This spring Emily Yette, a doctoral candidate in Epidemiology, became the fourth recipient of UC Berkeley’s Philip Brett LGBT Studies Fellowship.
Emily, who grew up near Seattle, earned a bachelor’s degree in human biology with a concentration in adolescent development at Stanford and a master’s degree in public health at the University of Washington. Along the way, she gained a wealth of experience in the state of Washington, including two years working at a community-based mental health agency, a year at the research unit of the Department of Corrections, and two years in community/school public health partnerships.
Deciding to pursue a doctorate, Emily applied to several programs but had long been attracted to Berkeley’s “social justice angle.” She entered the Ph.D. program in Epidemiology here in 2013 and plans to finish next year. Her dissertation on “the health of Black sexual minority women” arose from narrowing her previous work on health among sexual minority populations to focus on sexual minorities of color.
Emily credits her faculty advisor, Public Health professor Jennifer Ahern, with advocating patient exploration of possible topics and giving suggestions for honing in without feeling rushed. Karen Trocki, a scientist at the Alcohol Research Group (affiliated with Berkeley’s School of Public Health), discussed potential future directions of alcohol research involving sexual minority women. Seeking more faculty working with sexual minority issues, Emily reached out to Law professor Russell Robinson of the LGBTQ Citizenship Cluster of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society (HIFIS); his advice, coursework, and qualifying exam committee service were indispensable. Alumna Janelle Downing, co-founder of the Queering Public Health student group, offered enthusiastic support and connections to other scholars in the field.
Asked for advice for other graduate students, Emily echoed her advisor: “Writing is thinking. You can do research endlessly before writing your papers; there’s always more than you have; you can always think you’re not ready. The vital step is to start writing. Don’t let an idea of perfection prevent you from getting started; keep working and writing.”
This month, Emily begins a predoctoral fellowship at the Alcohol Research Group, which will help inform her dissertation. Looking ahead, she plans to lead a workshop at the Teaching Conference for First-Time GSIs in August, and then investigate professional development resources on campus, such as the Career Center (which she hears is “excellent”), Beyond Academia, and the GPS Center. Emily’s ideal career will combine research and practice in a setting involving government or community and university partnerships.
Established in 2009 as a grassroots initiative by campus faculty, staff, students, and friends, the Philip Brett LGBT Studies Fellowship is Berkeley’s only endowed fund to support graduate students in LGBT-related research in any field. It honors the memory of Philip Brett, an eminent music scholar who is now considered a pioneer of queer musicology, who taught at Berkeley from 1966 to 1991. Each year, a multi-disciplinary faculty committee selects the Brett Fellow from student applicants from a diverse range of academic programs. Application deadlines are in March each year.