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Emotionality and Graduate Students’ Experiences with Public Scholarship

Lizbeth De La Cruz Santana, Alana Haynes Stein


Our research focuses on two relatively understudied areas of public scholarship — emotionality and graduate students’ experiences. We draw on 31 in-depth, semi-structured interviews of graduate students and recent alumni about their experiences doing public scholarship in the social sciences, humanities, and arts. We found graduate school uniquely structures graduate students’ experiences doing public scholarship, particularly as scholars navigate the power dynamic between themselves, the university, and broader publics. Interviewees discussed emotions, such as responsibility, vulnerability, frustration, grief, pride, and joy emerging from their public scholarship. Scholars also discussed the tension between the centrality of emotions to their work while the potential for emotionality to delegitimize their work within university power relations. We found public scholarship requires care work as scholars work with communities and emotional labor as graduate public scholars navigate how to legitimate their work within the university setting. The additional labor is particularly important as many public scholars come from the same marginalized communities with which they work. This research was conducted as part of a larger study on campus culture change on behalf of public and engaged scholars, led by Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life.

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