the members, I am also first generation and low income, and I’ll never forget the first time I needed an explanation on student loans, credits and scholarships.

Data Analyst: Anshuman Sabath | anshuman.sabath@duke.edu

My Name is Anshuman Sabath and I am a first year PhD Student in Biomedical Engineering working on computational neuroscience. As a first-gen international student from India, I realize there is a lot of nuances to the student life in USA. I believe that with the efforts of Duke F1RSTS, we can create a more equitable access to education for students from all walks of life.  Hence, I am eager to be of help to other first-gen students.

Executive Board Alumni:

Derrick Adam

Amanda Breton 

Urann Chan

Brandon Lê 

Felicia Lim

Alyssa Russell

Anna Truong