Spotlight: Kenia Rodriguez

Kenia Rodriguez is a Greenhouse Studios CLAS Graduate Fellow

My name is Kenia Rodriguez and I am a second year MA/PhD track student in English at the University of Connecticut (UConn). In May 2019, I earned my  Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from California State University, Northridge. I am an HSI Pathways/Mellon Student Fellow who hopes to become a professor of children’s literature. I am a first generation college student and the first member of my entire family tree to pursue a graduate education. My research interests stem from my adolescent experiences with young adult literature (YA) and include contemporary American YA literature written by Latina authors, as well as relationships among gender, race, and citizenship.

During my junior year as an undergraduate student, I began working as a research assistant for WE1S, a a Mellon-Funded project that uses digital humanities (DH) tools and methods to analyze contemporary public discourse about the humanities. Although I worked on this project every summer for the course of three years, I quickly realized I wanted to merge the DH field with children’s literature. WE1S allowed me to see that I can collect a massive amount of text from contemporary YA novels to create data visualization models to answer questions about race, gender, and citizenship. However, I knew that I needed to find ways to continue pursuing DH at UConn. In May 2020, I became one of two students to earn the CLAS and Greenhouse Studios Graduate Student Diversity Fellowship in DH.

I hope that my experience at Greenhouse Studios provides me with the experience I need to begin work on my dissertation project, which will utilize DH research and methods to analyze Latinx YA Literature. I hope to build upon my skills utilizing machine learning techniques to question how common themes in contemporary YA literature by Latina authors reflect our hybrid culture today, how Latina authors are creating a language of empowerment in their works to counteract depression in Latinx youth in America, and how writing is used to combat the negative effects of machismo on Latinx youth. Two years of hands-on experience in DH research and method with Greenhouse Studios will provide me with the knowledge I need to be able to foster my dissertation and future research projects. Working with a team whose experiences in DH vary, will allow me to think about the different ways that I can create and analyze my own projects. This experience will also help me build upon my portfolio for the Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities and Media Studies. The CLAS and Greenhouse Studios Graduate Student Diversity Fellowship is the ideal next step for my DH career; I intend to become a children’s literature professor who will help diversify the field of DH and the professoriate.