Saturday, February 15, 2020

That post-graduation Tougaloo nudge

Charrita Danley Quimby did it. She earned a master's in English. It was an important accomplishment, and it was adequate for the projects she wanted to pursue.

But then, she met with one of her former professors from Tougaloo College. "I had dinner with Dr. Ward," Quimby noted, "and he TOLD me 'It’s time for you to get back in school and get your PhD.' So, I did."

In my interviews with former English majors from Tougaloo College and my own reflections, I'm learning that a post-graduation nudge or advice has been important for continued progress for several people. We usually talk about what students gain during their time at colleges and universities. We focus on what they may have learned in classes or what they experienced during that time. But what about months after graduating, or what about even years later?

The success of Tougaloo College English majors is linked to the support that they receive from professors or other Tougaloo graduates in the field of English well beyond time at the college.

Stefan Wheelock, a Tougaloo grad who earned his PhD at Brown University, informed me that Ward "was emotionally and intellectually present during my graduate school years." Valerie Matthews earned her PhD at the University Of North Carolina, and received tangible assistance from Tougaloo. "Toward the end of my journey," she said, "Dr. Ward filled a critical spot on my dissertation committee and traveled on his own dime to my defense in North Carolina."

Ward was not the only one providing nudges and assistance for students long after they graduated. Candice Love Jackson has continually provided advice to her former students, Professors Julius Fleming and Jarvis McInnis. Professor Shahara'Tova Dente, a Tougaloo grad, informed me that Jackson has kept in touch and made her aware of opportunities and provided useful advice as well.

Briana Whiteside graduated from Tougaloo and then came and worked with me, earning her M.A. in English, and then earning her PhD at the University of Alabama. She's now an assistant professor at UNLV. I periodically reach out to her when opportunities arise encouraging her to apply the way Tougaloo folks have done for me.

A notebook on English majors from Tougaloo College

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