SR-EIP: Cornell University, 2003
Undergraduate School: Claflin University
Graduate School: Emory University
Graduate Program: English
Current Position: Assistant Professor of English, Claflin University
What are you currently doing in your professional life?
I am teaching at Claflin University, which is the undergraduate school I attended, my alma mater. I am in a tenure track position as an Assistant Professor of English in our Department of English and Foreign Languages. I have been here for the past three years.
What have you most enjoyed in your career path so far?
Teaching has been most enjoyable. It is energizing to interact with all kinds of students and help them gain new knowledge. I really appreciate the reciprocity aspect of teaching, because I also gain new insight from them as well.
What are your current career goals?
Since I am in my third year at Claflin, I am looking toward tenure and fulfilling tenure requirements so that I have longevity as a professor and I am able to continue to fulfill my passion, which is to teach.
What tools or strategies have you found useful for pursuing your goals?
One strategy that works for me is a lot of self-reflection. I think a lot about the things I do well as well as the areas where I need improvement and that reflection helps me determine what works well for me and the modifications I need to make to achieve my career goals.
How did your Leadership Alliance summer experience prepare you for graduate school?
I think it played a vital role. The Leadership Alliance provided an essential opportunity for me to gain insight about the bigger expectations of graduate school. I appreciated the use of the seminar-like class discussions because when I went to graduate school I already knew the kind of conversations that might happen in seminars. The research projects helped guide the direction I might take in my research when I entered graduate school. By the end of the summer I felt better equipped to enter graduate school. When I got into graduate school I thought back and accessed some of those experiences that I had during my Leadership Alliance summer.
What is the one thing about graduate school you wish you had known from the beginning?
I wanted to be more efficient in finishing my graduate degree. I had some idea of the various stages necessary to complete a graduate degree, but a better sense of those stages would have been helpful. For example, if I had had more knowledge about the dissertation process and requirements, perhaps that would have helped me think more about those requirements during the first phase of coursework. Potentially that knowledge could have helped me to build a better foundation for my dissertation project or ideas even as I was doing coursework. I think that would have helped me be more efficient in that graduate school process.
How has the Leadership Alliance impacted or influenced your academic and career paths?
The Leadership Alliance summer experience helped me think about my research interests and the kinds of questions I wanted to ask. So that was important to the direction my research ended up taking during graduate school. Another key element was the mentorship piece. I remember my mentor at Cornell really helped to build my confidence that I could even attain a graduate degree. That mentorship piece was important to my decision to pursue a graduate degree and my confidence that I could complete it.
What makes the Leadership Alliance unique from other diversity programs or internship programs?
The Leadership Alliance stands out because of the program’s genuine investment in the program participants, not only as they prepare for graduate school, but also after. Many elements of the summer programs were geared toward ensuring overall excellence in graduate school. After entry into the professoriate, the Leadership Alliance continues to offer support and mentorship to sustain program participants and help them endure challenges. There is a clear investment in the program participants, not only in those early stages but also as they continue to develop in their careers.
Could you tell us about your role as a mentor?
I mentioned before the role of mentorship in my career—the Leadership Alliance mentor as well as the other mentors I have had in college, graduate school and even now. I really appreciate the opportunity to offer guidance and direction to English majors at Claflin. I have the opportunity to reciprocate and help students gain knowledge and the skills to pursue their career path.
Any final thoughts that you would like to share?
I have a lot of gratitude for the Leadership Alliance and programs like it because they fill an important need in helping students gain the skills, knowledge, and confidence to feel that they are able to pursue graduate degrees and pursue their passions.