Friday, July 15, 2011

Black Studies Contributor Participates in Enriching Summer Program in Texas, New York City

This past June, Kacee Aldridge, a psychology major and core contributor to the Black Studies Program at SIUE, participated in the African American Literatures and Cultures Institute (AALCI) at the University of Texas at San Antonio. The AALCI prepares a select group of rising juniors from different universities across the country, including Cornell, University of California Riverside, Wellesley, and Fisk University, to join the professoriate by providing them with research stipends, rigorous mentoring, and innovative academic training.

The program responds to the pressing need for diversifying all areas of US higher education — from graduate study to academic research through administrative leadership. Institute Fellows study scholarly articles related to African American Studies, and they cover a range of literary works. They also take GRE prep courses and participate in workshops to develop professional and research statements.

Adrian Matejka and I – faculty members in the Department of English, Language & Literature – nominated Kacee to participate in the AALCI. Kacee has taken literature courses with Matejka and me as part of her Black Studies curriculum. The AALCI director and founder is Joycelyn Moody, Sue E. Denman Distinguished Chair in American Literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and I serve as an instructor for the program.

Kacee described her participation in the institute as fulfilling. “I gained a ‘scholarly toolbox’ – equipped with a new literary outlook, graduate school readiness, skills necessary for gaining expertise, a network of black professionals, as well as a network of peer scholars,” she said.

She also noted that her experiences and knowledge as a psychology major empowered her to make useful contributions. “I added a psychological viewpoint in a group of mostly English majors. Both inside and outside of the classroom, I tried to push the group to think past traditional literature premises when doing public projects and other group work,” said Kacee.

Kacee with AALCI director Joycelyn Moody 
and Institute Fellows at the Brooklyn Museum in NYC

As part of the AALCI, the Institute Fellows spent 4 days in New York City visiting museums and libraries and other educational and cultural destinations. Kacee had previously traveled to New York with the Black Studies Program, so by the time she arrived in the city with AALCI members, she was prepared to take even more advantage of the opportunity. “My second trip to NYC was different because of the type of movements I made in the city,” explained Kacee. “I was much more familiar with how to get around, which made me more adventurous in my travels. I also made myself available to lead others who had not traveled to NYC before, which was a unique experience.”

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