Lourdes Taylor ’21 was one of the six students admitted to the University of Chicago’s English Ph.D. program this year. Taylor, an English major with a creative writing concentration and minors in environmental science and dance, was largely influenced by the department’s decision to only admit students interested in Black studies.
“This was extremely appealing to me, and presented the opportunity to work with a cohort of students whose goals and beliefs aligned with my own,” said Taylor. “I am wildly excited about my Black studies cohort, which is also all-Black and non-male identifying. UChicago is notoriously white and has only in the last couple decades started to move away from conservative values (at least publicly), so I am confident that the support system we will build amongst one another will make both my experience and research more engaging, fulfilling, and thoughtful.”
Taylor’s graduate research will investigate the relationship between Black life and ecological health in U.S. and Francophone Caribbean fiction from 1960 to the present. This research was inspired by texts about Blackness, genre theory, and creative writing in courses with Associate Professors of English Asali Solomon and Lindsay Reckson, as well as work in the environmental studies department.
“The goal is to answer my primary research question: what fundamental interdependence might exist between the Black body and planetary ecological health, and how does Black fiction insist on the future of this relationship?” said Taylor.
She was encouraged to pursue a Ph.D. as a Mellon Mays scholar. The national program funds research for students with identities that are underrepresented in academia and prepares them for Ph.D. programs. As a scholar, Taylor wrote academic papers, presented at conferences, and participated in summer research. She also credits her experiences at Haverford outside the classroom with preparing her for this experience.
“I also think that my general conversations and experiences with my friends at Haverford have made me a better and more confident person,” said Taylor. “Organizing through BSRFI [Black Students Refusing Further Inaction] and the fall 2020 strike showed me what my intentions and goals are with academia as an institution (to be dismantled) and have made me more self-assured going into this program than I thought possible.”
Taylor’s goals extend far beyond this program. She has been dancing professionally since she was 17, including as a member of Philadanco Dance Company’s apprentice company D2 since 2019, and she plans to find a job with a professional company in Chicago during her Ph.D. program. Eventually, she would like to have a career with a professional touring company and become a fiction writer, but for now, she’s happy to be returning to the neighborhood where she grew up: Hyde Park.
“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series chronicling the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.