Professor & Mentor
When I entered the Afro-American Studies masters program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison oh so many years ago, I did not plan to be an educator, nor did I have designs on pursing a doctorate or becoming a historian. I returned to school because I missed learning and I missed being in a space that promoted the exchange of ideas.
I chose an African American Studies program because I craved an education in African American history and culture, something lacking in my education to that point, but for a few notable exceptions while I was an undergraduate at Beloit College.
My second fall as a graduate student, I became a teaching assistant, a requirement of my funding. The entire preceding summer, I anticipated that role with great anxiety. When the dreaded “first day” arrived, I took a deep breath, walked into the classroom and straight up to the front of the room, where I pretended to be extremely busy positioning my materials as I nervously waited for the bell that announced the beginning of class. With that bell, my life changed.
The moment I looked up to face the students before me, the dread vanished, to be replaced with a profound sense of calm, confidence, and clarity. I distinctly remember thinking: “Oh. This is what I’m meant to be doing.” That revelation compelled me to earn my doctorate and become a professor.
Teaching is at the heart of all my academic endeavors and has been essential to my development and successes as a scholar. It is hardly a selfless act. I never learn more than when I am teaching. And, so much of that education comes at the hands of my students, who keep me focused, committed, inspired, and striving with their dreams, their intelligence, and, their questions — especially their questions.