Life after grad school

This is my dissertation committee.

 Carter Mathes, Cheryl Wall, Evie Shockley (left to right)  Brent Edwards (unpictured)

Carter Mathes, Cheryl Wall, Evie Shockley (left to right)

Brent Edwards (unpictured)

They happen to be three (four if you count Brent) of the most intelligent, most emotionally available and sound, most supportive human beings I’ve ever encountered in the academy.

And I realize, this, and most of my experience at Rutgers University, is an anomaly for young black girls (or women, or however we identify) in the academy. I will personally add that my experience is even more foreign for women in the humanities. I believe this to be especially true of Literatures in English.

When I say my experience, I mean that I was not completely defeated by my decision to loan my brain, my ideas and ingenuity, to an institution never designed for my undeterred success. 

I was able to:

  • Endure the rigorous bootcamp that is three years of course work, otherwise known as three years of consuming more material than you might ever be able to truly process and understand in any logical or useful manner.
  • For 7 years, impart knowledge into fledgling undergrads needy of writing and poetry comprehension skills. Somehow without damaging most of them for life. 
  • Identify a list of entirely too many books (all African American literature, all written between 1750 and 2013) that I studied and created effective discourse around.
  • Pass a 2-3 hour oral exam on those previously discussed books.
  • In my own time, and definitely in my own way, complete the dissertation.
  • With ease, and grace, and damn good reception from my committee, defend said dissertation. 
  • Graduate (a ceremonious piece of closure many of us forgo) … with a whole host of other doctors … a surprising amount of them being women of color.

I, of course, still have my own drama to work through around the academy. But the point is, I’m on the other side now. And from that side, I can still see that it needs work. I can still see, even from my privileged state of having done it my way (as Frank Sinatra, and then Jay Z might say), that there is so much more work to be done. Period.

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