Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Why did you come to Bowdoin?
It came down [among three schools] and I didn't want to stay at home. [One school] offered a lot of [financial aid], but not as much as Bowdoin, so I came here.
Why did you decide on your major?
I took [a class with Professor] Elizabeth Muther my first year at Bowdoin and just became addicted to books and literature. [It was] African American Film and Literature - it was a first-year seminar. Although I only had her twice over my fourteen credits, she just sparked this love of English. I just continued through it. In high school, I loved reading the Brontë sisters and I loved reading Frankenstein, and we have a few really good Victorian specialists here.
What has been your best class at Bowdoin?
Carol Wright, a teaching fellow here, taught this course on African Americans in education. The woman was hysterical - I just had an excellent time in that classroom. There was a lot of the class of 2004 in there, and for the first time in a very long time I took a class in which half the class was students of color and the other half was white and there was freedom of exchange. No one felt tied down. People just put it out there. I think that might be tops. I took that my sophomore year.
Have you ever done any independent studies?
Yes, I've done my first two independent studies this year. They're both in the Sociology and Anthropology departments. The one I did first semester [produced] the Common Hour on Friday [February 24th]. The one I'm doing now has to do with race, class, and education.
Last spring we had a person come to the campus - I forget her name - but she gave a lecture called "Homeless to Harvard." [Ed. note: Liz Murray.] It was in the Union and a lot of students were drawn to it. It was really touching. It was a girl who was not far out of college who was relating her story about how she got to college and the journey along the way. I really appreciated the story, but at the same time I really found a problem with how it seemed that her message at the end of the day was "you work hard, you go far, and if you're not far then you're not working hard enough." And I feel like that sort of pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality is just one side of the issue. I don't think it's completely invalid, so I don't have a problem with what she's saying and her own personal message - I have a problem with the fact that it seems to be the only message out there. So [by] just using my past experiences I hoped to show [that] you don't get where you are by yourself, and that it takes a pretty good brain and it takes a lot of hard work, but at the same time it takes an incredible amount of luck and an incredible amount of networking. It just doesn't happen just because you are "good."
My siblings who didn't make it through high school were just as capable - my sister, I would almost say, was more capable than I was, but she didn't have the luxury and the benefit of a summer program that exposed her to different things outside of the immediate environment of northeast St. Louis. I'm not saying that that opportunity would have changed things, but who knows? There might have been that possibility, but she didn't have access to it.
[For the first semester,] I did a research paper just talking about education dynamics as the starting point. Then pretty much the nucleus of the whole independent study last semester was dedicated to illustrating [those dynamics] via my story.
[This semester,] I do my final edits on my Common Hour, but also I get to finish my story. Last semester I was just talking about educational dynamics, and this semester I'm taking the educational dynamics research along race and class lines and it's sort of looking into the future. It's actually trying to set up some possibilities for how to make the St. Louis educational system better.
What extracurriculars do you participate in? Do you have an on-campus job?
I take five classes, and I do student government for more hours a week than I should! I run track - I'm a sprinter. And I manage the Café. Part time now, and starting over spring break full time - to the greatest degree that I can make it work - I will start working with Aim High St. Louis.
Student government has the potential - and I think it's really working this semester - to be an entity on the Bowdoin campus that promotes the concerns of the student body to the administration [and] trustees. It can really improve student life. We have a responsibility - any representative body does - to represent the needs of the student body but also [to] lead it in a direction that it doesn't necessarily think of going. I was in student government my sophomore year, I took last year off, and I'm now back with it this year. Part of the reason why I also did it this year and continued it from my sophomore year is that I don't like not being involved with my environment. I don't like it being dictated to me in terms that I find disagreeable, in terms that don't accept me for who I am. Part of the deal this year was try to change that.
What are your plans after graduation?
I went to [Aim High St. Louis] as a student for four years, I worked there for six years, and now I'm returning for two more years to direct the program. We've gotten into a bit of a rut as far as expanding without necessarily considering how poverty was changing. So now we're dealing with a whole new populace, and we have to adjust our approach while also maintaining our basic service that we provide: five weeks [of academics] in the summer [and] weekend tutoring.
A huge part of my job is to take care of operations [for the program]. I do everything [with] regard to schedules, the calendar, hiring, maintenance, training, tracking, all the institutional research. I also do a bit of grant writing in coordination with the development folk. The real challenge is to figure out a way to expand our services without expanding our costs. And that's going to come with collaboration with other groups around the city just like us who offer similar services so there can be more of a safety net built. Just a collective group of organizations working for a common cause. Part of my job and task is building that coalition, as well.
Is there anything else about Bowdoin or your experiences here that you'd like a prospective student to know?
It's okay to be impulsive. Oftentimes we have enough time to make up for our mistakes. If you calculated out everything, you wouldn't necessarily be able to appreciate some of the situations you get in that come about by accident. You can't really learn if you're always ready to go with a game plan and stick with it. Leave a little room for the element of surprise.