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Portrait of Joy Silvey on commencement day

Joy Silvey '15

Joy always enjoyed learning history growing up, but she did not initially commit to majoring in the subject when she first came to UMass in 2011. Joy’s interests began to change when she took several courses on women’s history with Professors Joyce Berkman, Priyanka Srivastava, and Laura Lovett. For Professor Lovett’s class, Joy had the opportunity to conduct primary source research at the UMass Special Collections and University Archives. The experience of handling documents from the past ignited Joy’s passion for studying history.

Joy converted her enthusiasm for archival research into an internship with the Sexual Minorities Archives (SMA) in Northampton, which was part of a UMass Creative Economies Initiative project directed by Professor Julio Capó Jr., History Outreach Director Dr. Jessica Johnson, and UWW Professor Mitch Boucher. For her internship, Joy categorized periodicals, created finding aids, and processed new materials into the SMA’s collection. She also translated the SMA’s brochure into Spanish to make the repository accessible to broader audiences. The internship gave Joy practical experience, but also refined her research skills and knowledge of the sources available for LGBTQ history.

Joy used this knowledge to complete an honors thesis on the emergence of the Pioneer Valley’s LGBTQ history during the late twentieth century. The project evolved from a on class on LGBT and queer history that Joy took with her advisor Professor Capó. Joy analyzed the historical processes that facilitated the formation of a safe space for LGBTQ people in the Pioneer Valley and defined what features constituted a safe environment.

Professor Capó says about Joy’s thesis: "Working with Ms. Silvey has been an absolute pleasure. She has produced incredibly sophisticated work, mining various archives and depositories, that reveals the rich history of queer student organizations at UMass and the Five Colleges. In beautiful and elegant prose, she unveils the many challenges, obstacles and victories this LGBTQ community endured since the 1970s. Ms. Silvey is creative, intuitive, and a most nuanced thinker. Her research is a must-read."

In addition to her historical endeavors, Joy has been an active member of the UMass Theater Guild, serving twice on the organization’s executive board. She also worked at the UMass Writing Center for two years, and participated in the College’s Hillel. After graduation, Joy began volunteering with the Valley Women’s History Collaborative and accepted a summer position working with Professor Emily Redman researching the history of math education and the public history of STEM. This fall, she accepted the honor of joining the Board of Directors for the Sexual Minorities Archives, and she is in the process of applying to graduate school.