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.”
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.”
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 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.”