In the month of her graduation from UMass Dartmouth’s Biology Department, Charlemya Erasme was named one of “29 who shine” by the Massachusetts State House, concluding an impressive undergraduate career at UMassD.
When asked at the time what her next steps would be, she said, ‘one thing I know for sure is that, as long as my future involves social justice work, I am on the right path.’ Four years removed, few that know her would be surprised to hear she’s indeed on the right path, working to address a variety of inequalities in higher education.
Following her undergraduate degree in Biology, Erasme stayed at UMass Dartmouth to graduate with a Master’s in STEM education two years later, before landing a job at the Harvard Catalyst’s postgraduate education (PGE) program. There she develops courses with faculty members, recruits presenters from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds, revamps webpages for academic centers, and more, in an effort to support people of all backgrounds in the clinical and translational research community.
“Our team makes a concerted effort to ask questions about how bias and inequalities show up in clinical and translational research, and educational opportunities for every aspect of our work,” said Erasme. “We aim to make inclusive, welcoming, educational experiences.”
In collaboration with Harvard-affiliated institutions, the Harvard Catalyst’s PGE program offers a full range of courses, workshops, and training programs for members of the research community both within and outside of Harvard University and affiliated academic healthcare centers.
“I love working in education. I hadn’t ever envisioned doing so, but so much of what I've done, especially at UMassD, has been related to education. Working in it just feels like home,” said Erasme. “Working in education helps me to be a continuous learner; both with and from others. I just want to be able to do good, moral, impactful work, adding as much good and as little harm into the world as possible.”
Finding Your Support System
Erasme credits UMass Dartmouth’s affordability, and the opportunities it presents as the two biggest pulls that brought her to both her undergraduate and graduate programs in the College of Arts and Sciences, but says the people on campus are what makes UMassD special, and kept her in both programs.
“I met some great mentors through the Frederick Douglass Unity House. And in general, I met a lot of great faculty, staff, and students at UMassD,” said Erasme. “I was, and still am, so thankful for all the people that were willing to be there for me. I want my life and work to do my past effort and everyone who's helped me’s effort, justice.”
Outside the traditional classroom experience, Erasme cites the importance of building a support system through various clubs, committees, and activities on campus, as well as gaining experience in internships and/or research off-campus to be able to see the full picture and understand the topic inside and out.
“Building a support system on campus was key in preparing me for a life in science and understanding how to build a community in science that is otherwise missing or lacking,” said Erasme. “I really enjoyed working with Dr. Vanni Bucci and lab members on research that showed me how much more science is when applied to the real-world than what’s often taught in the classroom. This experience allowed me to see myself as a ‘scientist’, which to that point I hadn’t.”
After five years spent on UMassD’s campus, Erasme landed an internship at Teachers College, Columbia University’s graduate school of education, for credit in her graduate program.
“While I enjoyed my time and the community at UMass Dartmouth, I wanted to experience life and build a network outside Ring road,” said Erasme. “I loved working with Dr. Felicia Mensah, and the work I did there has been so instrumental to everything I’ve done since.”
Graduating in a Pandemic
“Entering the workforce in May 2020 was hard. There was no blueprint,” said Erasme. “I think my faith, patience, and support from my friends, family, and mentors was the biggest key to landing my job.”
Faith, patience, and support have rewarded her well, as Erasme was promoted after just four months on the job at the Harvard Catalyst.
“You’re never alone. Finding and having access to support is key. Have grace with yourself, and if you notice something impacting yourself, you deserve to have support to help you through it,” said Erasme. “Everyone deserves to experience support for their whole being and well-being. People’s experiences, mine included, aren’t perfect. We are all just trying to figure things out. Go through life authentically in the way that’s best for you.”