University of Massachusetts Amherst Graduate Student, Cierra Abellera died

Cierra Abellera, a fourth-year doctoral student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has reportedly died on November 20, 2023. She was 27 years old.

Who was Cierra Abellera?

Cierra Abellera was a former McNair Scholar who received her B.S. in Psychological Brain Sciences from Boise State University in 2019 and was awarded a Top Ten Scholar. She studied abroad at the University of Ghana, Accra where she interned with the West African AIDS Foundation conducting community outreach and addressing effective means of HIV testing.

Cierra was interested in how intergroup contact shapes belonging processes among majority and minority group members with a particular focus on newcomers and host society members. She worked with non-profit organizations, university centers, and international collaborators to examine how contact shapes perceptions of inclusion and feelings of belonging across contexts and groups of different societal statuses. She also received the 2022 Applied Social Issues Internship Award from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues for a research study on refugees’ perceptions of race and racism in the U.S.

Cierra was a member of the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program and the Intergroup Relations & Social Justice Lab led by Dr. Linda R. Tropp. She was also involved in several projects such as the Belonging and Innovation Lab at the American Immigration Council, the Hello Neighbor Network, and the EUR-Bridge Project.

How did Cierra Abellera die?

The cause of Cierra Abellera’s death has not been officially confirmed by the authorities or her family. However, some sources have reported that she was involved in a car accident on Interstate 91 near Northampton on Friday night. She was pronounced dead at the scene by the paramedics.

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How did the UMass community react to Cierra Abellera’s death?

Cierra Abellera’s death has shocked and saddened the UMass community, especially her colleagues and friends in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Dr. Linda R. Tropp, her advisor and mentor, said that Cierra was “a brilliant and compassionate scholar who was deeply committed to advancing social justice and fostering positive intergroup relations”. She also said that Cierra was “a wonderful person who touched the lives of many people with her kindness, generosity, and humor”.

The department chair, Dr. Caren Rotello, said that Cierra was “a valued member of our department and a rising star in her field”. She also said that Cierra was “a leader and a role model for other students, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds”.

The UMass Chancellor, Dr. Kumble Subbaswamy, expressed his condolences to Cierra’s family, friends, and colleagues in a statement. He said that Cierra was “an exemplary student who exemplified the best of UMass” and that her death was “a tremendous loss for our campus and the world”.

The UMass community has also organized several events to honor Cierra’s memory and legacy, such as a candlelight vigil, a memorial service, and a scholarship fund in her name.


  • How old was Cierra Abellera when she died?

Cierra Abellera was 27 years old when she died on November 20, 2023.

  • When and where was Cierra Abellera born?

Cierra Abellera was born on April 15, 1996 in Boise, Idaho.

  • What was Cierra Abellera’s ethnicity and nationality?

Cierra Abellera was of Filipino descent and a U.S. citizen.

  • What was Cierra Abellera’s dissertation topic?
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Cierra Abellera’s dissertation topic was “Effects of Interracial Contact on University Students’ Perceptions of Inclusion”.

  • Did Cierra Abellera have any siblings or relatives?

Cierra Abellera had a younger brother, Christian, and a large extended family.

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