I left the second convening of Northwestern University’s Public Voices Fellowship feeling much as I had after the first: exhilarated, inspired, excited, and honored. I have been waiting for an opportunity like this for a long time. Though I love academia and find it an honour to teach smart students to think more critically and to engage with scholars in my field by reading their work and writing my own, I’ve been seeking a way to bring the things I know as a historian into a broader sphere.
I’ve wanted to engage policy makers, lawmakers, and American voters and ask them to consider more deeply the history of twentieth-century social justice movements as they make decisions about our present and future. I want them to know the things I know about our country’s history of racial and ethnic communities’ struggles to find equality and fight discrimination. I want them to understand the multiracial nature of our country’s past. I hope to illuminate the long-term nature of reformers’ struggles to bring more transparency and justice to Americans of all stripes in the realm of health, including food, toxins, and the environment more generally.
The Public Voices Fellowship has provided me with that opportunity. Having the chance to think through my ideas and practice presenting them to astoundingly smart and widely trained (not to mention empathetic and supportive) colleagues, with the expert guidance of Michele Weldon and Holly Kearl, has been one of the most stimulating experiences I’ve had in my academic career. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and excited about what I hope to achieve with it, beginning with seeing my first fellowship op-ed published in The Pacific Standard.
Shana Bernstein is a Clinical Associate Professor at the Center for Legal Studies, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University.