Andrés Castro Samayoa
Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
As an international student (from El Salvador), I first came to Harvard thinking I would pursue a concentration in life sciences. A friend's Peer Advising Fellow encouraged me to take a WGS course called "Science, Gender, and Sexuality." I found the class illuminating; it was an entirely new perspective on scientific knowledge. I grew excited by the prospect of immersing myself in the ideals of a liberal arts education by concentrating in a new and unexpected discipline! In WGS, I found a supportive and collaborative intellectual community that allowed me to grow as a critical thinker. I think back to my time as a WGS concentrator as a defining moment in shaping my ability to connect complex theories with everyday experiences. Indeed, the knowledge I acquired through WGS courses has become a powerful lens with which I engage with the world.
My unexpected academic path became an invitation to reflect on my own undergraduate journey. As a WGS concentrator, my academic interests focused on the intersections of students' identities and their collegiate experiences. My thesis was an oral histories project focusing on the narratives of non-heterosexual Harvard alumni from 1941 through 1951. After graduating, I remained at Harvard and pursued my interest in higher education through a fellowship in the Office of Student Life, as well as working with the Freshman Dean's Office on Community and Diversity programming.
After working at Harvard, I completed an M.Phil. in Multi-Disciplinary Gender Studies at the University of Cambridge through the generous support of a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. There, I wrote another historical dissertation focused on the social network of a Cambridge librarian that allowed me to explore questions of same-sex friendships in early 20th century Cambridge.
I returned to the U.S. in 2012 to begin a Ph.D. in education at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education. My work at PennGSE allowed me to connect my historical research into contemporary questions affecting student populations across a variety of institutional contexts. In addition to my doctoral research, I also serve as the Assistant Director for Assessment at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, where I have the joy of working as a Co-Principal Investigator on two large-scale national projects focused on diversifying the K-12 teaching profession and the professoriate in the humanities.