Keshia Harris, PhD Candidate | Comparative Human Development

2016-2017 Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellow

Keshia Harris’s dissertation investigates how national discourses of ethnic difference impact academic outcomes for black and brown adolescents in Brazil and Colombia. She uses a mixed methods approach to address the following research questions, 1) how does deprived social and educational resources impact academic achievement and postsecondary goals for Brazilian and Colombian high school seniors, and 2) what roles do skin tone and perceived discrimination play in shaping adolescent occupational goals?

What drew you to the Fulbright-Hays program? What about it seemed like a good fit for you and your work at the time that you were applying? 
I’ve aspired to become a Fulbright Scholar since I first heard about the fellowship during my early years of college.  I knew that I would apply at some point but envisioned waiting for the right time in my career as well as for the specific grant that was the right fit for me.  Fulbright’s focus on expanding international discourses and equipping U.S. scholars to teach and conduct research abroad is what drew me to the program.  The Fulbright-Hays program ended up being the best fit for me because it allowed me to have the necessary funding to effectively carry out my desired dissertation research in Brazil and Colombia during my 4th year of doctoral studies.

What has Fulbright-Hays meant to you and your work? Is there a particular experience that stands out? Or, something that you hadn’t counted on that has since proven important for you or your research? 
Being a part of the Fulbright-Hays program has been one of the most prominent accomplishments of my career thus far.  First and foremost, it was incredibly gratifying to be awarded a grant that aligns with my values on education and international relations.  Secondly, the experience of having the funding to fulfill my dreams to conduct dissertation research with Latin American teens in their home countries far surpassed my college aspirations when I had initially heard of the program.  Something that I absolutely had not counted on occurring was establishing meaningful long term relationships with some of the participants of my study as well as school staff from the institutions that participated in my research.  One year later, we continue to communicate via Whatsapp and Facebook.

Fulbright-Hays is known to have a rigorous application and selection process. Is there any advice you would offer students who are thinking about applying?
I offer three key pieces of advice for those who are considering applying. 1) Apply!  Its worth it to try.  Even if you are not accepted the first time, you won’t regret trying as it will better prepare you for other fellowship applications and/or applying a second time around.  2) Organize all of your application materials in a way that works best for you (e.g. Google Sheets, Excel, etc.).  3) Find a writing group or connect with other students who are applying.  I met with a writing group of fellow applicants led by the university’s writing specialist, Anne Janusch, multiple times before submitting my application.  The group helped with accountability and expertise in fellowship writing.

To learn more about the Fulbright-Hays DDRA program contact Sara Mehta