Meet Tiana Garrett, Holden Diversity Fellow 2023, and be inspired

Meet Tiana Garrett, Holden Diversity Fellow 2023, and be inspired

June 10, 2024 By ACES Staff ACES News

In 2020, as the world was transitioning into a global pandemic, Tiana Garrett was going through a transition of her own.

Garrett, who has a doctorate in cell biology and a master’s in public health, had been working in public health for 15 years, including a stint as an officer in the CDC’s legendary Epidemic Intelligence Service. She was feeling the need for a career pivot. 

Garrett, during her time at CDC, poses with ​Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin and her cousin.

“Health communications were suffering,” she says. “People were not getting the information that they needed to be able to make accurate decisions about what to do if we were infected with COVID, or how to minimize our COVID exposure, or what COVID even was. There were so many questions and it really led me to see how important health communication is.”

Her years working with agencies and state and local health departments taught her that these offices had limited capacity for people with backgrounds in epidemiology, statistics, and data analysis, especially those who also knew scientific writing and editing. All skills she had. There was only one problem: She didn’t know what editing was, or that it was a field she could actually work in. 

“Even though by this time I had published multiple papers in different peer-reviewed journals, it still didn't cross my mind that, hey, there's actually people that do this,” she says. 

In retrospect, she realizes that carrying around a special red pen because so many of her friends in college and graduate school wanted her to review their papers might have been a clue. 

Fast-forward to the summer of 2023: Garrett had completed UC San Diego's Extended Studies certificate in copy editing, founded her own consulting firm, Indices Consulting, and was subcontracting as a technical writer-editor of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, or MMWR.

The Holden Diversity Fellowship application window is June 1-July 15.

That’s when she applied for a Richard S. Holden Diversity Fellowship, a program of the ACES Education Fund that is dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion by advancing early- and mid-career professionals in their work as editors and aspiring industry leaders. 

ACES has offered these awards in conjunction with the Dow Jones News Fund since 2020. Garrett was named one of the four 2023 recipients. 

The application window for the 2024 Holden Fellowships is open June 1-July 15

When in doubt, look it up

Like the scientist she is — and with the inherent instincts of an editor — when she realized she didn't know anything about editing, Garrett researched it. She discovered the field of copy editing, the wide range of editors, certificate programs, and a number of useful organizations, including ACES: The Society for Editing, the country’s leading organization of editing professionals.

The benefits of being an ACES member keep expanding

She dove into the ACES website, educating herself about the organization’s professional development and trainings, the discounts to conferences that ACES and other organizations offer, discounts for editing software and style guides — and awards and fellowships. 

“To be honest, when I found out about the Holden Fellowship, I always knew I wanted to apply,” Garrett says. “I didn't feel like I was a good candidate. I wanted to get some more experience in editing, either as a freelancer or in a more structured role.”

The journey to the Holden Diversity Fellowship

A couple of years later, she was ready. She carefully outlined four specific professional development goals in her application. 

She wanted to strengthen her skills in medical editing — and broaden them beyond that. She was interested in editing on digital platforms such as websites and mobile applications. She wanted to learn more about person-first language. She was looking for mentorship and for editing community. 

So when she got the email informing her she’d been awarded the fellowship, Garrett says, she screamed. 

“You go through your life making decisions and you just hope you're on the right path,” she says. “When you apply for something, you never know what people are looking for, right? And then when you receive something like this, it gives you the validation that, OK, you're doing the right things and people find value in what you're doing and they want to help you become better at what you're doing so you can help others.” 

The joys of conference

Garrett was also clear she wanted to attend ACES 2024 San Diego, the 28th annual national ACES conference. 

“I’ve gone to conferences throughout my career," she says. "I know the value of going to in-person conferences and meeting people and having informal conversations that may turn into partnerships.” 

Robinson Prize winner Erin Brenner at the Chicago Manual of Style table shares her new book..

The ACES conference did not disappoint. 

“This was the first time in my career as an editor that I was actually around other editors. There’s just something about sitting in a room with your peers,” says Garrett, who lives in Virginia and works remotely for the Atlanta-based CDC. 

She immersed herself in the conference. She met other 2023 Holden Fellows and one from 2022. She went to sessions on AI, inclusive language, accessibility, and style guides. She went to receptions and the Awards Banquet. She joined meet-ups with editors of color and editors who work in government. 

“It was great to talk to editors who work for different governmental agencies and to see what they do,” she says. “Like, I didn't know the Smithsonian has editors.”

ACES 2024 San Diego attendees arranged 50 themed meet-ups using Whova, the conference app.

It wouldn’t have been the same without the Holden Diversity Fellowship, she says. 

“It is definitely a highlight of my career. It truly has been such an honor to be a Holden Fellow. I hold it in high esteem and I would advocate for anyone who is interested in really taking their career in editing seriously to apply.” 

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