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Alumni Stories (Friends of DPAS)

JohnBurtonMcNairFellowJohn Burton, PAS major, McNair Scholar

I am black, but this is not the only factor that has driven my quest for more knowledge about my people.  Growing up I witnessed a lot of situations involving black people that were heart shattering.  I knew that these circumstances were connected to something bigger but my education did not explore these issues, in fact, it omitted them.  I spent my childhood trying to understand and make concrete sense of the poverty and abuse that surrounded me, but more profound than either the systematic poverty or the abuse it was the silence that confounded me the most.  It seemed as if something were happening to everybody, as if there were an invisible force, a dark gravity that was sucking the life out of the people I loved and no one spoke directly of the ghost in our homes, it was beyond our capabilities to articulate this insidious phenomena.  As I moved into adulthood I watched as this thing made casualties of my peers as it had long ago done most of their parents.  I knew this thing was responsible for the rampant drug use in my neighborhood.  I knew it was this thing that had worked steadfastly to fester the streets I grew up on and unless I was able to see this translucent being I knew it would not be long until I too found myself clutched in the teeth of this ravenous beast.  A longing to avoid this fate is what brought me to Pan-African Studies.  While matriculating in this department I have learned that this beast has many legs and that they are wide and long as the history of modern civilizations.  I have also learned to acknowledge the beautiful and enriching components of the black experience.  But most consequentially, the classes I have taken here have given me the tools to begin to give shape and mass to that terrible thing I saw destroying my community (and I have learned that my community is much more vast than I ever imagined).  I am learning how to heal myself, and I am acquiring the agency to take the things I learn within this institution into the world and to do the work I need to do in order to lead my people, all people, to a paradigm where we not only see the beast for what it is, but that we are able to gather the strength and courage to transcend it.


Robin Wright, KSU-NAACP President

"My academic experience at Kent State has been largely shaped and impacted by the Department of Pan-African Studies.  All of the classes I have taken in that department have greatly influenced and developed my perception of the world, of African cultures and of myself."







Dylan L. Sellers, President Black United Students, PAS major

"The professors in the Department of Pan-African Studies are like my family who gave me the opportunity to learn more about myself as a man of African descent and what that really means."


Christopher Devon Thompson, Nursing major

"Kent State was my choice because it's close to home.  Not to mention that it is one of few colleges that offer a Pan-African studies minor."