I graduated Spring 2020 with a Ph.D. in History from the University of South Carolina (UofSC). I recently won a postdoctoral fellowship to teach social advocacy, ethics, and history at UofSC for the 2020-2021 school year. Most importantly, my journey into academia started at Auburn, but it was not a linear path.
I actually started Auburn as a Freshman Bellsouth Minority Engineering student in 2003, under the late Dr. Dennis Weatherby. I lived at Sewell Hall for two years and had some fun memories there. My major for 3 years was actually Wireless Engineering. While taking engineering classes, I had some great history classes for my minor, but never thought about pursing a career in academia. I was, and am, like a bunch of college students; I erroneously believed that you only went to college to just get a degree that got you a job with a good salary. I was planning on finishing up as an engineer like my dad, but I always had more passion for my history studies.
I’m from Montgomery, Alabama and graduated from Robert E. Lee High School. I had a ton of questions about my local history, especially the historical and spatial relationship of African American neighborhoods and infrastructure. I did not personally know any historians, and my social studies teachers were usually the football coach.
My Auburn professors, Dr. Kenneth Noe and Dr. Charles Israel showed me what historians did and how they went about answering tough historical questions. I was hooked. Interestingly, my engineering advisor was a history buff and gave me frank advice and encouragement to switch from the College of Engineering to the College of Liberal Arts. I was unsure about the logistics and time that it would take to get a history degree after being a Junior, but it was the best decision ever.
My undergraduate professors, Dr. William Trimble and Dr. Tiffany Thomas Sippial, helped hone my writing and analytical skills. I ended up learning from the entire history faculty, along with geography professor Dr. Joshua Inwood, who was an Auburn professor at the time. Auburn had, and has, one of the best history faculties in the nation. I was lucky to have been a student when I was.
While an undergrad at Auburn, I saw the bigger picture about what I wanted to do with my career, and decided to get my doctorate in history so that I could teach and research. That led me to work for the U.S. Historian of the House of Representatives in 2009 after I graduated. My work in Washington D.C. gave me great experience and allowed me to go back to Auburn to get my Master’s of Art in History in 2012 under Dr. David Carter.
My graduate experience was beyond helpful and prepared me for the rigors of doctoral studies. Furthermore, working with Dr. Donna Bohanan and Dr. Patience Essah and Dr. Jortner were incredible experiences. I ended up getting accepted into the History Doctoral program at the University of South Carolina in 2014, and I was able to receive full funding and a stipend for my entire time at UofSC.
My academic foundation at Auburn University helped me realize my career goals, but also helped me appreciate the camaraderie and intangibles that I gained while a student at Auburn. I graduated debt-free this past Spring, which is a blessing. I hope that all Auburn graduates learn how to network and navigate the academic and financial challenges that are a part of the university experience.
The journey is not easy, but I was fortunate enough to be helped by the larger Auburn community, as well as taught by some incredible professors. I owe a lot to Auburn University and I wanted to share how much I appreciate my time and training while an undergraduate and graduate student at Auburn.