Student Spotlight: Marianna McMurdock ’19

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For the first of our 2019 Student Spotlights, we sat down to interview Marianna McMurdock. Read her reflections on education, community, and navigating Brown. 

What opportunities and programs have you been part of at Brown?

I did Winter Break Providence and the iProv summer fellowship in 2017 with Youth In Action, an afterschool non-profit in Providence. After that, I kept working with YIA through work-study til after this past summer. Those things helped me feel grounded here (in Providence), and reminded me that there was a separation between school and life. I’m also a Writing Fellow.

What did you learn from these opportunities?

At Youth in Action, I learned to be more comfortable with my voice. Everyone there was a person of color, and they would always ask me: what do you think? What’s working for you, how can I support you? I worked with high school leaders to create workshops on storytelling and social justice topics, and they kept telling me that they wished they talked about these things in school. That’s why I stayed after the first summer, because they wanted to know these things that could really help them in the future. From that experience, I also learned when to leave things. Even when it seemed like it was “too late”, like in my junior year. I learned to set boundaries for myself, communicate my needs and be pro-active about my needs instead of re-active. At the same time, I’m also proud that I put myself in places to learn and be in community.

Being a Writing Fellow has helped me envision what I want my future classroom to look like. I love how we learn from each other’s writing, and that we’re here for anti-racist writing pedagogy. It’s a way for me to subvert the normal expectations of the education system and treat people like human beings, and have real conversations with them.


What would you have done differently in your time here?

I would have kept track of myself as a person, in terms of my mental capacities. I would have pushed myself to reflect on the future and really ask: what do I want when I leave here? What skills do I want, what communities? If I had asked that, I would have been more intentional about the courses I took, the relationships I built, the spaces I was in. Having like a monthly check-in to reflect on my goals and intentions would have been helpful.


What advice would you give your younger self?

Oh, so many things! But a few that I can think of:

Try new things to find what you’re looking for. It’s ok to try them alone- you can still learn.

Don’t be afraid to make your own academic path. I know people who care about education but didn’t like the EDUC department, so they chose the classes they needed to build the education they wanted. Don’t be discouraged, don’t feel boxed in or tied to one thing.

I also highly recommend taking languages when you’re here. I took Spanish and Portuguese and never regretted it. It’s so important to know how to communicate with more people and understand their music, their lives. Everything here is so U.S. centered, and I want to break that down.

How have you stayed true to your values at Brown?

I’ve stayed true to my values by zooming out. Instead of focusing on day to day things, I ask myself: who are my people, and am I supporting them? I to go to as many U-FLi events as I can. When I do, I feel so warm and excited to meet first and second years. It reminds me that beautiful things are happening here–new cohorts, new people. I also photograph things that should be better valued. I say yes to the things I care about. And of course, I celebrate and sleep as much as I can.

What’s next for you?

I want to be with young people. I want to think about writing and how writing is taught, and I want to make schools more loving. I’m looking for work in policy, media, education, work that’ll help us get towards a more economically and racially just world.

these people eating fancy cheese and talking about nerdy stuff could be you!

How to apply for conference funding (also, hello again!)

How do I get funding to go to a conference?

So you found a cool conference you want to go to! Conferences are great for you present research & meet people doing work that you want to be part of. But how do you actually get money from Brown to go to one? I get this question a lot in advising hours, so thought I’d list out resources here.

First, what kind of conference is it? If it’s a community, identity, and activity related conference, think about applying through a Category II club to get funding through SAO.


If it’s an academic conference and you are presenting research, then here’s where to apply:

  1. Research @ Brownapply through UFUNDS for up to $400 in conference travel funding! Talk to Dean Adetunji before you submit your app, and make sure to get a faculty to write something in support of you going. RAB is rolling, so you should try to get it in as soon as possible
  2. Edward Giuliano Fellowship in the Swearer Center: also through UFUNDS, has three committee meetings throughout the year and is rolling, so keep track of the deadlines!
  3. The Pembroke Center has funds related to people writing theses or doing community work related to women and gender. If that applies to you, get those funds! Due October 4th.
  4. If you are part of a fellowship program like the Royce Fellowship, Cogut Undergraduate Fellowship, or the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, then you can request extra funding to attend a conference.
  5. Talk to your faculty advisor about if they could use their supplemental research funds to support your conference travel
  6. Talk to your department to see if they have supplemental funding to support you.
  7. Low-income students should talk to Dean Elie about  co-curricular funding set aside for y’all within the Dean of the College.
  8. See if the conference association itself has travel grants to support undergraduates, graduate students, and community members.


Here’s the application materials that you’ll need, and strategies to approach them:

  1. An abstract of your research AND/OR a written statement expressing the stakes of your research and the importance of this conference to your academic trajectory at Brown. This is a vital skill in research: knowing to translate your work to different audiences and explaining why they should care and support you. Ask a friend who’s not in your concentration to read over your abstract and see if it makes sense to them.
  2. A proposed budget, including travel, housing, food, and conference registration fees. Don’t underestimate the costs, especially because travel prices can change! Better to propose a budget that’s slightly over the actual cost than under.
  3. A letter of support from your faculty advisor. This is not mandatory, but is strongly encouraged.

Another overall strategy is to use a patchwork approach: apply widely, and if one pocket of funding (i.e. Research @Brown) doesn’t give you quite enough, reach out to another one (your academic department, your advisor) to fill in the gaps.


Other questions:

Do I have to be a researcher/presenter in order to get Brown funding?

It’s strongly encouraged, and I’m pretty sure Research @ Brown and other funding pockets won’t consider you if you aren’t presenting research. However, “presenting” is a flexible term! I missed a deadline to apply to be an official panelist at a conference in Spring 2017, but talked to the conference organizers and was able to present about a semester UTRA experience within a broader community forum. That counts as a research presentation, and I got funding for it.

For more specific questions, come to CRC FIRE open hours: Mondays 7-9pm in the FLi Center, Thursdays 1-4pm in the CRC & Fridays 10-1pm in the CRC. 

FIRE Guide For Undocumented Students

The Undocumented Student Resource Guide is a guide of fellowships, internships, funding, and research opportunities open to undocumented students and students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.  These opportunities are both Brown-specific and unrelated to Brown and include opportunities for graduate school preparation and funding, special projects, public service, law, government, health, medicine, and general resources.

The list is not extensive (i.e. if there is an opportunity at Brown that is not listed on this sheet, it does not mean that it is not open to undocumented/DACA students). Although this guide was created to make resources more accessible to undocumented and DACA students, it can also be used for people with other legal statuses and work permits. This guide will be continually updated.

For a paper copy, please visit the Curricular Resource Center, the First-Generation Low-Income Student Center, or the CareerLAB.




Signing On!

Hi! My name is Victoria, and I’m the new Fellowships, Internships and Research experiences Coordinator for the Curricular Resource Center, and the new captain/blogger for CRCFIRe.

A bit about me: like it says on the CRC website (which you should visit), I’m currently a junior studying Ethnic Studies. My research interests are in critical refugee studies and critical human geography, specifically on how Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian refugee communities work to survive and organize within histories of militarism and land displacement, colonialism, and the violence of late-capitalist neoliberal America.

Victor and Mya have both left tremendous legacies as FIRe coordinators, which I hope to honor and build upon. As FIRe coordinator, my goal is to intentionally make fellowships and research opportunities more accessible for students marginalized by academic institutions: that includes first generation college students, low-income students, historically under-represented students of color, and undocumented students and those from mixed-status families. Research and fellowships can feel so unattainable for marginalized students, and I want to change that. If you’ve ever been made to feel that your ideas and interests don’t matter, I want to affirm that they really are worthwhile (and so are you!), and there are so many opportunities to make your ideas happen.

Things to expect from this blog:

  • Student Spotlights
  • Opportunities Spotlights
  • Tips and Advice on Applications

As FIRe Coordinator, I also plan to hold events and intentionally outreach to different communities on campus like those in the FLiCenter, BCSC, Swearer Center and LGBTQ Center. Follow the CRC newsletter (email to stay on top of FIRe programming.   

I hold advising hours in the CRC and FLiCenter: Tuesdays 1-5pm and Fridays 10-2pm in the CRC (stay tuned for FliCenter hours).  During that time, we can talk about your academic interests and research, applying to fellowships and opportunities, and graduate school. I also advise more generally on coursework, integrating academics with community engagement and social responsibility, and thinking about life and The Future™️ (yikes!). Feel free to stop by regardless of where you are in your academic journey: maybe you have no idea what you’re doing, maybe you don’t even know what questions to ask, maybe your interests are different than mine, but we can work together to figure things out.  I’m pretty resourceful, so if I don’t know the answer to your questions, chances are I’ll know someone who will.

I hope to see you at my advising hours or at a FIRe event, or to hear from you over email sometime in the next few months. I’m here to support you, and I look forward to talking soon.

Take care,