Ahhhhh it’s that time of the year again! It’s a Saturday morning 8:30 am in Richmond, VA on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. The fall/winter season of graduation is upon us!! One thing I do like about VCU is that we have graduation twice a year, for those who finish in May and those that finish in December. December graduation this year was my first time participating in the entire school celebration at the Siegel Center here on the VCU campus. And this year was extra special as I had the awesome opportunity of hooding my former student and sister friend Dr. Lisa Winn Bryan!! Participating in this joyous moment is one that I will treasure for a lifetime. I remember when she asked me to take part in this incredible moment I had to make sure I was not dreaming, causing this is a serious thing. And what really got me was that morning as all the graduates are preparing for the big moment, Lisa walks in and sees me and she immediately begins to tear up and I had to fight back tears. That was the beginning of what would be one of the most rewarding days in my professorial career.
Graduation is ALWAYS one of my favorite times of the year here at VCU and I get to celebrate it twice once in the spring and also in the fall. This momentous occasion is one that with each year will become more and more special. This is what happens when you become invested in your craft and the students who play a role in its shaping.
This semester has been about self-determination and perseverance for not just myself, but especially for my students. Each one of them in their own unique way has charted a path to success on their own terms. I say this every semester, but it warrants being mentioned being a professor/teacher is way more than providing weekly/daily lessons and educating the future…it’s about being a listening ear, parting growing wisdom/advice, showing support in-person and via Zoom, creating platforms for stories to be told, and as my Soror and the first president of National Association of Colored Women (NACW) Mary Church Terrell once said “lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go.” Graduation is the culmination of all the hard work that students take part in during their academic matriculation, and we as professors get to see the fruits of their labor flourish. I am always grateful that I get to change lives regardless of how big or small.
This change was specifically seen in my Capstone Senior Seminar course! I had the opportunity to mentor 7 AFAM seniors as they completed their senior thesis research projects. The topics ranged from the importance of Black motorcycle clubs in the Hampton Roads, to the issue of colorism for Black men, to the need for academic safe spaces, to better representation in comic books, to healing and processing Black mental health in Black matriarchal figures. And if their oral presentations were just an appetizer to their research papers….I cannot wait till the main course!! I am so proud of each of them and the work that they have done. Overcoming fears, sharing their personal stories, being vulnerable, and taking risks that will make them better scholars and people!!
Look out world, there’s a new set scholars entering and they have something to say!!