DePaul University College of LAS > Academics > African and Black Diaspora Studies > About > Alumni Profiles

Alumni Profiles

Devan Owens
Devan Owens
Devan Owens graduated in 2015 with a BA in Psychology and a minor in African and Black Diaspora Studies and will be earning a MS in Behavior Analysis from National University very soon! She is currently working as a licensed behavior technician. Additionally, she is the event coordinator for a non-profit called Jazz Hands for Autism, which serves adults with autism wanting to pursue music. Devan is responsible for working out the logistics of events, ensuring that each event is “popping and running smooth”.

In the future, Devan would like to return to her roots of working within communities. She plans to “rediscover my love for youth activism in a community sense and return to my passion for serving the black community”.

Through her ABD coursework, Devan gained “a newfound sense of pride for my people, my blackness, and myself that I never had or was encouraged to find”. She feels that ABD, “facilitates a sense of community among students and discussions that need to be held not only around campus, but around the world”.

Devan’s words of wisdom to students: “Be ambitious, be hungry, but be cautious. And don’t allow comparisons to others or unmet expectations about your life slow you down or make you feel any less worthy. Everyone’s journey looks very different”.

heather
Heather A. Perkins
Heather (Jones) Perkins graduated with a BA in African and Black Diaspora Studies in 2013 and recently earned a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Chicago. Heather currently is a Clinical Case Manager at UCAN Chicago, an organization that provides supportive services to at-risk youth and promotes positive youth development, diversity, and advocacy. She first intervened at UCAN, in the department of Violence Intervention Prevention Services, providing both group/ individual therapy to youth in the North Lawndale community.

Before interning and securing a position at UCAN Chicago, Heather worked at the McGaw YCMA in Evanston, IL. She was the coordinator for several youth-centered programs such as the Power Scholar pilot program, Summer Adventure Camp, and the School’s Out after school program. Additionally, she mentors young ladies from the Achievers Program and Teens II Queens program at the McGaw YMCA. In the future, Heather would like open a holistic psychotherapy practice for women of color, earn a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, and continue to write and publish.

Through her ABD coursework, Heather has gained “a historical lens that allowed me to think critically of social movements and women participation/representation in movements, a purpose of serving other black folks, which influenced my decision to get an MSW, and fostered a tight-knit community”. She feels that her “ABD degree was invaluable as it taught me how to think critically of my black identity…”

Heather’s advice to current and potential ABD students: “Take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself regardless of how small it may seem, build a network that includes faculty, staff, and students, and learn different strategies to voice your concerns or to be advocate for someone else.”

camille
Camille B. Lester
After graduating from DePaul in 2014, Camille Lester went on to pursue a M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Marquette University and graduated in May 2017. She is currently an instructor at Marquette. She has taught and created courses surrounding issues of diversity, inclusion, and privilege. Additionally, she is a mental health clinician at a community clinic in the inner-city of Milwaukee, WI. She provides low-cost/free services to children, couples, and families, and provides accessible, culturally sensitive psychoeducation, group, family, and individual therapy.

Camille created and co-facilitates the Malkia Circle, which is a healing and restorative space created for women of color. She also created and facilitates “What’s Going On!?”, a safe space created for students of diverse cultural backgrounds to “vibe to Marvin Gaye and express themselves through poetry and open discussion.” The objective of this space was to increase self-efficacy, inclusion, and retention of students of color.

In the future, Camille plans to become a Professor of Psychology, studying the intersection of Blackness and psychology. She wishes to address the lack of representation of Black women in the field of Psychology and promote a sense of belonging for people of color within the academy. Some of her work has been published in in local Milwaukee Newspapers and the Quarterly Psych Discourse of the Association of Black Psychologists.

Through her ABD coursework, Camille “was challenged. I existed. I found a voice that I didn't know I had. I was excited to read, write, and grow as a scholar… I gained a sense of identity, language, community, and pride during my course of study. I learned new ways to analyze literature and effectively communicate my thoughts. To this day, I read DuBois, bell hooks, Langston Hughes, and Amos Wilson and still find new things I hadn’t seen before. A new consciousness was awakened during my course of study in ABD and I am forever grateful for that.”

The wisdom that Camille would like to pass on to students is: “We all know the old saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ in many ways, ABD is a village that is invested and enthusiastic about the individual growth of each student… Get to know the professors, go to office hours, see what’s on their bookshelves, and pick their brains. They are all brilliant, full of wisdom, and insight. Find your voice, whether it be through writing, creating, etc. and use it, make it your weapon to the perils of this nation. Whenever you feel alone remember that you are standing on the shoulders of many scholars who have been in your exact shoes.”

Johnathan Fields
Johnathan Fields
Johnathan Fields left DePaul with a BA in African and Black Diaspora Studies (2011) and headed to New York City. While in New York, he worked as the Strategic Initiatives Manager at Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation, which produces the news site Colorlines and organizes the country’s largest multiracial conference on racial justice, Facing Race. Johnathan has also worked as the Operations Director for the writer and media personality Janet Mock.

He is now pursuing a Master’s in Media Management at the New School in New York City. Johnathan is interested in moving into television production and be a creator in the next generation of media and storytelling. He’s also currently working on a web series and a memoir.

Johnathan says that his time studying in African and Black Diaspora Studies at DePaul “helped me get free and taught me how to show up in the world.” “This program cracked me open and gave me a framework to explore history, culture, identity and the world from a de-colonial perspective. Without it, I may have never understood the importance of the Harlem Renaissance and Negritude, or bell hooks, James Baldwin, Paul Robeson and Franz Fanon’s work.”

Johnathan has important advice for our current and potential students: “Put what you’re learning in class into conversation with what you’re experiencing and/or witnessing in life. Your coursework is not divorced from your life – be it the world at large on life here on DePaul’s campus.” After graduation, Johnathan advises students to “Think outside the box. ABD is useful in any field you want to move into. Don’t be afraid to use your degree creatively. Have a vision for what you want out of your future and be strategic about how you pursue it. Name what you want and go after it. And don’t forget you have a community in this program.”

Whitney Gaspard
Whitney Gaspard
After graduating in June of 2010 with a BA in African and Black Diaspora Studies, Whitney Gaspard “left my cute Lakeshore Dr. apartment, worked all summer in the McNair (Program) office and jumped on an Amtrak train to New York to pursue a MA in Social and Cultural Analysis from NYU.” She wrote what she describes as a “very ambitious master’s thesis about the pop cultural relevance and black feminist theory in the performance work/art of Grace Jones, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna."

Her work at NYU allowed her to meet a lot of people and to be active in a number of areas. She was a moderator for the National Urban League of Young Professionals “State of Young Black New York” conference. She worked actively with her church and co-chaired a very fulfilling Career Day for over 200 attendees in Harlem. And she got to participate in “cool events like Black Girls Rock, New York Fashion Week, ESSENCE Fest, etc.”

While still in school, she interned at ESSENCE.com where she worked as an editorial assistant. From ESSENCE, she went to Good Morning America as a booking intern, until she landed a position in Viacom’s Ad Sales department.

But her heart and head were calling for more study. Whitney tells us, “I had a number of really cool jobs, I also sacrificed time needed to work on my thesis writing and I found that I disavowed my work for a whole year! (I do not recommend this.) I later got it together because I genuinely missed writing and working on something that I loved. And ultimately, what helped me to cross the finish line was a reignited love and respect for my own work. Writing about celebs is cute, but writing about the cultural significance of those celebs felt much better to me.” Her next steps will be working towards a PhD and writing a novel.

What advice does she have for our students? “To all the current and will-be majors and minors in ABD, take advantage of your professors. They are brilliant – and you are too. Allow them to push your abilities and to teach you. Your time as an undergrad will whisk past you so quickly and six years later you’ll find yourself writing to aspirational students just like I am doing now. As an ABD student, I was empowered. I learned the difference between education and knowledge which was extremely empowering for me as a young college student. My time in ABD was a very formative period. I learned, stumbled, questioned and crafted my own thoughts that proved to be immeasurable in my current life. And to this day, I thank the faculty for their commitment to making me, not just a student, but a scholar.”

Jaymee Lewis-Flenaugh
Jaymee Lewis-Flenaugh
After graduating from DePaul in 2012 with a BA in African and Black Diaspora Studies, Jaymee Lewis-Flenaugh went on to complete her Masters of Science in College Student Personnel at Western Illinois University. While at Western Illinois, Jaymee received the Diversity Award for her role as coordinator of the Sacred Circle, a male and female mentorship and dialogue initiative. She has her sights on ultimately pursuing a PhD in Educational Leadership, with a focus on African-Americans in higher education. But for right now, she is enjoying traveling and working.

We remember Jaymee fondly and are proud of what she’s been able to achieve. We like to ask our alumni to send some wisdom to our current and potential ABD students. Jaymee says, “I would encourage anyone to ensure that you build the relationships with faculty and staff in the department and hold on to them because the beauty of the people in the program is that they are invested in you as a learner.” Reflecting on her time in ABD classes, Jaymee remembers that “the faculty cared about the ways in which you approached the work. It was very common that you were asked your opinions and even challenged on them to create positive dialogue.”

In August 2015, she moved to Ohio to take a position as Residence Hall Director at Miami University (Ohio). She reports that she loves Ohio and her work at Miami (Ohio). She says that she has “had the great experience to utilize my degree in ABD in many spaces within higher education. Currently, I serve on a diversity and inclusion committee, I present on racial battle fatigue for professionals in higher education, and consider myself an active member of the Black Student Affairs Professionals population. Whether in writing, speaking engagements, or committee work, I enjoy creating spaces of support for those of the African diaspora.” She has found a path that allows her to continue the work she started here at DePaul.

Jade D. Petermon, PhD
Jade D. Petermon, PhD
Jade Petermon graduated with a bachelor’s in African and Black Diaspora Studies in 2008. Since then, Jade has earned both a master’s (2010) and a PhD (2014) in Film and Media Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Her dissertation is entitled Hyper(in)visibility: Reading Race and Representation in the Neoliberal Era. It examines black visibility across several media platforms in the contemporary era and she is now doing the work to get a book contract for it.

We at ABD are pleased to report that Jade is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Black World Studies at Miami University-Hamilton. Jade says of her own former professors in ABD, “I learned so much from them, not only about black studies, but also about the value of thinking and writing critically. I often tell my students about how they discovered the academic in me long before I did.”

Jade carried the energy for social justice that she developed through her ABD studies to graduate school. While at UCSB, she was involved with the Women of Color Revolutionary Dialogues (or W.O.R.D).  W.O.R.D. is a community of both graduate and undergraduate women of color committed to working through issues of institutionalized racism, sexism and homophobia through writing, performance and service. Most of their service work focuses on healing through art in schools in Santa Barbara and the surrounding communities.

We asked Jade to pass on some wisdom for our current students now that she has the benefit of hindsight. She says to students: “Be patient with yourself. Also, develop a practice of self-care as soon as possible and protect it as if your life depends on it. I assure you, it does depend on it.”

Jade wants our students to recognize that “progress is not linear. It is true that I went straight to graduate school and I secured a position six months after my degree was conferred but that is just facts. There was a lot of hard in between all of that. That is life. Try your best to take things in stride and not give up on yourself. There is a lot to be gained if you don’t give up, no matter how abysmal things seem.”

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