Avalan Institute

The mission of Avalan Institute is to connect just and objective data, research, and strategy with productive organizations and agencies to impact change as it relates to social justice, with heightened focus on criminal justice, juvenile justice, and racial justice.

Our work is driven and supported my a team of professionals and experts dedicated to our mission of service and advocacy.

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Dr. Niaz Kasravi|Director and Founder

Dr. Niaz Kasravi is a national expert and advocate on criminal justice, social justice, and racial justice. Dr. Kasravi holds a Ph.D. in Criminology, Law and Society from the University of California, Irvine (UCI).

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Berklee Donavan | Lead Research Assistant

Berklee Donavan is a graduate student at the University of Southern California working to obtain a Master’s degree in Social Work with a focus in Social Change and Innovation. Previously, Berklee has worked for Victim’s Services at the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, prisoner rehabilitation programs offered within San Quentin State Prison, community organizations teaching cognitive behavioral therapy curricula to the justice-involved community, and is looking forward to interning at the Federal Public Defender’s office in Los Angeles. She strives to work in many areas of the justice system in order to understand its complexities with the hope that she can create long-lasting, positive changes to the broken system.


Avalan Institute for Applied Research is proud to be guided by our esteemed advisory board

First Row:

Delfarib Fanaie is the President and Co-founder of Moms Against Poverty (MAP). Dedicated to breaking the cycle of childhood poverty, MAP supports education empowerment, hunger relief, and orphan care initiatives across the globe. A compassionate humanitarian and an advocate for vulnerable children, Delfarib is fulfilling her life-long vision of improving the lives of the neediest children in her motherland Iran, in her host country the U.S., and around the globe. She is also an asset manager with 35 years of experience in the real estate market. Delfarib lives in the Bay Area, with her husband and three children, who they adopted from Iran.

Dr. Kitty Calavita is Chancellor’s Professor Emerita of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine. She was President of the Law & Society Association in 2000-2001, and is a Thorsten Sellin Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. She received the Law & Society Association’s Harry Kalven award in 2015. She has published widely in the fields of immigration and immigration lawmaking, and more recently on prisons and legal mobilization. An early book, Inside the State: The Bracero Program, Immigration, and the INS (1992), documented the internal dynamics of the INS in shaping the Bracero Program, and connected structural contradictions in the political economy to the details of agency decision making. Another book, Invitation to Law & Society, provides an accessible overview of the burgeoning field of socio-legal studies. Her most recent book (with Dr. Valerie Jenness), Appealing to Justice: Prisoner Grievances, Rights, and Carceral Logic (2015), focuses on the grievance process in California prisons, and explores the contradictions and intersections between the logics of rights and punitive control.

Dr. Rafik Mohamed has served as Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at California State University, San Bernardino since 2015. Prior to joining CSUSB, Dr. Mohamed served as Chair of the Department of Social Sciences at Clayton State University. Dr. Mohamed also served as Associate Professor, at the University of San Diego, where he was twice voted outstanding professor.

Dr. Mohamed earned his Bachelor's Degree from the George Washington University in D.C. and his Master's Degree and Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine. As an undergraduate, Dr. Mohamed worked as an intern investigator for the D.C. Public Defender Service and, prior to beginning graduate studies, worked as an investigator for private attorneys handling felony criminal defense cases. As a graduate student, Mohamed worked with the Law Offices of Milton C. Grimes during the Rodney G. King police brutality lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles. From 1999-2009, Mohamed taught at the University of San Diego where he was also the Chairperson of the Department of Sociology.

Dr. Valerie Jenness is a Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society and in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. She is the author of four books, including, most recently, Appealing to Justice: Prisoners, Grievances, and the Carceral Logic in the Post-Civil Rights Era (with Dr. Kitty Calavita, University of California Press, 2015) and many articles published in sociology, law, and criminology journals. Her studies of sexual assault in prisons, the management of prisoners with mental health concerns, transgender prisoners, and the inmate appeals system in prison have informed public policy. Most recently, Dr. Jenness has worked with the Los Angeles Police Department, the United States Courts for the 9th circuit, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to develop and implement innovative policy.

Second Row:

Siamak Lorestani is a partner at Vision & Hope, a full-service, boutique business strategy consulting firm, helping startups and small businesses succeed by offering innovative services to thrive in this competitive global economy. V&H consultants deliver industry expertise, knowledge, and pioneering solutions that produce results based on the specific needs of each business. Early in his career, Siamak worked with entertainment companies, including DreamWorks and Twentieth Century Fox as a project manager in IT disarmaments.

Dr. Arshia Kasravi has been a practicing Endodontist in Southern California since 2008. She currently practices at Riverside Dental Group, Dental Arts Practice in Walnut, and Serene Dental in Irvine. Dr. Kasravi obtained her DDS Degree from the University of Southern California (USC) and her specialty degree and MSD in Endodontics at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. She attended the University of California, Irvine (UCI) for her Bachelor of Science in Biology.

Dr. Mahrou Hazeghi is co-owner and partner at Plaza Dental in Los Angeles, CA, where she has been practicing dentistry for thirteen years. Dr. Hazeghi earned her DDS Degree from the University of Southern California (USC). Prior to that, she obtained a Doctor Med. Dent. from the University of Cologne in Germany.

Lillian Singh is the Director of the Racial Wealth Divide Project at CFED. She is a vibrant leader with established capabilities in partnership management, project design, program implementation and fundraising. She works with the Racial Wealth Divide team to strengthen CFED’s outreach and partnership with communities of color and advance CFED’s racial wealth divide analysis.

Zaynab Behzadnia is part storyteller, producer, connector, and entrepreneur—for over 20 years she has been fusing her commitment to do good with her passion to strategize, create and communicate. She particularly enjoys developing and promoting opportunities for partnership and collaboration. Zaynab has been a part of two successful startups as a managing partner and cofounder: Lucid Fusion, Inc., a digital marketing agency, and LFPR, LLC a public relations firm, both headquartered in Irvine, CA.