María J. Durán, a doctoral candidate in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, has been awarded the Initiative for Minority Excellence (IME) Doctoral Candidacy Award—a $5,000 grant funded by Chancellor Carol Folt. Durán was nominated by Professor Maria DeGuzmán, María J. Durán director of UNC’s Latina/o studies program, where Durán is a graduate research assistant.

According to Co-Director Kathy Wood, the IME focuses on “the retention and successful graduation of underrepresented minority students,” using a four-tiered approach that works to provide community, resources, faculty advocates, and financial bridges (including the Doctoral Candidacy Award) to traditionally underrepresented students. In addition to financial support, the IME offers professional development seminars, recurring events like “Writing Wednesdays,” social activities, and access to support groups such as Brotherhood of Success (BOS), Sisterhood of Empowerment in Academe (SEA), and La Familia.

Durán is an advocate for minority students and has worked with the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program, Carolina Firsts, and CLC’s Latina/o mentoring program. She has also used the Richard Bland Fellowship to spend a summer working with Juntos, an organization which works to help Latina/o students graduate from high school and aspire to higher forms of education. Durán will use the IME a ward to continue pursuing her own degree in contemporary Latina/o literature. Her dissertation will focus on pain and death as potential sites of social protest.

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