Seven Questions with Alumna Chelsea Bray

Since Chelsea Bray (CGS’11, CAS’13) graduated from BU in 2013, she’s been all-in on higher education. Her time at CGS helped to foster a lifelong love for research and learning that she’s now channeling into both a Ph. D. in editorial studies and a law degree, with the ultimate goal of using the law to further the progress of human rights. We spoke to Chelsea about her time at CGS and her goals for the future.

Chelsea Bray at a former cotton mill in Lowell while researching Charles Dickens as an undergraduate.

What have you been doing since you graduated from BU?

Since graduating from BU with a Bachelor of Arts in English, I’ve been focused on school. I went to Boston College for my master’s degree in English, where I graduated in 2015. During my time there, I was doing a fellowship where I taught a writing class. I decided to get my Ph. D. at Boston University in editorial studies and write my dissertation about Michael Rezendes’ journalism. Mike is actually a BU alum and he is best known for his work about the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. I will be graduating in spring 2021 with my Ph. D.

I also am graduating from UC Berkeley with a law degree in 2022. Currently, I’m a research assistant for Berkeley Law’s Dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, who is also a leading constitutional law scholar. He has argued before the Supreme Court on multiple occasions, and he has commented publicly on the recent SCOTUS decisions. He’s taught me the importance of humility. He’s from a working class family and is the first in his family to go to college. For me, he’s modeled a unique type of intellectual and personal generosity.

Why did you choose that pathway?

I always thought I wanted to go into academia and be a professor. I continued to pursue my passion in academia, but in 2016, two years into my Ph. D. program, the presidential election happened. Afterwards, I felt called to help people outside of the classroom, so I am pursuing my law degree to be an advocate who helps protect everyone’s fundamental legal rights, especially those who are disenfranchised.

How did your time at CGS help prepare you for what came after graduation?

The interdisciplinary nature of CGS helped me to understand the world does not exist in a vacuum. The curriculum also demonstrated how disciplines can connect in surprising ways. In addition, the Capstone project helped prepare me for my oral defense at BC, because Capstone required thinking through a large sum of information, developing my own ideas, and articulating them to my professors. I actually did not request to choose my teammates for the Capstone project, which taught me the importance of compromising with a random group of peers.

What are your goals and aspirations for your career?

One of my goals is to be a civil rights attorney. I am also interested in maybe becoming a law professor, but ultimately I want to be a federal judge.

What extracurriculars, internships, or other out of the classroom experiences were most valuable to you as a CGS student?

My directed study with Dean McKnight during my senior year was one of the most valuable experiences. Our research on Charles Dickens was funded by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. I was actually going to present a paper for a conference that summer, but then Dean McKnight wanted help on a chapter of her book so by the end of the summer I had presented at a conference and co-authored a book chapter. The chapter was published in a book on Charles Dickens in Massachusetts. Being a published author was life changing, especially as an undergraduate. During my time at BU, I was also a Dean’s Host, RA and a student advisor. It was enjoyable to get to know and work with other students outside of the classroom.

What was your favorite part about your CGS experience?

My favorite part was the people. All of the people I stayed in touch with from college are the people I met in CGS. Another aspect was that I actually met my partner in CGS. Even though we ended up in a relationship after we graduated, it is still amazing that we met in college and now we have a house in Somerville, MA and a dog! I was also in a unique program called the Fall London Program which meant that I went to London the fall semester of my sophomore year. It was a really cool experience since I was exposed to a new culture as a sophomore.

If you could give one piece of advice to current CGS students, what would you say?

I would say don’t plan your life and come to school with an open mind. A lot of people come with one plan, and that’s great, but don’t let it be at the cost of spontaneity. The best parts of my life were not planned. Also (I know you said one, but I have two), there is no “should” in college so make decisions that fit your needs, goals, values, whatever, and after you do, don’t apologize, but, instead, take responsibility.

— Compiled by Natalie Seara