On the Notable Alumni Page, the African American Studies Program spotlights our former students who graduated from the program and gives updates about their current endeavors.
Ravenne Aponte graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in African-American Studies and a minor in Health Disparities in April 2016. During her time at the University of Florida, she was awarded the Dr. Faye V. Harrison Award for Best Honor’s Thesis: “A Home Away from Home: Impact of the Institute of Black Culture on the Racial Identity Development of Black Students”. She also served as an MCDA Institute of Black Culture Ambassador, UF Health Disparities Research and Intervention Program research assistant, and member of the Iota Lambda Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. As a recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and UF International Center Learning without Borders Study Abroad Scholarship she had the opportunity to study abroad in Accra, Ghana in the summer of 2015 for five weeks. During her stay, she completed courses in African Music and Dance, Service Learning, and Religion and Culture in Modern Ghana. She also volunteered at the West African AIDS Foundation Health Clinic where she was able to participate in health education classes and gain insight on healthcare provider assessments, laboratory tests, and non-profit grant writing. Currently, Ravenne is a Health Equity Academy Scholar at the Duke University School of Nursing.
I graduated from the University of Florida in May 2016. Upon graduation, my wife and I moved up to New York so that I could pursue my offer from Success Academy Charter Schools. In June, I finished my very first year as an Associate Teacher and now I am about to begin my second year as a Lead Teacher. The African American Studies Program pushed me to look at the African Diaspora through a different perspective than I was used to. This major gave me a deeper insight to whom I was and what I was created to do. As a result of the self-enlightenment I received, I discovered that I was designed to become a mentor to inner city youth. This program brought me closer to a career path that I absolutely love but may have never known had the circumstances been different. The things that I have learned from this major have become a foundation for my teaching and I find that it has made me not only a much better person but also a great teacher and mentor for my students. I strongly recommend this program to anyone who is seeking growth and development that will forever change their lives!
Rik’ki Jackson graduated from the University of Florida in May of 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in African American Studies with minors in Business Administration and Spanish. During her time at UF, she served as the Student Manager within the Department of Student Activities and Involvement, a member of the Involvement Team, a mentor for the Black Student Union and Motiv8, a member of the Student Conduct Committee and as a member of the Iota Lambda Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Following graduation, Rik’ki decided to follow her passion for fashion. She is currently a Masters of Fine Arts candidate at Savannah College of Art and Design with a focus on Luxury and Fashion Management. She is also a freelance personal stylist/shopper, creative director and style blogger (www.riklaflair.com). Rikki’s ultimate goal is to create her own magazine that caters to women of color.
“I will forever be grateful for the African American Studies here at UF. This program taught me to push myself especially with my writing and to be unapologetically proud to be a Black woman. Not only did I gain a deeper insight into my cultural background, but it also taught me how to understand and communicate with people who did not necessarily share my same history or beliefs. In addition, the professors and faculty of the program were quite frankly some of the most amazing intellectuals and mentors I could have ever asked for.”
In 2008, Brittany graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Leadership and African American Studies. Brittany received several honors and awards as an undergraduate at the University of Florida. In addition to Florida Blue Key she served in the Student Government Senate, as a member of the 2006 Preview Staff, on the J. Wayne Reitz Union Board of Managers, on the President of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Student Council, as a founding member of Lead UF, and as a member of the Lambda Psi chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
In May 2011, Brittany earned a Juris Doctor cum laude from the Howard University School of Law. Currently, she is a Corporate Associate for Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, LLP in New York City where she drafts transaction and ancillary agreements in relation to securities offerings, merger transactions and employment agreements. She also conducts other corporate research.
“My coursework in the African American studies program gave me a deeper insight into my own cultural position in the world and a clearer understanding of our contributions to society as a whole. As a well versed scholar in the African Diaspora from my experiences with the program, I’m able to think critically about the images and presentation of African Americans and work to shift closed mindsets in my surroundings. I feel like the rich curriculum gave me a sense of pride, pushed me to explore my cultural boundaries and granted me a coat of armor to enter the workplace both through developing my skill set and personal development. It would be my wish that the program continues to expand and students continue to be exposed to African American history and culture.”
Nicole Molner graduated cum laude from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts degree in African American Studies, Geography, and Political Science in April 2017. She also received a certificate in Geospatial Analysis. She received a Multicultural Scholars Award for academic excellence. She is currently attending Florida State University College of Law. As a freshman, Nicole registered for Professor Stafford’s American Civil Liberties course in the Political Science course. This is where she learned of the African American Studies program. She was further encouraged by Dr. Sharon Austin to pursue African American Studies as a major. Nicole also completed in the African Americans in Paris study abroad course that is sponsored by the African American Studies Program.
Few programs have provided Nicole with the knowledge, awareness, and skills of African American history and culture than has this program. The African American Studies program provided students, not only knowledge, but the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialog about African American issues. This program has also instilled important practical skills such as articulating arguments, understanding both sides of an issue, critical analysis, and research writing.
While at UF, Amanda organized meetings, workshops and protests with groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, Dream Defenders and CHISPAS. She was also a senator in student government, representing the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and transcribed interviews with the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program and as a research assistant for a doctoral student. During the summer of 2014, she worked as an organizing fellow with New Florida Majority in Jacksonville, FL. After graduating with a double major in Political Science and African American Studies, with a minor in Business, she worked over the summer at New Florida Majority as a program assistant and currently works in the circulation department at the Florida Times Union.
“Being an African American studies major at UF made me a stronger writer, a clearer thinker and a better person. I am so thankful for the faculty and fellow students who initiated in me a learning process that continued long after classes ended. The research and relationships in this program taught me to view powerful systems and institutions not as static, but as determined by people’s decisions and actions. Through this program, I began to see myself not as a representative or advocate for anyone else, but as a single person whose voice could be joined with others to demand an end to greed and exploitation. As the distance between myself and my time at UF increases, my connection to this program strengthens because I see how applicable it is in my everyday life. As I learned from so many of the faculty and fellow students, the commitment to justice and freedom is a lifelong commitment.”
Breanne J. Palmer is a magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Florida (Class of 2013), having earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science alongside a minor in African American Studies. As an undergraduate student, she was involved in several campus organizations, including the Umoja Initiative that resulted in the African American Studies major. Currently, she is a licensed attorney in the District of Columbia, and graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center with cum laude honors and a certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies. She is also a recipient of the Dean’s Certificate for outstanding service to the Georgetown Law community. Breanne is currently an Attorney Advisor at the Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review, via the Attorney General’s Honors Program. Breanne hopes to become a movement lawyer, advocating for the rights of Black immigrants and Black undocumented people.
Breanne participated in the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) Corporate Law Program, a prestigious national program for pre-law students of color, in 2013. Breanne served as the Membership Development and Diversity Editor of the Georgetown Law Journal (2014-2016), and has been published in the Georgetown Journal of Modern Critical Race Perspectives (2017) and the Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy (2015).
Breanne benefited in immeasurable ways from her African American Studies courses at the University of Florida. She believes those courses were some of the most honest and far-reaching learning experiences she has ever had. Breanne credits the African American Studies Program for teaching her how to nurture her dynamic identity as a Black American woman, a member of the Caribbean diaspora, and a scholar. She credits her African American Studies courses for enlightening her worldviews, widening her perspectives and giving her a true understanding of how much the global past informs the present and future. She believes in the Adinkra concept of Sankofa, and would not know how to articulate her current worldviews without the African American Studies Program, its faculty, staff, and courses. Please visit Breanne’s website http://breannejpalmer.wix.com/profile for more details.
In April 2017, Jordan Rhodes graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in both African American Studies and Political Science and a minor in Mass Communications. While attending the University of Florida, she was awarded the Multicultural Scholar Award for academic excellence and made the Dean’s List. She also served as an Ambassador for the Institute of Black Culture and as an Events Director for MentorUF. While enlisting in a summer program at Fordham Law School, she earned a Certificate in International Civil Rights. Upon graduating, she received the African American Studies Program Director’s Award for the Highest Grade Point Average and the Dr. Faye V. Harrison Award for Best Honor’s Thesis: “Blurred Lines: The Biracial and Multiracial Self Identity Paradox.” Jordan plans on spending the next year working for the University’s African American Studies Program and interning with a Gainesville law firm before enrolling in law school in the Fall of 2018.
“The knowledge I have received through the classes and events the African American Studies Program offers has truly expanded my perspective. I had the opportunity to gain a deeper insight into my cultural background and comprehend the many sacrifices made by those before me. The classes and discussions encourage you to look at information from all angles, allowing for a greater ability to challenge the status quo. In addition, the professors and faculty of the Program are truly valuable and influential mentors.”
Brionca Taylor graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Florida in 2014 where she received her Bachelor of Arts degrees in African American Studies and Sociology with a minor in Educational Studies. During her time at UF, she served as an MCDA Institute of Black Culture Ambassador, a co-Program Coordinator for the University Minority Mentorship Program, a mentor and tutor for elementary school students through Project M.A.S.C.O.T. and America Reads and a mentor for first generation college students with the Office of Academic Success (O.A.S). Finding a passion in education, Brionca worked as a Teaching Assistant for the Department of Education and a Research Assistant for faculty in the Department of Sociology. In the summer of 2013, Brionca participated as a fellow in the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (MURAP) at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill where she conducted an independent research project on school racial resegregation in Charlotte-Mecklenberg county under the mentorship of Dr. Kia Caldwell.
Brionca is currently a doctoral student in the department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Her research interest include the sociology of education, race and ethnicity, and gender studies. She recently completed her Masters degree in Sociology where she examined the power of ideology in shaping racial and gendered interactions taking place in a community program serving Black, elementary-aged children. Brionca is a recipient of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship where she has received funding for her upcoming research project that explores the experiences of adolescent Black girls in Advanced Placement classroom environments.
“I am deeply grateful for the African American Studies program for introducing me to Black thought, critical social theory, and Black feminist and Womanist theory. Along with a sense of identity and purpose, much of what I learned in these courses continue to serve as the foundation for my scholarship today. As a native of Gainesville, the African American Studies program not only gave me the tools and opportunity to study my local roots with my honors thesis (“We All Came Together, Chipping In”: Black Education and Community Development at Douglas High School in High Springs, Fl.), the program also allowed me to explore the Black diaspora with a study abroad trip to Paris, France. Holding Anna Julia Cooper’s dissertation is a moment I will surely not forget! The faculty, staff, and courses affiliated with the African American Studies program provided me a home on campus as well as an intellectual community that challenged me to think critically and take action. I am honored to be among the first undergraduates to receive a Bachelors degree from such a unique and necessary program!”
William R. Walker
Currently I am employed as a Social Studies teacher at A. Quinn Jones for 6th -8th grade. I’m looking to work my way to teach high school social studies. In the next 5 years, I’m planning to get a Masters in Educational Leadership and will begin working my way to becoming a high school principal.
From the African American Studies Program and its professors, I gained the knowledge and understanding of the intricacies within the social fabric of day to day life. From minute racism and struggles to complex systemic oppression, I can see the politics involved and how to navigate “The Game,” as Dr. Vincent Adejumo put it. Most importantly, though, I gained an identity. Instead of always looking at myself through other’s eyes, I learned to embrace who I am and overcome double consciousness. Earning my degree in African American Studies, I feel I learned the true history of Blackness, how it shaped the world I live in now, and in doing so it has given me immense pride in my culture, my people, and our program.
William earned a Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies in April 2017. He was the recipient of the Dr. Barbara McDade-Gordon Community Service Award that is awarded each year to a student majoring in African American Studies who is actively involved in campus and community activities. In addition, William was one of the founding members of the Diaspora Movement which advocates on behalf of the African American Studies Program and its students.
In May of 2013, Khama graduated with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Arabic Language & Literature with a personal emphasis in Public Policy and African-American Studies. As an undergraduate student, Khama organized and moderated the first African American Studies “Passing the Torch” internship fair so that undergraduate students could advise their classmates about internship opportunities. In the spring of 2010, he participated in an all-expense paid public policy conference at Harvard University where he was introduced to the best ways to develop, implement, and create change for the community. Later that summer, he was awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship and studied Arabic in Morocco.
He later earned a fellowship in public policy and international affairs at Princeton University in 2012. In the summer of 2013, he then became a Charles B. Rangel Scholar at Howard University to further enhance his knowledge about career in public & foreign service. Khama is currently a federal business analyst at Deloitte Consulting LLP, in the Metro D.C. area.
Khama attributes is professional and personal success to the African-American studies department. His professors introduced him to various programs, job opportunities, and fellowships that helped him become a competitive individual in both the public and private job market. He also notes that his coursework challenged his personal beliefs, and forced him to become a stronger writer, critical thinker, and better person.