Narrative Voice: Jayanthi Mistry

Professor, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development
Professor Jayanthi Mistry stands in a hallway with students in the background.

In an increasingly complex and interconnected world, Jayanthi Mistry strives to deepen her students’ understanding of the “multiple and diverse realities of the human experience.”

A professor in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, Mistry analyzes personal narratives in her research, and that inspired her to think about using a narrative approach to support identity development in adolescents and youth. Last year, she created a new course with Kerri Bowen, AG00, AG10, executive director of City Lights, a communitybased writing project. The course, Identity, Community, and Voice, focused on narrative identity: the internalized and evolving story of the self that individuals construct.

The cross-disciplinary course included a field component in which Tufts students worked with Medford and Somerville high school students. In workshops led by Bowen and local poets, writers, and photographers, they explored questions of identity,  their place in the community, and the experience of crossing boundaries and navigating multiple cultures. The class used the Digital Design Studio in Tisch Library to create digital media presentations, recording themselves reading their course writings and combining these audio clips with their photographs. They also reimagined their works into a public display in Tisch Library (pictured), designed to generate a collective sense of agency and action.

Mistry intends to offer the course again and is working to expand the representation of community voices, develop specific advocacy projects, and formalize the field component so it can be offered for additional credit. She is energized by the power of stories. “Students told me that reflecting on their narratives during the course helped them understand parts of their identity in ways they had not previously.”

Visit to hear Mistry explain why we experience childhood.

Visit for student photographs and writings from the Identity, Community, and Voice class.