Alumna in competitive MIT program

Dan O'Brien
May 14, 2013

Semel

Beth Semel '10 (Courtesy photo)

An Emerson alumna has been accepted into a prestigious and highly competitive doctoral program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Beth Semel ’10, who has a bachelor’s degree in Writing, Literature and Publishing from Emerson, and a master’s degree in anthropology from Brandeis University, wants to continue her research examining the role cultural influences play on people with mental illness.

“I’d really like to be working and researching in a hospital or a psychiatric program,” Semel said. “I generally like researching.”

Semel will attend MIT’s History, Anthropology, Science, Technology and Society program free of tuition. The program has about a 7 percent acceptance rate.

She plans to study local mental health programs that received grants to provide cultural-specific treatment for Haitians displaced to Boston by the 2010 earthquake.

“Now in 2013, a lot of those programs are losing funding or closing,” she said. “I’m curious to see how the care will differ.”

Semel said she learned at Brandeis “how culture plays a role in… aspects we might not expect, as clinicians, when starting therapy for a patient.”

Even though her time at Emerson was spent studying literature, Semel said her undergraduate education provided a terrific base that propelled her into her current studies.

“Even though it seems like such a jump,” she said, “being at Emerson [with] professors who were willing to give me the space to challenge myself was really helpful in terms of becoming a confident scholar and academic. [Emerson also] introduced me to more theoretical and analytical components of understanding literature beyond the text itself.”

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