Broadly interpreting texts to include everything from film (such as the work of Gigi Saul Guerrero) to music (pop stars Janelle Monae and Lizzo), González saw the first iteration of the series as “a sandbox.”
“We were trying ideas, giving things space to be wrong, and just letting that be OK,” as well as establishing a template for the series so that it can continue in the fall, he said. “The main thing that I wanted to get across was joy, how powerful it is to see women — Black women, women of color — actually experience joy, which is so threatening to some people.”
Galli, who is pursuing her Ph.D. from the GSAS in English, focused on inclusion. Paired with the Anthropology Department, she created a handbook to connect new and continuing students, faculty, and staff to department resources. “My project focused on thinking about ways to have information be as accessible and transparent as possible,” she said.
Part of that, the second-year graduate student explained, was removing Harvard-specific lingo that might be confusing to people coming from outside the University community. One simple solution was having a glossary. “We have terms that are very Harvard-specific, like ‘concentration.’ If you don’t come from the University, those terms could be alienating until you catch on to the terminology.”
While Galli had previously worked on projects to make the reading for general exams more inclusive and diverse, both at Harvard and at Georgetown University, where she earned her master’s, she had been involved with other DIB initiatives at Georgetown, including founding an English Undergraduate Council that let undergraduates get involved in building a more inclusive community. Working with the Anthropology Department, however, presented a challenge.
“I don’t have a social sciences background,” she said. “It was a learning curve, but then I started to realize that things are somewhat similar.” Anthropology, she noted, has two main tracks — archeology and social anthropology — much like English has creative writing and literature. “I realized that it wasn’t actually as different as I was anticipating.”
What resulted, she said, was “a fun challenge to think about ways to present these materials and resources that the University and the department offers and put them very clearly into a handbook.”
For Creighton, who recently graduated with his doctorate in English, the fellowship meant examining how to support and progress in his teaching efforts in the department. “How can we as a department work with our undergraduates and our graduate students and faculty and staff to together make a more welcoming environment, basically a place where people want to learn and where we all feel safe learning?” he asked.
“There are resource guides and best practices galore out there,” he said. “A lot of my work was trying to compile those that would be most useful in the context of English literature pedagogy.”
Some of the work was more personal. Creighton said “welcoming language” is a teaching essential. That can mean prefacing required works with content or trigger warnings. It also plays into how teachers introduce themselves. Creighton tells students which pronouns he uses (“he or them”). “I’m not forcing anybody to do the same,” he said. But by opening with this information, he is “giving them permission to be themselves.”