Q: Can you talk about how you’ve spent your life since graduating from K?
A: After I graduated from K I started pursuing my M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Missouri-Columbia (Mizzou). I’m studying how higher education is structured, its administration, processes, culture, and the policies that affect it. I’m aiming to use my degree to make higher education more accessible for disadvantaged students and communities. More specifically I want to increase the access and retention of students who are the first in their family to attend college.
I’m also co-editing a blog with fellow K alum, Justin Danzy. It’s called The Black Diaspora Project (BDP) and we aim for it to be a collaboration between members of the African diaspora designed to celebrate the diversity of black people worldwide. In this sense we also hope for it to be an educational experience for anyone interested in expanding their awareness of other cultures and nationalities. You can subscribe to receive updates when we put up new pieces on BDP at http://blackdiasporaproject.com/ and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Q: Have you moved? How have you been adjusting to life in your new home? Is it radically different than Kalamazoo?
A: I moved back to my native state of Missouri. It’s been an interesting adjustment to say the least. I was born and raised in St. Louis so I think I expected Columbia to be like it but it’s not. Columbia is a very small city of just over 100,000 people compared to the over 2.5 million people that live in St. Louis. My first year was very difficult and I talk about it in a little more detail in a piece I wrote for BDP. Columbia is similar to Kalamazoo in some ways but yes, it is radically different. For one thing, it’s a lot more overtly racist which is why Mizzou was in the spotlight back in the fall of 2015. You might have heard about it but if you don’t know what happened I would advise starting here. The national media got the story very wrong and the Columbia Missourian was one of the few outlets that accurately reported everything.
I’m a lot more adjusted now than I was last year but I still feel the ways in which it’s different from Kalamazoo in that it’s not nearly as liberal or progressive as it thinks it is. And the funny thing is, even though Kalamazoo is smaller than Columbia, I would argue Kalamazoo is more diverse. Likewise, K is much more diverse, progressive, and culturally enriched than Mizzou. Even though K was established just 6 years before Mizzou, K has a far greater history of social justice and progressivism. K admitted its first black students in the 1860s while Mizzou didn’t do the same until over a hundred years later in 1950. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dogging on Mizzou. And I know K isn’t perfect however I want to use some space to appreciate how K is better. I love Mizzou but like the love I have for K, it’s a critical love—one that is invested in making the place better.
Q: What do you do for work now?
A: Currently I work in higher education student affairs. I’m the graduate assistant in the Mizzou’s Office of Parent Relations. Mainly my job is to make campus more accessible for the parents of Mizzou students through fielding phone calls, emails, and connecting with parents on social media.
Q: How did you get into your line of work?
A: I actually got into student affairs at K. From my freshman year all the way through senior year I worked in student affairs in some capacity. I was part of K-Crew with the Office of Admissions, the Interfaith Student Leaders with the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, and OSI. And I’m still an active Class Agent for the Class of 2015. My experience with OSI was most pivotal in convincing me to pursue student affairs and by extension, higher education administration as a career.
Q: What experiences during your time at K do you think prepared you for this job?
A: Since I’m working in higher education, I would say all my experiences at K prepared me in some way for my current job. But more specifically working with OSI prepared me for the sort of unpredictability that comes with this line of work. OSI also helped me develop the sort of people skills I need to be effective at connecting with others—a huge necessity for working in student affairs.
Other experiences at K such as majoring in English with an emphasis in Literary and Cultural Studies, being involved with as many extracurriculars as I could—all helped shape me into being a more culturally competent person. Cultural competency is probably the major factor in why I’m good at connecting with people and negotiating the interests of multiple stakeholders. And I think K, probably more than the vast majority of colleges in the country, helps people be more engaged with others and the world around them.
Q: What advice do you have for students who are graduating in June?
A: Do not be afraid. If you don’t know what you are going to do or want to do after you graduate, that’s ok. For some people, it takes some time to figure out what’s next. If you’re thinking of pursuing graduate school, know that K has prepared you for it. You are capable and intelligent enough to make it. I would also recommend you enroll in The Grad Academy to learn how to effectively and efficiently handle graduate school. I wish I had enrolled in it before I started because it would have made my life so much easier.
But if you’re not considering graduate school then that’s ok. I would urge you to be confident in knowing that a K degree is worth it and will get you where you need to be. It might happen right after graduation or take a year or two but it will happen.
Q: What’s next?
A: I’m graduating from my master’s program in May and currently applying for administrative jobs in higher education. I plan to pursue a PhD in maybe two or three years and I’m considering pursuing another master’s in the meantime. My tentative plan is to pursue a second masters while working full time in some sort of institutional administrative or student affairs position. I’m also working with Justin to expand BDP and hoping that pursuing a second masters will help with our vision and will aid in taking an interdisciplinary approach to pursuing a PhD.