campus news

UB student wins prestigious Marshall Scholarship

Alexis Harrell taking photos in Old Town Warsaw.

Alexis Harrell takes photos in Old Town Warsaw during her Humanity in Action fellowship trip to Poland last summer. Harrell has been awarded a 2023 Marshall Scholarship. Photo: Courtesy of Alexis Harrell


Published January 9, 2023

“My research centers on achieving narrative justice for Black communities through visual mediums. ”
Alexis Harrell, UB senior and recipient
Marshall Scholarship

A senior psychology and sociology major from UB has been awarded a 2023 Marshall Scholarship by the British government.

Alexis Harrell, a racial justice researcher and artist, is one of 40 students chosen nationwide to receive the award from more than 900 applicants.

Marshall Scholarship recipients are considered among the most accomplished undergraduate students and recent graduates in the United States. Scholarship recipients study an academic subject of their choice for up to three years at a university in the United Kingdom.

The 2023 winners will begin graduate studies at 21 universities in September.

“As the number of awardees indicate, the Marshall Scholarship is among the most selective postgraduate honors a student can receive,” President Satish K. Tripathi said.

“I am so proud of Alexis for being selected for this prestigious distinction, as she embodies UB’s mission of excellence in everything she does. Through her innovative work on social and racial justice, she is demonstrating her commitment to our university’s most cherished values.

“As Alexis looks toward her studies abroad, we look forward to seeing how UB’s newest Marshall Scholar takes her research and creative endeavors to the next level and makes her mark on the world.”

Harrell plans to pursue an MS in “Narrative Futures: Art, Data, Society” at the University of Edinburgh, and a master’s in an art-related field at Goldsmiths, University of London.

The Albany native said her interdisciplinary program of study will focus on how narratives shape social, political and economic worlds, and how stories can be used to forge new futures.

“My research centers on achieving narrative justice for Black communities through visual mediums,” she said. “I am very interested in how Black experiences are displayed in various forms of narrative, such as literature, visual media, music, video games and so forth, and how those narratives can advantage or disadvantage Black communities.”

In Edinburgh, she will learn how narratives are being transformed in artistic domains like creative writing and design, in social life and through emerging technology like artificial intelligence, she said.

“Narrative/storytelling is a core component to all spheres of life but is not always recognized as such, and it is often the most discreet forces that can cause a large impact on society,” she said. “Therefore, I am eager to learn more about the pervasiveness of narrative and how to build a better future through creating and sharing ethical stories.”

Harrell said she plans to immerse herself in diverse cultures in the U.K. to expand her worldview and document examples of cultural diversity through photography and film. She will travel to various artistic hubs to learn more about using art as a form of activism.

In the future, Harrell said she would like to work as a visual artist using photography, design and film to highlight the diversity of Black experiences through activist-driven projects.

“I would also love to start a nonprofit organization dedicated to social justice education through artwork — conducting research on the art-activism connection, running multimedia workshops and collaborating with global artists to help reduce prejudice and promote understanding within society,” she said.

Harrell is a Presidential Scholar and a McNair Scholar at UB. She was the first UB undergraduate to receive an international Humanity in Action Fellowship. She served as president and research director of the UB Society and Computing Club, and was a programs coordinator for GiGi’s Playhouse Buffalo, a Down syndrome achievement center.

The Marshall Scholarship Program is named for U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall. The program began in 1953 to thank the people of the United States for the assistance that the U.K. received after World War II under the Marshall Plan. Previous scholarship recipients include university presidents, Pulitzer-Prize winners, MacArthur fellows, Academy-Award nominees, U.S. Supreme Court justices, a Nobel laureate and a NASA astronaut.

“Marshall Scholars continue to embody the spirit of the scholarship’s namesake in their commitment to making the world a better place. They are powerful advocates for excellence and progress in an impressive range of disciplines,” said John Raine, chair of the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission.

The Marshall Scholarship Program is principally funded by the British government, with additional support from British academic institutions, the Association of Marshall Scholars and the British Schools & Universities Foundation.