Student Spotlight: Marielle P. Barrow Defends her Dissertation

Marielle P. Barrow defended her dissertation entitled "Counter-memory and Cultural Capital: The Arts as Sustainable Civic Practice in the Caribbean" and worked with Dr. Michael MaloufChristine Rosenfeld conducted a short exchange with Marielle in which she reflects on her time at Mason.


How have your research interests changed from the time you began the PhD program to now, and in which direction do you envision your work moving upon graduating?

My research interests have not substantially changed since I enrolled but they have been refined. I am of course more aware of the history, epistemology and directions within certain fields of knowledge, in particular memory studies, postcolonial studies and cultural policy, which are my specific areas of focus. Art history, African American and African art seem to be the natural course of progression for my work as well as museum studies, which  I focused on for one of my field statements. Then there is also visual culture, performance studies, entrepreneurship and media studies, which are part and parcel of my work in various ways. So I suppose my direction is in part contingent on the nature of the university department or employment that I land up in.

At the moment, I am at that juncture of pursuing both possibilities- a postdoctoral position and non academic options, before returning home to Trinidad & Tobago to complete my residency requirement for the Fulbright program. I have to say that I am enthralled by both endeavors. The potential to inject community scholarship and learning into the classroom, study abroad and exchange are all critical learning interfaces that really excite me. At the same time, working in communities is an integral aspect of my commitment to my own vocation and journey. We make our plans and then we allow life its leeway to determine its own agenda I suppose.
What kinds of professional development did you pursue while a student and which do you think will best position you to get the job you want: publishing, presenting, teaching, service in the department, engagement in non-university service projects, acquiring particular research skills?
I have been a social entrepreneur for a long time so apart from adjunct teaching positions at American University and George Mason University. I have done networking and small business development. I have found that small business development was essential to my professional growth as there are many transferable skills to be gained. I started an academic peer reviewed journal  and thereafter, based on the success of this publication I was awarded a Graduate Assistantship from the Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences here at Mason. I have also started a program for at risk youth which is in its fifth edition and will cater to two hundred youth over two years. I also did an internship at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage which has produced programming collaborations with curators and directors of this entity.
So I have established a 501 (c) 3, Caribbean InTransit under which the journal, at-risk programming and festivals are run. I have pulled together a team of thirty three volunteers across thirteen countries in the Caribbean, US and Europe who make these projects possible. We have had two festivals in Trinidad and one in Washington DC and looking forward to our fourth in Johannesburg South Africa as soon as I recover from finishing this PhD!
What is one of your best memories from your time in the PhD program in Cultural Studies?
I wouldn't say that there is a specific memory. It is more of a collection, a memoir of enduring friendships I have made with a few students from the program who have really supported and loved me through this journey.
So I am also a painter and was blessed with the opportunity to pursue some painting courses at Mason during my course of study. I am still dreaming of doing an MFA which is crazy considering that I need to end the student career and find what we delightfully call 'gainful employment' but 'heartful employment' is also sustaining to me. My challenge is to find the right balance between the two.