Meet the Lab

Meet the Graduate Students

Gabriel Zita

Gabriel is from Chicago, and he received his undergraduate degree in Psychology from Union College in 2021. He began the Social Psychology Ph.D. track in Fall 2021. He is interested in the intersection of perspectives of Latinx immigrants and mental health and well-being ramifications. His MA research focuses on components of ideology systems that shape attitudes about immigrants and immigration. In his free time, Gabriel enjoys making tea and playing badminton.

Alicia Avitia

Alicia graduated with a BA in Psychology from UNL. She worked in the Race and Ethnic Psychology Lab during her undergraduate training. Then, she moved to sunny Hawaii for graduate training at University of Hawaii, Hilo, where she received the MA in Clinical Psychology. She has been working as a therapist but has decided she loves research and has rejoined the Race and Ethnic Psychology Lab to continue to examine Latinx health and wellbeing. 

Ivan Avila

Ivan was a student at UNL through the Minority Health Disparities Initiative's REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) during Summer 2014. As part of the program, he was a research assistant on a study that examined Latinx stressors, psychological dysfunction, and coping strategies. Ivan graduated from University of Texas, Brownsville in May 2015, as the last class at UTB before the big reorganization into University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV)! He completed an MA at UTRGV, and we are collaborating on issues related to Latinx stress and health disparities. He lives in Washington, DC. 




Meet the Current Research Assistants

Isabella Lucero

Bella is a junior from Denver, Colorado majoring in Psychology and minoring in Criminal Justice, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, and Dance. Her research interests include how marginalized communities are impacted by the criminal justice system and eliminating inequitable treatment in the community based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or any other identities. Her hobbies include spending time with her friends and family, traveling, and drinking a lot of coffee. 

McKenna Varlack

McKenn (she/they/them pronouns) is from Wichita, Kansas. Her research interests revolve around racism, white supremacy, and hate groups, particulary for women members of such groups. Her hobbies include playing music on the baritone, reading books, and playing video games. 


James Eshleman

James Eshleman is a Senior from Overland Park, KS. Currently, he is a Marketing and Management major with an interest in Psychology.  He believes studying the human experience in general is fascinating. His current project involves psychological dysfunction and how it impacts people of color, particularly those who have been involved in juvenile justice at a young age. He plans to pursue a post-graduate education in counseling psychology. He loves spending time with friends and family, exploring new places, and running.

Symone Parent

Symone is a Sophomore Psychology major, originally from Chicago, but now living in Gretna, NE. She is interested in health and well being for people of color. She will be working on a project that examines how empathy relates to support for mental health services within the criminal justice system.



Kiley Gilbert

Kiley received the MA in social psychoogy from University of Minnesota. Kiley is interested in how race biases influence decision making in legal contexts. She is also interested in the effects of exoneration on subsequent perceptions of exonerees. She was a 2017-2018 UCARE recipient and the research focused on the issue of cultural inertia and the meaning for patriotism attitudes and threat perceptions. She was a 2018 McNair Scholar. During the McNair program, she examined the issue of perceptions of exonerees, based on race and socio-economic status. 


Daniel Nguyen

Daniel is in a graduate program in clinical psychology at University of Illinois. He is interested in the way identity influences people of color in the LGBTQA community. He is currently conducting research on the importance of an integrated identity for wellbeing.

Kendra Quiroz

Kendra is in an education graduate program at UNL. She has interests in Latinx studies and psychology, and she is working on a bias scale that identifies race bias against Latinos. Kendra received a UCARE award for 2019-2020 and for 2020-2021.

Past Graduate Student Lab Members

Scott Freng, PhD Scott is now a professor of practice at University of Wyoming.
Lisa Harrison, PhD Lisa is a professor at California State University, Sacramento.
Russ Espinoza, PhD Russ is a professor at California State University, Fullerton. He and Dr. Willis Esqueda continue to collaborate on research related to Latinx issues, and particulary Latinx defendants and legal outcomes.
Leslie Martinez, PhD Leslie received the PhD in December 2015. She is teaching at University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas.

If you are interested in joining our lab, please contact Dr. Willis-Esqueda.