Jessica Fei is a doctoral candidate in Culture, Communities, and Education at Harvard University. She is a Presidential Scholar and a Spencer Foundation Early Career Scholar in New Civics. Broadly, Jessica's research focuses on how social structures, culture, and geography shape the identity constructions and educational experiences of adolescents. She has completed qualitative studies on how newcomer youth navigate processes of identity and becoming in urban afterschool programs, and on how elite high school students negotiate boundaries through their neighborhood narratives. With the support of fellowships from the Germanacos Foundation, Jessica has partnered with Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) to conduct research on online learning communities, and to design and implement curricula exploring the theme of place using tools of photography and counter-mapping. Drawing upon the disciplines of sociology, psychology, and geography, Jessica's dissertation research examines how teaching artists and students make sense of their experiences in place-based programs at a Boston community arts studio. Her scholarly interests also include critical youth studies, youth participatory action research (YPAR), arts-based research, and social justice youth development. Jessica was a Tri-Chair of the 2014 HGSE Alumni of Color Conference (AOCC), "From Dreams to Movements: Education, Inequality, and Justice," and in 2017 she received the Kolajo Paul Afolabi Award for Commitment to Educational Justice.
Born and raised in Queens, NY, Jessica has over a decade of experience as an educational practitioner in settings that include urban public schools, arts agencies, and education nonprofits. Prior to entering HGSE, Jessica taught writing and literature, directed a multi-year college readiness program, and developed arts-based leadership programs for public schools in New York City. In recent years, she has led public art and performance projects with high school students in Cambridge, supported undergraduate and graduate students at Harvard in programs related to race and identity, and published toolkits and articles for school- and community-based educators. Currently she serves on the Board of Directors of the MassLEAP Collective, a youth poetry and social justice organization based in the Boston area.
Jessica received her B.A. in Literature and Ethnicity, Race, and Migration from Yale University, where she also earned her certification to teach Secondary English. She holds an Ed.M. in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University.