Monday, April 29, 2013

Keeping up with Erica Edwards

Erica Edwards offering suggestions about further readings to Evie Shockley

I first met Erica Edwards in the summer of 1997 when we first became participants in the UNCF/Mellon Program, which encourages undergraduates from HBCUs to earn advanced graduate degrees and become college professors. Erica has done that and then some.

She graduated from Spelman College, went on to earn her Ph.D. from Duke University, and she is now an associate professor at the University of California, Riverside. She's published a number of scholarly articles on African American literature and culture, and she is the author of Charisma and the Fictions of Black Leadership (2012). She co-directs the Lindon Barrett Scholars Mentoring Program, a summer program at her university that "prepares undergraduates from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) for doctoral study in African American literature and culture."

I've tried to keep up with Erica's movements over the years, getting updates on her progress at the conferences that we've both attended. I was pleased that we presented on the same panel at the recent African American literature symposium at the University of Oregon. For her presentation, Erica offered an analysis of Condoleezza Rice's memoir as part of her larger, developing project that concentrates on African American literature and the War on Terror.   

Erica arranged for two of her graduate students to attend the symposium as well. One of those students is in her first year in the Ph.D. program, and the other is completing her dissertation. Hold up. It wasn't that long ago when Erica was an undergraduate at Spelman College, was it? And now she's directing a student's dissertation project? How times flies.  

In the summer of 1997, our professor, Rudolph Byrd, would refer to Erica and all the other members of our cohort as his "colleagues," and he worked to guide us into the  "professoriate," one of the many words and concepts that he and Cynthia Spence, director of the UNCF/Mellon Program, introduced us to during the program. Back then, they were imagining possible futures, wanting us to make a mark in our fields. Erica Edwards has done that and then some. 

A Golden Age of Inspiration for Black Men Writers, 1977 - 1997

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