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Current Graduate Students


Amanda Alfonso (Screenwriting) formed her filmic consciousness as a lonely teen, borrowing screwball comedy movies at the library and watching TCM marathons to keep the blues away. While she aims to experiment more with genre and style, she primarily writes dark comedies about people living on the periphery and their attempts to articulate their relationships, identities, and desires within that space.

When not creating characters, she’s probably listening to her favorite song on repeat (“Bad Decisions” by The Strokes) or watching something she will equally love and scoff at (French films).

She received her BFA in Motion Pictures and Television from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. 


Noah Amir Arjomand (Screenwriting) is an Iranian-American filmmaker and author. His first (co-directed, co-produced) feature-length documentary, Eat Your Catfish, is about his mother’s last years with the motor-neuron disease ALS. The film premiered in 2021 at the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam and won Best Documentary at Istanbul Film Festival.

Cambridge University Press published Noah’s first book, Fixing Stories: Local Newsmaking and International Media in Turkey and Syria, in 2022. Fixing Stories explores the worlds of the “fixers” who act as brokers between foreign reporters and local sources from behind the scenes. He has also written about politics, culture, and media in Middle East and Central Asia for Dissent, Public Culture, Tehran Bureau, The Afghanistan Analysts Network, Profil, American Anthropologist, The New Arab, and others.

Noah earned a PhD in sociology from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in public and international affairs from Princeton University. Before coming to Riverside, Noah lived in Bloomington, Indiana, where he taught at Indiana University. He likes cats and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Rudy Avelar

Rodolfo Avelar (Poetry) is a queer & nonbinary putx, poet, and artist from Fresno, CA. They hold a BA from Fresno State, where they studied English Literature and Creative Writing. Their poetry imagines futures/science-fictions/eroticas for queer people of color. They were awarded a Summer 2019 Milkweed Editions internship, in which they designed and edited book length poetry manuscripts. This work cemented their goal to work in editing to dismantle barriers of entry for queer poets of color by creating opportunities for, giving life to, and caring for queer poets of color and their work. They hope to publish, edit, & teach poetry, play lots of video games, and always listen to Charli XCX. 

Eduardo Brandi

Eduardo Brandi -he/him- (Poetry) is a native from Houston, TX, and a proud Mexican American. He attended the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University in rural Minnesota and graduated with a Bachelor’s in English in creative writing. After college, his passion for learning cultures and teaching English led him to Okinawa, Japan, as an English TA for Shogaku Okisho.

His writing can be described as capturing moments of culture through a camera lens. He hopes to use his writing as a bilingual speaker to bridge understanding between people and their space in the world. He has been published through the American Library of Poetry and has attained international awards such as the Benjamin A. Gilman and Freeman-ASIA. His hobbies include playing the guitar, boxing, watching anime, attending music concerts, and taking adventurous road trips.


Aron Brown (Fiction) is a non-binary bisexual Angeleno who learned to read at a very early age by imitating their parents, holding the book upside down, and making up most of the words. This put them on the road to composing stories for the rest of their life. Many years later, they graduated from Wellesley College with a major in Cinema and Media Studies. They are obsessed with history, literature (especially Shakespeare), comics, and tabletop RPGs. Aron also spent many years writing fanfiction, but don’t look it up.


Efren Castro -they/them- (Poetry) is a queer Latinx poet, editor, workshop presenter, and record collector originally from Lennox, CA. They are an English graduate with an MCS minor from UC Riverside who writes, designs, and publishes their own zines. Their work is inspired by the past; nostalgia, retro 80s/90s aesthetics, and stories from their past. They are dedicated to community building through the sharing and preservation of stories often lost in modern popular culture. Their poetry zine "Heartbreak Stories" was published by Mi Casita Press in March 2020 and their art zine "Days in my Life" is available now with Curious Publishing!

Aaron Chan (Creative Nonfiction) is a musician, filmmaker, and author born and raised on unceded Coast Salish territories (Vancouver, BC). He holds a BFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, and his writing has been published in literary magazines and publications including Plenitude, filling Station, Polychrome Ink, and Xtra. His piece “A Case of Jeff” won subTerrain‘s Lush Triumphant Literary Award in Creative Non-Fiction, and he has published a poetry chapbook, Romantic Hopeless. He is the author of This City Is a Minefield (Signal 8 Press), a collection of memoir and personal essays about growing up queer and Asian in Canada. His second book, The Broken Heart (Rocky Pond Books), is a children's picture book forthcoming in spring 2024. Aaron also likes cats and vegan cheesecake.
Sielo Moe't Coleman -she/her/hers- (Creative Nonfiction) is a Kentucky-born Tennessean with a BA in psychology. Sielo's writing reflects all things closest to her heart: women's rights, sexual assault awareness, real stories, true love, and growth. She aspires to solidify herself as a cross-disciplinary writer with works in biographies, societal critiques, fantasies, and screenplays. Her spare time is dedicated to supporting Black women and culture, studying astrology, learning about different cultures, embracing nature, and enjoying all kinds of food.
Emily Doyle
Emily Doyle -she/her/hers- (Fiction) writes stories that explore the relationship between self and other, with an emphasis on mental health, queerness, and mortality. Before joining UCR’s MFA program, she graduated from Stanford Law School and worked as a lawyer in Washington, DC, focusing on antitrust law and pro bono projects involving underrepresented individuals—experiences which inform her fiction. As a California native, Emily spends her time swimming, hiking, and obsessing over TV and film. She lives in LA with her fiancé and bearded dragon.
Kelsey Ferrell - she/her - (Creative Nonfiction) earned her B.A. at UC Berkeley in 2020 with a major in Development Studies (which now is known as Global Studies) and minors in both Global Poverty & Practice and Journalism. While attending college she wrote and edited satire for The Free Peach, was an active member of Songwriting at Berkeley, wrote and released her first album Trauma Portfolio, studied abroad at the University of Sussex, and began performing stand up comedy. She has spent her post grad years building a moderate TikTok following while pursuing music and stand up in Los Angeles. Kelsey’s writing explores power, corruption, wealth hoarding, and the impact of such on individual and collective pain. She dreams of one day having some cats and a house with a library that has rolling ladders.

Ava Fojtik (Playwriting) is a writer and visual artist from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. She graduated from Augsburg University in Minneapolis with a degree in World Religions. During her undergraduate career, she interned with the only Jewish community in Namibia, and had her photography published in Murphy Square and Plain China magazines. Her play “Two Men and a Woman in a House” was produced by Augsburg University in 2021. Her favorite writer is Kurt Vonnegut and her favorite food is raspberries.

Esther Gatica

Esther Gatica (Playwriting) was born and raised in San Pedro Sula, Honduras; Her formal theatre studies began at CC-Artes (Honduras). Her career path continued with Teatro Prometeo’s Acting Conservatory in Theatre Arts at  Miami Dade College (Miami, Florida). With Prometeo she has performed in: “Electra” a Rasa boxes adaptation by Fernando Calzadilla, “The Conduct of Life” written by Maria Irene Fornes and Directed by Joann Yarrow for the International Hispanic Theatre Festival in Miami, as well as several staged readings done as part of the Miami Book Fair International under the direction of Beatriz Rizk. Esther has written and directed two of her own one-act plays "On Behalf of them, Thank you" and “Lolo”, presented as part of the Arts and Philosophy Department of Miami Dade College. Esther is a recent Bachelor's in Fine Arts recipient from Oral Roberts University (Tulsa, Oklahoma). There she also performed in several productions: "Rosencrantz And Guildenstern are Dead" by Tom Stoppard, "Twelfth Night" by Shakeaspeare, and  "Lost in Yonkers" by Neil Simon, among others. Understanding the power of storytelling in all forms, she is eager to continue growing and is blessed by the opportunity to do so at UCR! Para Dios todo es posible. 

Lily Hart

Lily Hart (Playwriting) grew up in Kohler, Wisconsin before moving to Minneapolis to study history at the University of Minnesota. From there, she found her way into museums and archives as far away as London (and even further on her computer’s long reach). But the history she learned kept begging for a better editor. Embracing her long standing passion for theater and fiction she graduated Summa Cum Laude as a double major in history and English, with a minor in creative writing in spring 2019. She then explored artistic opportunities in the Twin Cities before setting out for the promise of more deadlines in sunny California.


Kristen Herbert (Fiction) is native to the Chicago area, but spent the last several years in Budapest and rural Hungary. She translates contemporary Hungarian literature to English, namely young poets. Her fiction work explores dysfunctional relationships, addiction, and dissatisfaction with the self. She is a co-editor and founder of the bilingual Hungarian-English literary journal The Penny Truth and serves on the masthead of Hungarian Literature Online. Her studies were in English Literature and Creative Writing at Roosevelt University in Chicago and the Hungarian literary translation workshop at the Balassi Institute in Budapest. In her best life she travels often.


Aaron Higareda (Playwriting) is more than excited to return home! He graduated from UCR in 2017 with a B.A. in Theater, Film, and Digital Production with an emphasis in Writing for the Performing Arts. For the last three years he fell in love with the San Francisco Bay Area theater scene where he was the 2018-2019 Marketing Fellow for the American Conservatory Theater, a house manager for Berkeley Repertory Theater and Shotgun Players, and a box office manager for Playground-SF. He is currently the Data and Membership Specialist for Theater Bay Area. Aaron has had workshop productions with CASA 0101 and El Teatro Campesino and most recently self-produced a zoom staged reading of his first full length play “You don’t even speak Spanish!”. When he is not working, writing, or worrying about working and writing, he enjoys chilling with his partner and their two crazy-ass kids!

Abby Hudgins
Abby Hudgins (Creative Nonfiction) is a Nashville, Tennessee native who graduated from the University of Mississippi with a B.A. in English, specializing in Creative Writing, and a minor in Psychology. Abby’s written work explores both familial and romantic relationships, mental health, and highlights the harsh reality of injustice and inequality that plague our world today. In addition to Nonfiction, Abby is very passionate about screenwriting for television and film. She hopes to one day have her creative endeavors painted on screen. When she isn’t writing, Abby enjoys evening walks with her dog, Debby, working on puzzles and watching psychological thriller movies.

Victoria Hurtado-Angulo (Poetry) is a Latina MFA candidate in Creative Writing at UCR. She has been a featured reader and orchestrator at open mic events, held lectures for independent and academic poetry workshops, and published poetry ranging from zines to established publications such as About Place Journal/Black Earth Institute, EveryLibrary, and Bangalore Review. Her play What these flowers do at night/a message to the world was featured in UCR’s Latino Play Production this year. Besides academic work, Victoria is Co-Founder of Art of Nothing Press, a Southern California publication for poetry and visual art.

Paul Ingoldsby
Paul Ingoldsby (Screenwriting) was born and raised in Wicklow, Ireland. He studied at University College Dublin and University of Toronto, earning a First Class BA in English and Film in 2018. He has worked in script development and as a talent agency reader. When not reading or writing, he enjoys hiking, playing football (“soccer,” if you must), and baking the perfect loaf of soda bread.
Cixous LeComte -she/her- (Poetry) is a Chicana writer from Southern California. She graduated from UCR with a BA in Poetry. Her writing explores grief and duality, where she attempts to juxtapose and understand two opposing forces, such as tenderness and violence, often within the familial space. Cixous is a daughter, a sister, a friend, a collaborator and a poet. Her family (blood and chosen) keeps her rooted and complete.