UMass Boston

The Fellowship Experience

Through this innovative research partnership and fellowship program, five women of color community leaders became community researchers to explore opportunities and challenges for women of color in political and public leadership. For well over a year, these research fellows were actively engaged in learning about the purpose and conduct of research, identifying research questions, as well as designing and carrying out studies. Yet the fellowship program provided much more than training, skills, and knowledge. It created fellowship among the women and helped sustain them professionally and personally. It also compelled the women to continue and even expand upon their efforts to diversify the political leadership in the Commonwealth.

The research fellows journeyed together as researchers, community activists, and political leaders. Sharing and reflecting on their experiences became an integral part of their fellowship experience. This helped bolster their confidence and led to insights and inspiration that will have a long-lasting influence on the fellows.

The fellowship experience:

Provided an opportunity to grow professionally and personally

Affording women of color the time, space, and support to consider their own skills, strengths, identities, and leadership approaches allowed the fellows to focus on their goals, needs, and strategies to advance themselves both professionally and personally.

Empowered women of color in politics

Through this project, the fellows engaged in a deliberate and sustained practice of self-reflection and often shared such reflections with other fellows. For those running campaigns, this practice of self-reflection and analysis made them more mindful as leaders, especially as they navigated the political landscape and their own political campaigns.

Offered a safe space for reflection, sharing, and analysis

Regular meetings and activities afforded a unique opportunity for these women to reflect upon, share, and analyze their own experiences as they engaged in efforts to represent their communities by being active participants in community organizations, serving in elective office, and/or an appointed position.

Enhanced their understanding of community needs and shared challenges

All five fellows share a commitment to social justice and to actively addressing the needs and concerns of their communities. The fellowship experience provided a platform for the fellows to consider the conditions, resources, and contexts of other communities across Massachusetts. By learning about each other’s communities, the women were able to better understand and recognize resources and strategies to make changes in their own communities.

Nurtured the fellows as community activists and political leaders

By bringing together women of color who share a passion for their communities and experiences of public leadership, this project helped to nurture them in their efforts to grow as women of color advocates, activists, and leaders.