Diversity at Stanford

Faculty Perspectives

Faculty: Collaboration, Research and Interdisciplinary Study

Michele ElamMichele Elam, Martin Luther King, Jr. Centennial Professor and Olivier Nomellini Family University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, is Professor of English and Director of the Graduate Program in Modern Thought and Literature (MTL) at Stanford University.

Research crosses traditional disciplinary lines at Stanford. Michele Elam is a faculty member jointly appointed in the English Department and in the Research Institute at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. She collaborates with students through her courses on African-American literature and culture in the English Department, courses that are also cross-listed with African and African-American Studies (AAAS) and Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE). Her research and work with undergraduates involves examining the relationship between art and politics, and specifically the politics of cultural and literary representation of race—African-Americans and mixed race in particular.

Stanford students explore the enduring legacy of literature through performance. Prior to his appointment as the Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education, Harry Elam served as the Chair of the Drama department and Director of the Committee on Black Performing Arts (CBPA). The CBPA is committed to investigating issues of black performance by present artists and scholars, supporting academic research and instruction and collaborating with community groups and government agencies. Student projects and performances add perspective and experience to this exciting field.

"Stanford faculty enjoy undergraduate participation in research. We both believe that our work benefits from the involvement of undergraduates. Students contribute insight while they are learning how to do research and deciding whether to pursue it as a career. Undergraduates who have worked in our disciplines have gone on to graduate school, medical school, law school, as well as careers in public policy, education and many other fields. We are proud of this. For many Stanford undergraduates, this collaboration and research serves as an inspiring experience that shapes career aspirations and development. Undergraduates are making connections and exploring the world in their chosen concentrations and applying this research to their professional and academic goals. This is one of the most gratifying parts of the work we do as both teachers and researchers."

Reconstructing Identity

Paula MoyaPaula Moya is a Professor of English, Director of the Research Institute of Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity and Former Director of the Undergraduate Program of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE).

"To what extent is it possible to describe an 'American' experience? How are different people included in or excluded from the imagined community that is America? How do a person's race, class, gender and sexuality affect his or her experience of belonging to this country? These are just some of the questions my students and I ask in a Stanford Introductory Seminar I teach called 'Growing Up in America.' As my students and I encounter, in literature, the great diversity of childhood and young adult experiences of people who have grown up in this country, we explore the different rhetorical and aesthetic strategies authors use to write about the 'self' in literature. In the process of learning about literature, we learn about ourselves—and vice versa. It is one of my favorite classes to teach, and one through which I have met some truly outstanding young people.

In all my scholarship and my teaching, I am concerned with the relationship between identity, experience, and knowledge. One of my most basic working assumptions is that our identities have consequences for how we experience and interpret the world. It is a sociological fact that who we are—who we perceive ourselves or are perceived by others to be—will significantly affect our life chances: where we can live, whom we will marry (or whether we can marry) and what kinds of educational and employment opportunities will be available to us. What fascinates me is how this sociological fact figures into the production of cultural products like literature, and of the production of knowledge more generally. One of my most popular undergraduate lecture classes, 'Writings by Women of Color,' addresses precisely this question.

The kinds of questions I am interested in demand an interdisciplinary approach. I feel fortunate to be teaching at an institution with a strong commitment to interdisciplinary research. My own work has been considerably enriched by the opportunity to team-teach courses with faculty who specialize in other disciplines. I have been able to do this through my affiliations with the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE) and Feminist Studies.

"With its diverse undergraduate student body, Stanford is a wonderful place for me to explore the relationship between identity, experience, and knowledge. And if the cards and letters I get from my students are to be believed, Stanford is a wonderful place for them, too!"

Updated on March 19, 2021 3:38 PM