2021-2022 Diversity Fellows

Michael Ortiz-Castro

My name is Michael and I am currently a 3rd year PhD student in American studies here at GSAS. I'm really excited to join the team! I grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, and am a first-generation American, so diversity, equity, and belonging have been important to me for much if not all of my life. I did my undergrad at Wesleyan University, in Connecticut, where I double-majored in math and American studies. I was also involved in advocacy and inclusion work at Wesleyan, where I got to work with a variety of student groups on- and off-campus. After graduation, I worked for a year in management consulting, and now I'm here!


My life has been structured by race, gender, sexuality, class, citizenship, etc. I recognize that these have a pernicious effect on our social and psychic selves. My work in diversity and inclusion is driven by my sense of justice and opportunity, that fostering a truly vibrant intellectual community requires working against the ways in which categories of difference serve to fracture and discourage communities at Harvard. As a diversity and inclusion fellow, I hope to further the office’s mission by helping departments, groups, and centers at Harvard center diversity and inclusion in all their remote offerings. Further, I hope the office will be a crucial landing site for affinity groups and student leaders actively advocating for change within their own communities, offering resources and institutional support. 

Christina Fennell

I was born and raised in Washington, DC, and I attended Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. While there, I majored in biology and minored in public health because I considered a career in medicine and had an interest in exploring how and why historically marginalized communities were disproportionately impacted by negative health outcomes. During my junior year in college, I completed a summer internship at Johns Hopkins University. My study focused on oral HPV among people who inject drugs in Baltimore City. I loved combining my math and science skills to analyze the data. I also enjoyed learning how to code. From this introduction to epidemiology, I decided to continue my studies in epidemiology, and I am currently a third-year PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology. My college experience at Spelman was life-changing because it is an academic institution created for black women who desire to change the world. It was a privilege attending Spelman College because I was in a safe environment, and I could explore my interests and passions without being judged based on my race. I believe when students from underrepresented backgrounds attend any academic institution, they should experience that same level of safety and support. 


I became a diversity and inclusion fellow because while volunteering with the W. E. B. Du Bois Graduate Society, I found that I have a desire to create programs and provide safe spaces for students from historically marginalized communities as they navigate Harvard. Attending Harvard can be very challenging, but I want students to feel empowered to access Harvard’s resources. I hope to be able to continue to provide meaningful resources as I serve as a diversity and inclusion fellow.

Esrah Du

I grew up in a small town in northeast Massachusetts. Inspired by a love of microorganisms, I pursued my undergraduate degree in biology at Simmons University. During my time at Simmons, I developed a tight network of supports in the LGBTQ+ community both at Simmons and beyond. Supported by this sense of belonging, I pursued undergraduate research experiences that helped cultivate my love for studying the basic biology of parasites and their vectors which eventually led me to the Biological Sciences in Public Health PhD program at Harvard. I am now a second-year PhD student, jointly advised by Dr. Flaminia Catteruccia and Dr. Jeffrey Dvorin, studying the basic biology of how Plasmodium oocysts successfully grow and divide in the midgut of the Anopheles mosquito. This collaborative environment and the family I've been lucky to find within the Harvard community have reinforced my passion for ensuring that academia continues to grow into an inclusive and diverse place where everyone feels they belong.

I became an LGBTQ-focused diversity and inclusion fellow because I firmly believe that fostering diversity and inclusion should be priorities within the academic community. As a queer and nonbinary individual, I have experienced firsthand how difficult it can be to balance your academic and queer identities, as well as the hardship and sense of isolation that can occur in spaces where your identity is not fully understood or accepted. I have been exceptionally fortunate to find many role models and peers in the LGBTQ community here at Harvard and I am eager to work with the LGBTQ community at GSAS to better advocate for students’ needs and help ensure that others can find the same sense of belonging. As a diversity and inclusion fellow, I hope to continue building on existing initiatives while pushing the boundaries of how GSAS can support its LGBTQ+ students, including those who may still be questioning their identity.

Any GSAS student who is currently a G-2 or above, in good standing, and registered in the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for the 2022-2023 academic year is eligible to apply for one of these positions. The Diversity and Inclusion Fellows work within the Office of Equity, Diversity,...Read more