Shaping a Career

African and African-American Studies alum shares how the McNair Scholars Program and  study abroad experiences in Oxford and Ghana shaped her career aspirations. 

How has being engaged on campus helped transform you?

“Engagement has forced me to be a better person, to understand my abilities, to grow and to hold my ground,” Rachel said. “All the activities I have done at Brockport have allowed me to become a better leader.”

Rachel certainly looks to put those leadership skills to work in her future. She wishes to complete her doctorate in English comparative literature, focusing specifically on literature written within the African Diaspora. After finishing up her schooling, Rachel is looking to start a college prep charter school in Rochester, to help guide seventh through twelfth-grade students towards the bright future they all deserve. Finally, she would like to travel the world and eventually settle down and retire in Grenada.

What do you think makes a Brockport education special?

“I think what makes Brockport special are the people and the opportunities… there is the strong network in the Brockport community,” Rachel said. “Barbara Thompson, director of McNair, connected me with a former Brockport/McNair student who now is a faculty member at Penn State… The community and opportunities at Brockport are endless because Brockport is a community that is always looking to change with the times.”

The McNair Program has helped Rachel along her career at Brockport and the connections she has made from it will last a lifetime. She was able to conduct research and later present it at the National McNair Conference for Undergraduate Research, at the University at Buffalo. She also attended the Southern Regional Education Board Compact for Faculty Diversity Conference in Tampa, Fl., the largest conference of doctoral candidates of color.

The McNair Program is just one of the many achievements of Rachel’s college career. She also has received the Elaine Leshnower Social Equality Scholarship, Calvin Rich Poetry Award, and the Organization for Students of African Descent/ Black Students Liberation Front Scholarship. She also has earned the Residential Life Community Development award, earned a Green Leadership Certification in Brockport’s Leadership Development Program, and was nominated by the Department of English for a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence.

What faculty or staff member has had a significant impact on you?

“All the members of the Department of African and African American Studies: Dr. Roger Kurtz, Dr. Michael Boston, Dr. John Marah and Dr. Naomi Williams have inspired me to do better. Members of the English department such as Dr. Janie Hinds, Dr. Jennifer Haytock, Dr. Kristin Proehl, Dr. Althea Tait, and Dr. Milo Obourn have played a role in opening doors for me that I would not have found otherwise,” Rachel said. “Additionally, working for Ms. Karen Podsiadly and Ms. Kim Piatt in Community Development, as well as a past Residential Director, Sirena Jones, has helped me find my voice and understand my level of activism.”

One of the doors that opened for Rachel was the option to study abroad. She was fortunate enough to study abroad in both Oxford and Ghana. She chose two programs that would each help expand her knowledge in her major studies, Oxford for English and Ghana for AAS. Her time exploring the Bodleian Library at Oxford helped Rachel find her place in the world, grounded in her African-American heritage.

“At Oxford, I really felt like I was American, specifically a Black American. Before, I always was intimidated about my writing ability, my perspective and my overall being as a student.” Rachel said. “After attending Oxford and being in the Bodleian Library, I feel that as a Black educated woman, I am good enough for any space.”

Rachel’s time surrounded by African intellectuals at the University of Ghana is not to be underrated. While Oxford helped her find herself, Ghana helped her find her place in the world. Even though Rachel’s family has resided in America for generations, she has always felt a longing to return to Africa and learn of her historical roots to further her AAS education.

What’s the biggest takeaway from your study abroad experience?

“These experiences were able to expand my level of thinking; my perspective globally has allowed me to go the distance with my education and my aspirations,” Rachel said. “Furthermore, although I feel small in relation to the world, I also know I am a part of it; I belong!”

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Posted: July 29, 2022