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‘Star’ Fellows

Professors earn fellowships designed for faculty of color

Two faculty members have a unique opportunity to advance their research and careers thanks to Bridgewater State University’s commitment to supporting professors of color.

As inaugural participants in the North Star Collective’s faculty fellowship, Drs. José Lara and Luzi Shi are joining a community of scholars across New England committed to mentorship and professional development.

“It’s an honor to be selected to participate,” said Lara, an assistant professor of Spanish.

The fellowship was created by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) faculty for BIPOC faculty. Lara said, “I think that’s extremely important.”

BSU is one of 13 founding members of the North Star Collective, which is run through the New England Board of Higher Education. The name “North Star” recognizes that slaves used the North Star in the sky to guide them to freedom. It also honors The North Star, an antislavery newspaper published by Frederick Douglass.

“BSU is part of a group that is acknowledging how a lot of institutions of higher education have benefited directly or indirectly from slavery and the work of immigrants and Indigenous populations,” Lara said. The fellowship “is a type of reparative policy, so I think it’s wonderful.”

Shi, an assistant professor of criminal justice, praised the fellowship for its focus on the needs of BIPOC faculty.

“It means a lot to be supported by other BIPOC faculty members,” she said.

Lara looks forward to taking part in a writers’ group that will help advance his research on race in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, especially in his native Honduras and other Central American countries. He is studying an 1842 British travel log by Thomas Young to analyze racial constructions and judgments Young made about the people he encountered on a journey to Central America. 

Shi, who is Chinese, is exploring whether cross-cultural friendships decrease Americans’ perceptions of crime among immigrants. Similarly, she is studying whether international students’ friendships with Americans changes their perception of crime in the United States. The results, Shi said, could shed light on ways to reduce biases.

She also looks forward to connecting with her peers across New England. The fellowship is one more example of the social justice focus that drew her to BSU.

“They are really showing support by being a founding member,” Shi said of Bridgewater State. “It’s good to know we are supported by the institution.”

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