LGS Student Spotlight | Alexis Mayfield

By Kia Lisby

Alexis Mayfield

Sixth-year Laney Graduate School PhD English student and proud Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Graduate of Hampton University, Alexis Mayfield, wants to leverage her curiosity and skills of research to highlight marginalized communities such as black women and black femme writers, artists, and creatives.  

Currently, in the dissertation process, Mayfield is focusing on black women writers of the 20th century, filmmakers of the 21st century, and how black women artists write about strategizing ways to access freedom.  

In her research, some of the questions Mayfield is digging into include how black women write and experiment when strategizing ways to access freedom. She is also curious to learn how BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) strive for moments of freedom and survival strategies when living under conditions that seek to oppress them without clear paths for liberation or ways out.  

Some of Mayfield’s inspirations influencing her research are Toni Morrison, Zora Neal Hurston, June Jordan, Audrey Lorde, Ava DuVernay and even her close friends.  

Mayfield’s efforts in her studies and extracurricular activities have not gone unnoticed. She was recently recognized and awarded as this year’s Kharen Fulton Diversity Award recipient during the EDGE (Emory Diversifying Graduate Education) Annual Diversity Reception. Mayfield was honored for her personal and professional efforts toward diversity, inclusion, and community engagement in the Laney Graduate School.  

“I am deeply grateful and overwhelmed with gratitude that people recognize what I was doing as meaningful. I didn’t do it to get an award. l did it because I care, wanted to be a part of a solution here, and wanted to create a home space.”  

The award is given annually to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Kharen Fulton and her dedication to diversity in graduate education.  

Current students and a faculty member in the Center for Women program nominated Mayfield. Encouraged by her nominators to go to the receptions, not knowing beforehand she had won, Mayfield decided to go.  

Mayfield’s work at the Center for Women includes starting programs, such as the First-Generation Graduate Women’s Collective, for first-generation doctoral students; Heal with the CWE, where the focus was on exploring holistic methods for wellness that crossed different cultures and religious practices as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; and The Black Women’s Immersion program, for first-year black women to build community amongst each other.  

“I think it’s fabulous that I won this award in honor of this black woman [Kharen Fulton] who did amazing work at Emory. I get to be in the legacy of other students of color who have continued to put on for their communities, making Emory the type of place people want to be, not just because of the academic rigor but because they are trying to be on the right side of history.  

Winning the award was a full-circle moment for Mayfield. As a UNCF/Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research fellow, she participated in a summer research program at Emory. Dr. Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper was her professor and was instrumental in nurturing her scholarly pursuits. Dr. Harper, an Emory alum, was also a key player in establishing the Kharen Fulton Award in honor of Dr. Kharen Fulton.  

“It wasn’t until the night I won the award that I learned about Dr. Harper’s role in creating the Kharen Fulton Award. It was a full-circle moment to be nurtured again in such an unexpected way by Dr. Harper’s commitment to diversity in graduate education.”  

Since being at Emory, Mayfield finds herself fitting in more while impacting lives like her mentors.  

“There’s so much opportunity to create the change we want to see—and I have a greater sense of belonging and connection to this space without feeling like I had to transform myself in ways that felt inauthentic.”