Two MSU faculty members awarded prestigious fellowship

Posted at 11:21 AM, Mar 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-06 11:21:15-05

Two faculty members from Michigan State University’s College of Arts and Letters have been awarded a Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

Yomaira Figueroa and Tamara Butler, both assistant professors in the Department of English and African American and African Studies program, were named 2017 Woodrow Wilson Fellows. Figueroa received a yearlong fellowship that runs from June 2017 to June 2018, while Butler was awarded a six-month fellowship for June 2017 to December 2017.

Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the Career Enhancement Fellowship Program seeks to increase the presence of underrepresented junior faculty who are committed to eradicating racial disparities in core fields across the arts and humanities. The program allows exceptional junior faculty to pursue scholarly research and writing during their fellowship period in an effort to facilitate the acquisition of tenure.

Figueroa’s research focuses on 20th-century feminist and decolonial Latinx, Caribbean and Afro-diasporic literature, theory and culture. She co-founded the Women of Color Initiative, an effort to organize events for women of color and allies on MSU’s campus.

“I am grateful that humanistic and decolonial work at the intersection of ethnic and transdisciplinary studies has garnered support from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation,” Figueroa said. “As a first-generation high school and college graduate and daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants, I am committed to teaching and researching works that critically reflect diasporic and transnational experiences. I am thrilled to share this award with a colleague and friend who I greatly admire.”

Butler’s research and teaching interests include critical literacies, youth activism and humanizing research methodologies. Her current project focuses on illuminating black women’s relationships to land in the Carolina Sea Islands.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to share the stories and lives that black women have shared with me,” Butler said. “This honor from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation reminds me that ‘The BlackGirlLand Project’ is a timely venture and the stories of black women from South Carolina, like me, are available. I cannot find the words to express the amount of gratitude I have for not only my colleague Yomaira Figueroa, but also for the Woodrow Wilson fellows who came before me: Dr. Jessica Johnson, Dr. Sonya Donaldson and Dr. Jessie Dunbar. Thank you.”

The Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty supports the Mellon Foundation’s mission to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the wellbeing of diverse and democratic societies.