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Olivia Porte '18 on Being a Mellon Mays Fellow

December 12, 2017

Name: Olivia Porte

Year: 2018

Major: History of Art, minor in Museum Studies with Africana concentration

Mellon Mays Fellow

Olivia Porte '18 is one of Bryn Mawr's Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows, a program run by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to increase the diversity of faculty within higher education. Students apply for the program their sophomore year and each year five students are selected to be a part of the program. In addition to conducting research, Mellon Mays Fellows regularly meet with their cohort to exchange ideas and share research progress. Other activities include professional development workshops, cultural outings, and meetings with other MMUF campuses.

Each fellow pairs with a faculty mentor at the College to conduct research on a topic they are passionate about. Olivia was mentored by Director of Museum Studies Monique Scott. Olivia’s research utilizes post-colonial theory and museology to study trends in the growing global contemporary art market, that continue to push people of color and other non-hegemonic identities to the margins. Olivia’s recent work has been centered around Black artists that meditate on the ways visual culture and language influence our symbiotic relationships. Olivia has extended their research through the community center of the Enid Cook Center.

Experience with Mellon: “There is a way that Mellon affirms your identity as a scholar of color by funding you that I don’t think we take seriously. Bryn Mawr supported me, which set off my collegiate experience, and Mellon took it a step further and showed me I don’t have to stop there, I can go further. Mellon Mays has allowed me to meet and connect with so many people and networks that I would not have had elsewhere. I love my cohort; we feed off each other’s energy and research, and I have become a better scholar because of it.”

Thinking Beyond the Classroom: ”You have to think outside the classroom with Mellon research. The idea of Mellon is already not within any academic canon being that you are harvesting academics of color who don’t believe their stories are being appreciated in these spaces. So you have to think outside of that to diversify the canon itself.”

Museum Studies: “Through museum studies, I have had an archivist position at the African American History Trust, a curatorial assistant position at the ICA, a contemporary art internship at the PMA, and other job offers and recruitment. To be recruited is great. Museum Studies has put me in contact with so many names and we can have these conversations and there is respect for what I am saying because I already have been interacting with the museum. Beyond these commercial skills museum studies has given me, and many students some theoretical frameworks that lead to nuanced institutional critique. I have found endless inspiration within the complexities of an exhibition that I hadn’t given proper weight to prior.”

Tip for Other Students: "There's an amazing new program funded by the Mellon Foundation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art called the The Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program. If you're interested in Museum Studies, you've got to check it out!"

Meaningful Celebrations: “I love graduation. I have been a diploma marshal for the past two years and have seen so many of my friends graduate and gave them their diplomas. It is always a perfect end to the year and makes everything negative worth it because there is so much joy from family, professors, and staff around finishing. I am so excited to finish and say this is my thesis, this is what I learned, this is what I have to pass on to other Mawrters.”

Plans for the Future: “For the summer, I am working on graduate school applications for Fall 2018 or 2019. I have research fellowships on the table, but most importantly I am going to go back to Boston to just work. I need to turn my brain off for a bit, make some money, and have fun and travel.”