Merlyz Quezada

Majors: Gender and Women’s Studies and Human Development and Family Studies
Hometown: Providence, RI

Q. What makes the College of Arts and Sciences at URI unique?
I think the College of Arts and Sciences at URI is unique because it offers so many different kinds of majors and degrees that you can really explore what the best fit is for you. The professors and advisors really care about their students and make it easy to find your interest because they teach their classes with such passion themselves.

What research projects, internships, experiential learning, and/or study abroad programs did you participate in at URI?
I started an independent research study with Kathleen McIntyre, a Gender and Women’s Studies professor and advisor. I was able to help be a part of a wonderful project. This project was started in the fall of 2020, when McIntyre did a public history project with students about twelve Black suffragists in Rhode Island in the early 1900s. She and previous students researched and conducted biographical sketches of the women. (Publication link here for McIntyre’s article; student bio sketches below her article.) When I first was introduced to this project I was very interested in participating because there is hardly any information about historical women of color in Providence or in Rhode Island in general, especially in the Providence public school district. My role in this project was to take photographs of key historical sites that were related to early 20th century Black women’s history in Rhode Island. This included historical homes, cemeteries, schools, churches and plaques. I also studied old Providence maps and census records to figure out where Black suffragists lived and worked. One of my first assignments was to photograph opera singer Sissieretta Jones’ places of interest — sites like her former homes, church, neighborhood, grave site and historic marker plaque. I started my research by reading “Sissieretta Jones, the greatest singer of her race, 1868-1933” by Maureen D. Lee. Sissieretta Jones was the first to do so many things as a woman of color and for her community yet she is not taught about in the city where she helped so many. I also had the opportunity to visit her gravestone and the cemetery in which it is located (Grace Cemetery). However, Grace Cemetery is in horrible conditions, with gravestones turned over and litter everywhere. It is unfortunate, but I believe that with education and with efforts like the Providence Preservation Society is committing, change is possible. The Providence Preservation Society was created to help preserve and restore old buildings and properties around RI to help make them usable for future generations in RI. I am also doing an internship with them in the spring semester to see how the preservation part of projects are completed. These kinds of projects are giving me the tools I need in order to create real change around my community. Being a part of the Gender and Women’s Studies community has really opened up opportunities for me to do important and interesting internships.

What do you value about your liberal arts education?
I really value the diversity within the liberal arts education at URI. I found that within this college not only are there broad aspects of things you can learn about but also the people, students, professors and advisors are really interested in doing their part and creating an inviting environment.