MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) has welcomed three PhD students from other universities to campus this year through the SHASS Diversity Predoctoral Fellowship.
Funded by SHASS with support from the Office of the Provost, the fellowship is intended to expand the pipeline of diverse PhD candidates within MIT's SHASS disciplines. Candidates receive stipends and are paired with faculty advisors to help them complete their dissertations.
The three students chosen for this inaugural fellowship year are: Shermaine Jones, from the University of Virginia, who is working with Associate Professor Sandy Alexandre in the Literature Section; Rosa Martinez, from the University of California at Berkeley, who is conducting literature research with mentorship from Senior Lecturer Wyn Kelley and Associate Professor Margery Resnick; and Theresa Rojas, from Ohio State University, who is studying in Comparative Media Studies / Writing with support from professors Edward Schiappa and Junot Diaz.
All three women arrived for the academic year in the summer of 2014 and have been making the most of their time at MIT.
Gender, identity, and national belonging
Shermaine Jones says she was attracted to MIT by the caliber of the Literature faculty. “I was excited by the opportunity to complete my dissertation at MIT because of the distinguished scholars in the Literature Section, the amazing resources available through the libraries and archives at MIT and throughout the Boston region more generally, and the generous support offered through the fellowship,” she says.
Jones is writing her dissertation, “‘Choking Down That Rage: Rage, Rape, Riot, and the Gender Politics of Black Resistance from the Protest Novel to Gangsta Rap,” on rage as an affective register through which black writers negotiate gender, identity, and national belonging. Already this fall, she had the chance to give a presentation about her research to MIT colleagues and said the experience provided her with thoughtful feedback and constructive criticism. “It has really been a pleasure to work at MIT,” Jones says.
Melville and identity
Rosa Martinez, whose dissertation explores the phenomenon of “passing” as a member of another race, particularly Spanish, says she was drawn to apply for the MIT fellowship to conduct research for a chapter she is writing on Herman Melville.
“Coming to MIT meant the opportunity to have at my fingertips the rich treasure trove of Melville’s papers and personal library,” she says. “Especially exciting for me has been the really neat pleasure of meeting MIT’s very own Melville scholar, Wyn Kelley, whose scholarship I had read through the years.”
Contemporary Latino narratives
Theresa Rojas, whose research centers on contemporary Latino narratives in literature, comics, and television, calls the experience of working at MIT “phenomenal.” She adds, “I can’t say enough about how well I’ve been treated and how much this opportunity has allowed me to push forward on the dissertation.”
Rojas’ dissertation, “Manifold Imaginaries: Intermedial Latino Narratives in the Twenty-first Century,” will explore how narratives work within and across media to construct dynamic stories that matter both aesthetically and politically. “I’m also interested in how neuro-scientific and cognitive behavioral research can shed light on what our brains do as consumers (readers, viewers, and listeners) of popular culture by and about Latinos,” she says.
Fresh perspectives, cutting-edge research
Reflecting on the inaugural Diversity Predoctoral Program year, Deborah Fitzgerald, Kenan Sahin Dean of SHASS, said, “The School is really delighted to host these three young scholars. They have added tremendously to our units, bringing fresh perspectives and cutting-edge approaches to research questions. SHASS faculty and students are very fortunate to have them here, and we hope that immersion in the MIT community will give them a powerful start in their professional development."
Information about applications for the next cycle of the Diversity Predoctoral Program will be forthcoming later in the Spring 2015 term.
Story prepared by SHASS Communications
Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand
Senior Writer: Kathryn O'Neill
Photographs courtesy of Shermaine Jones, Rosa Martinez, and Theresa Rojas