The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Office of Diversity and Minority Affairs has added two new diversity and inclusion fellows to join current fellow Alyssa Hernandez, PhD student in organismic and evolutionary biology. This professional development opportunity helps build stronger connections between GSAS and its student population.
“I am delighted that GSAS now has three diversity and inclusion fellows tasked with student outreach,” says Emma Dench, dean of GSAS. “The connections they make and the information they gather will be crucial as we determine how best to enhance support for our diversity and inclusion efforts.”
Xavier du Maine, a PhD student in biological and biomedical sciences, is replacing Freddy Valencia, who stepped down from the role at the end of 2018. “First and foremost, I aim to listen,” says du Maine about what he hopes to achieve in this role. “While I have a lot of ideas I want to get off the ground, I must first listen to students and student group leaders to know exactly what personal and systemic challenges they face.”
When du Maine first came to Harvard, he anticipated that he would join an academically challenging and invigorating environment. He was surprised, however, by the challenges he faced on an emotional and mental level, particularly with regard to finding community as an underrepresented student. “I applied to be a GSAS diversity and inclusion fellow because I want to help create a culture in which underrepresented students in GSAS can thrive and flourish in graduate school and not just survive,” he shares. “Being a fellow allows me to serve, support, and advocate for underrepresented students in GSAS, which is an honor and a privilege.”
Andrew Westover, a PhD student in education, will work alongside du Maine and Hernandez, while also helping GSAS to assess the needs of the LGBTQ community and provide a bridge between LGBTQ students, the revitalized LGBTQ@GSAS student group, and the administration. “I hope to learn more about the needs and desires of LGBTQ+ students across GSAS’s programs,” he says. “We are already thinking about ways to establish stronger lines of communication and support.”
Westover applied for the position because he believes in supporting the community. “Diversity and inclusion are integral to the University’s core functions,” he says. “I share the Office of Diversity and Minority Affairs’ commitment to an intersectionally inclusive environment, one where all students can thrive and grow academically and personally.”
When the diversity and inclusion fellows were first appointed in 2018, they were charged with helping GSAS better serve members of affinity groups. Over the course of the year, it became clear that adding an additional fellow would help GSAS better achieve this goal. “After the first fellows were appointed, it quickly became clear that we needed an additional fellow,” says Sheila Thomas, dean for academic programs and diversity. “I am excited about the work that Alyssa and Freddy have begun and look forward to the contributions Andrew and Xavier will make to our diversity and inclusion efforts.”