SHASS launches the Diversity Predoctoral Fellowship
Three outstanding PhD students selected for inaugural year

                                                                   windows in passageway leading to Building 14

“These three young scholars in our Diversity Predoctoral Program have added tremendously to our units, bringing fresh perspectives and cutting-edge approaches to research questions, and we hope that immersion in the MIT community will give them a powerful start in their professional development."  

— Deborah Fitzgerald, Kenan Sahin Dean, MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

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 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–Berkeley, who is conducting literature research with mentorship from Senior Lecturer Wyn Kelley and Associate Professor Margery Resnick; and

Theresa Rojas, from The 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. Meet the inaugural group of MIT SHASS Predoctoral Diversity Fellows:


Gender, Identity, and National Belonging
Shermaine Jones | University of Virginia

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 said.

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 said.

Melville and Identity
Rosa Martinez | University of California-Berkeley

Martinez, whose dissertation explores the phenomenon of “passing” as a member of another race, particularly Spanish, said 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 said. “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 | Ohio State University

Rojas, whose research centers on contemporary Latino narratives in literature, comics, and television, called the experience of working at MIT “phenomenal.” She added, “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 said.

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. 


Suggested links

SHASS Predoctoral Fellowship

Browse the Complete List of Fellows



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