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New Transformational Leadership Fellows Get to Work

This fall, six graduate students arrived on campus ready to develop their own leadership potential and help shape their classmates’ Emerson experience for the better through the new Transformational Leadership Fellowship program.

The students, representing the Writing, Literature and Publishing; Visual and Media Arts; and Communication Studies departments, were selected from more than 175 applicants across all on-campus programs. The aim of the fellowship is to nurture diverse and dynamic leaders within communication and the arts, enrich the graduate student experience at Emerson, and foster positive change in the world outside Emerson.

Kim McLarin headshot
Interim Dean of Graduate & Professional Studies Kim McLarin

“Now, more than ever, we need leaders in every sector and every field who will inspire others with their courage, their compassion, and their commitment to a more just and equitable society,” said Interim Dean of Graduate & Professional Studies Kimberly McLarin. “Having met and begun working with this cohort of inaugural fellows, I can already see that each one has the capacity to become such a transformational leader. I’m very excited to work with them over this year.”

The fellows, who had their first meeting last month, were selected based on their demonstration of, and potential for, four “pillars”: courage, character, perseverance, and adaptability. During the course of the academic year, the cohort will meet monthly with McLarin to talk about elements of leadership and issues of equity and social justice, as well as hear from guest speakers. They’ll also plan an end-of-year symposium, organized and hosted by the fellows for the entire Emerson community.

Fellows are mentored by McLarin and a member of the Board of Advisors or Trustees, and receive financial support in the form of a stipend and scholarship.

Christopher Fong Chew is one of the six fellows, and a candidate for an MFA in Creative Writing, with a concentration in poetry.

man in black shirt, pants, white sneakers sits with arm on knee against white background
MFA student and Transformational Leadership Fellow Chris Fong Chew. Courtesy photo

As an undergraduate at Berklee College of Music, he worked to bring Asian and Asian American voices and experiences into ongoing conversations at the college around social justice, and provide those communities with more support. Through his efforts, Fong Chew began to think about how words and actions feed into a narrative of who we are as individuals with intersecting identities, who we are as Americans, and who we are as humans.

“I think that’s at the heart of transformational leadership,” he said. “I think the ability to engage others in conversation, to learn to open your mind to different experiences, different possibilities, and the breadth of diversity within the world, and to find common ground and create tangible change for not only others, but for ourselves and for those around us.”

Intersectionality is at the heart of Fong Chew’s poetry, whether that means identities or thoughts coming together.

“That’s kind of what I’ve been, as of late, very fascinated about, is how do ideas interact with one another? And even if they’re maybe ideas that seem to be at odds with one another, how does that interact and what can we gain and learn from those interactions?”

Fong Chew said because both the semester and the fellowship are new, the fellows spent a lot of their first meeting getting to know one another and talking about exactly what the fellowship can be.

For his part, Fong Chew said he’s hopeful that the Fellows will be able to engage with grad students in a new way that’s exciting and beneficial to them.

“What can we do to provide a space to grow the grad community, and maybe to engage the grad community in a way that hasn’t been done before?” he asked. “And I think that’s probably what’s most exciting.”

The other five fellows are Geoffrey Hicks, Aniaha Ortiz, Luciana Paz, Paul Raglow-DeFranco, and Joseph Weingrad.

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