Alumni Stories (Friends of DPAS) | Kent State University

Alumni Stories (Friends of DPAS)

Kevin Conwell, Cleveland City Councilman, reflects on his experience at DPAS.

Where are they now? Updates from our recent Pan-African Studies Graduates

Victoria Jackson, '12 AmeriCorps College Now Greater Cleveland

Victoria Jackson

Victoria Jackson graduated from Kent State University in May 2012. She majored in Pan-African Studies and minored in International Business and Political Science. Victoria is currently serving her second year in AmeriCorps with College Now Greater Cleveland, a college access non-profit. In the future, she hopes to earn a Master of Public Administration. Victoria is a proud PAS alumna; she looks forward to working with the department and the exciting academic changes that are taking place within the department.

John Burton, PAS major, McNair Scholar

John Burton

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 A. Wright, B.A. in PAS '12

Robin A. Wright

Currently is a Master of Public Administration candidate and Graduate Fellow in the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University; Policy Intern for the Ohio Department of Education; Summer Research Assistant at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University.

Choosing to obtain a bachelor's degree in Pan-African Studies from Kent State University is one of the best academic and professional decisions I have ever made. Pan-African Studies equipped me with the knowledge and tools necessary for my personal and professional development by challenging me to think critically about the historical and contemporary "systems" and "institutions" that continue to shape our world. Through Pan-African Studies not only did I develop a deeper sense of self and cultural pride, but I also studied the various strategies and frameworks for community engagement and development. Since graduating, I have continued to utilize those skills in my graduate study as well as in my career.

Like all recent graduates, solidifying gainful and meaningful employment was among the difficulties faced after completing my degree; however, my difficulties were mitigated by the strong mentorship and support I received from faculty in the Department of Pan-African Studies who constantly encouraged me to cultivate my professional skills throughout undergrad. They encouraged and supported me as I engaged in internships and opportunities that allowed me to utilize the knowledge and skills accumulated in the classroom. There are a plethora of organizations and institutes doing very important work around issues related to the things I learned in Pan-African studies and the faculty in the department helped to connect me to those opportunities. Furthermore, I received amazing recommendations that enabled me to obtain a full-ride fellowship to graduate school. Needless to say, I owe much of my success to my wonderful experience in the Department of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University.