Graduate Students

Graduate Students

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.

Ava Fojtik

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.

Aaron Higareda

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!

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.
Gerald May
Gerald May (Screenwriting) was born and raised in Houston, TX. He holds a BA in English with a minor in Communications from Prairie View A&M University. He is drawn to stories that deal with themes of identity. Gerald hopes that his writing will show viewers that their personal struggles -- no matter how big or small -- are surmountable. When he is not reading or writing, he’s watching film and television, listening to a podcast, or jamming out to music.
minger_hazel.jpg H.M. Minger Urquilla (Playwriting) is a Salvadoran from Los Angeles. In addition to playwriting she dabbles in poetry, directing, and the occasional acting role. She holds a B.A. in English with a Theatre minor from CSULA, where she served as poetry editor on their student magazine, STATEMENT. While her work is largely rooted in Magical Realism, she hopes to explore as many genres as she can get her hands on.
moon_allison.jpg Allison Moon (Playwriting) is a sex educator and the author of five books including the instant classic sex-ed guide Girl Sex 101. Inspired by her education work, Moon writes screenplays, stage plays, and teleplays that explore the complexities of human sexuality, identity and desire, particularly when interfacing with technology. She has a degree in Neuroscience and Theatre from Oberlin College. Read her work at
Carlina Perna -they/them- (Screenwriting) can usually be found questioning some element of social structure. Carlina writes about impact and refusal, using written and visual language to construct realities that critique and affirm. They hold a BA in Spanish Literary Studies and Religious Studies from Occidental College and an MS in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.

Anoop Singh Nijjar -he/him- (Screenwriting) is a South Asian filmmaker from Southern California with roots in Chicago, IL. His whole life has been a series of artistic endeavors: starting with painting and drawing, then evolving to spoken word and performing in bands, and last but not least persisting in writing and directing film. All of Anoop’s past experiences have ultimately culminated at the creative crossroads of filmmaking.

Anoop obtained his BA in Media & Culture studies from UC Riverside in 2018, spent the last several years avidly studying screenwriting, and now has achieved technical certificates in both cinematography and film production from Pasadena City College. In 2020, Anoop began volunteering on student films at the American Film Institute. He assisted in both the grip & electric departments, as well as the camera department. In 2021, Anoop’s outstanding contribution to the Cinema program at PCC resulted in receiving the Alta Dena Rotary Scholarship award.

Taking inspiration from cinema icons such as Mira Nair, Wong Kar-wai, Michelangelo Antonioni and many more, Anoop plans to create highly stylized films that discuss topics such as social identity and the human condition.


Trinity Thompson (Screenwriting) is a writer, educator, and organizer who proudly hails from Honolulu. She grew up witnessing the power of storytelling as a tool for individual exploration and collective liberation. Whether in her writing or organizing, Trinity loves creating worlds of BIPOC belonging and transcendence. She most enjoys experimental and genre-bending forms of art and is particularly interested in exploring the complex and seemingly contradictory aspects of identity in her writing.

A graduate of Stanford University, Trinity studied creative writing, ethnic studies, and sociology. She also completed UCLA's Professional Program in Television Writing and has written for and about her community as an Oakland Voices correspondent. She identifies as a film lover, pop culture fiend, ice cream aficionado, and too competitive for her own good.

Brittany Turner Brittany Turner (Screenwriting) hails from Las Vegas, Nevada and is thrilled to be returning to her desert roots. She earned her B.A. in History and Literature with a citation in Japanese language from Harvard University in 2010, spent the last several years in Southern California working at various production companies as a marketer and development executive, and now writes scripts that poke at the anxieties underpinning the ever-expanding limits of Black identity. She consults as a freelance digital producer/strategist and enjoys playing guitar poorly, telling herself she'll work out...soon, re-watching Marvel movies, and catching up on all those novels she never read during her undergrad years.
Kali Veach (Screenwriter) is a writer and director interested in absurd connections, tragicomic consequences, queer perspectives, and the ways in which organizations and individuals interface with emerging technologies. After receiving her BA in Creative Writing from UCR, she taught English as a Second Language before transitioning to film production. Upon returning to UCR, she was selected as the writer-director for the fall 2021 Gluck Film Ensemble Fellowship. Her fiction, poetry, and scripts have been published in MosaicThe Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. As a child she moved cross-country several times, between St. Louis, Baltimore, and Huntington Beach, but now lives in Los Angeles with her wife. She is in various stages of development and production on several projects.