Graduate Profile: Maya Christine James, MTS '22

May 16, 2022
Maya Christine James, MTS '22
Maya Christine James, MTS '22, Courtesy photo

HDS communications reached out to our 2022 graduating students to hear from them in their own words about their experiences at HDS, the people who've helped and inspired them along their grad school journeys, and their plans for the future.

How I've Changed 

I'd probably say ontology, praxis, and difficult conversations more than any other person I know.
Jokes aside, I have come to appreciate the nuances of worldviews that create our country and world today. I am more comfortable with discomfort and listen to others with an openness and curiosity I had not done before.

Memorable Moment

Planning Homecoming Week for the community was undoubtedly the most memorable moment here. I had just entered HDSSA as president under a special election; we didn’t have an events planner either at the time, and I had to discern with the rest of the HDSSA Council how to rebuild a community during a global pandemic in a way that was safe and engaging for the community. I designed “Homecoming” Week after suggestions from Xavier Sayeed and Peyton White to create a week-long series of events (and no, there was no homecoming game to attend, we just liked the name). It was a massive undertaking, but the sound of collective laughter, singing, and joy throughout the week made it all well worth it. At the end of a sip and paint, a student gave me a painting of Swartz Hall as a thank you for designing and running the events. The name smudged out, but whoever this student was, thank you. I’ll keep that painting forever.

Favorite Class or Professor

I can’t choose one, so I’ll write out a bunch of names and hope no one catches it. I loved working with Diane Moore, David Holland, Terry Tempest Williams, and C.E. Morgan, among other professors. I especially want to thank Professor Holland for the way he guided classes and answered all of my questions with a level of care and attention to detail. He taught "Theories and Methods," which ended up being the first class where I truly felt comfortable speaking up. These professors challenged me in a way that led me to a deeper understanding of myself and my worldviews. Special shout out to visiting professors Georgette Ledgister and Heather White for doing the same!

I would also like to note some of my favorite teaching fellows: Anh Tran, Steven Harris, and Denson Staples, who supported many of the classes above and answered numerous emails from me. Thank you!

Message of Thanks 

To my mom, Maria Pannell James, your tireless work cultivating my love of education and learning is what brought me here. It was one of the proudest moments of my life to tell you first that I got into Harvard. Thank you.

To my father, Mark E. James, thank you for teaching me to speak up and use my voice for meaningful change. I won’t always be the loudest voice in the room, but I aspire to be one of the most discerning and confident ones.

I also want to thank my ancestors and my grandparents. In particular, Julia James and Frances Pannell for calling me during my long walks, and offering your prayers, love, and support since I was a child.

To my siblings, Moriah, Maddie, Mylie, and Matthias, y’all are cool too I guess. (Just kidding I love you all SO much!). I also offer another special thanks to my partner Oladipupo, whose faith in my intellect and abilities has not wavered, even once. I love you all.

Future Plans

There's a Toni Morrison quote I include in my email signature that says “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” In other words, I am going to be a full time writer at some point. But in the meantime, I will be taking a bit of time off before working full time in some copywriting or conflict negotiation role. This summer I will be developing more of the manuscripts I wrote during my time at HDS in the hopes of publishing my poetry in a complete book or chapbook.