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Brown renames Graduate School diversity fellowships in honor of first Black Ph.D. alumna

November 29, 2022

Mae Belle Williamson Simmons earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Brown in 1962. She is pictured at her graduation with her husband, Ralph Simmons, and their son, Roddie. Photo courtesy of Michael Simmons.

The Mae Belle Williamson Simmons Diversity Fellowships honor the legacy of a trailblazing Providence native whose lasting impact on the field of child psychology belied a life and career that were cut short.

After a collaborative research effort led in large part by recent Ph.D. graduate N’Kosi Oates, the Graduate School at Brown University has renamed its diversity fellowships in honor of Mae Belle Williamson Simmons, who earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Brown in 1962 — the earliest known Black woman to earn her doctoral degree from the University. Alycia Mosley Austin, associate dean of diversity and inclusion at the Graduate School, said the renaming will bring the late Williamson Simmons into the annals of University history, highlight her impact and bring further visibility to the diversity fellowships program, founded in 2017. Read more.