Friday, January 10, 2014


Happy Friday!

A little mood music for today - Reflection Eternal's Memories Live. I feel like reminiscing for a minute or two.

I'm really pumped.  My alma mater, Florida A&M University, has just selected a new president.  As a matter of fact, FAMU's Board of Trustees has just selected its first female president.  As one of my classmates on Facebook so eloquently put it, "Girl Power!" Dr. Elmira Mangum makes me proud. I'd been trying to keep up with what was happening with regard to the presidential selection, and from what I'd been reading, she was my first choice.  I'm looking forward to watching her execute her vision.

All the reading about the presidential decision got me to thinking about FAMU, the place that I called home for four extremely critical years.  I always say that I was a good student before I got to FAMU; Florida A&M made me a better person.

I showed up at FAMU as a quirky, first-generation honors student on a full scholarship.  There were lots of other colleges on my list, and I was being pursued by some as well - some HBCU, some Ivy League, some top State colleges, but there was something special about shaking hands with then president, Dr. Frederick Humphries, in all of his full, charismatic glory.  You have to understand, Dr. Humphries wasn't just a man; he was a force.  When he described Florida A&M, his eyes sparkled. Watch him in action.

"We strike, strike, and strike again!"

Dr. Humphries offered me a full scholarship on the spot, and I was S-O-L-D.  I soon after made a campus visit, which further cemented my choice.  I grew up in a pretty diverse community, but it always seemed that I was one of a handful of Black students in my classes.  I saw this as my opportunity to immerse myself in something I'd never experienced - a predominately Black learning environment.  I welcomed the change.

Freshman year outside of my dorm, Diamond Hall
I attended FAMU during an amazing era.  It was named Time Magazine's College of the Year.  It was in a heated competition with Harvard to enroll Black National Merit Scholars.  And FAMU wasn't just excelling in academic areas - it was LIVE (I'm dating myself using live, but it was).  The social scene was uh-mazing! I majored in math in college, and most of my classes met in a building which sat directly across from The Set, the central location where everyone hung out.  It was the heart of campus.  I can remember many a day trying to focus during Abstract Algebra, while listening to the music and the fun going on right outside the window. Like I said, it was live.

I learned a lot, both in and outside of the classroom.  Meeting top Black students from all across the country was exciting and humbling.  I wasn't an anomaly.  I made some extra special friends, and because I love them so much, I will not post any of our college pics! I don't talk to most of them often, but the love never changes.  Looking at my bridesmaids and into the crowd at my wedding and seeing the faces of friends who knew 19-year-old me meant so much. And just to brag a bit, my FAMUly is impressive - all kinds of scholars, scientists, attorneys, teachers and important stuff. But like real Rattlers, we never lose our down-to-earthness.  Just turn on some Luke and we'll show you.

My FAMUly in our Rattler strike poses
My favorite nerds - my math study group in the photo booth at my wedding
My husband and I talk in "what ifs" regarding our future kids.  I don't have many "musts" for future children's lives.  I couldn't care less if they don't want to earn  Ph.Ds.  I don't have any career aspirations that I'd force them to pursue to in order to make me proud.  However, the one thing that my husband and I both want is for them to go to college, not just to get a degree, but to experience what I call the "semi-adult" phase of life.  College is the only time that I can think of where you get to act like you're grown, but 9 times out of 10, somebody is helping you fit the bill.  College isn't all about a degree.  It's an important space for social development.  So while I don't have a lot of demands for my future kids, I want them to experience college.  And, experiencing it at FAMU would make it that much sweeter. FAMU has faced some hardships over the years, but I have no doubt that it will once again secure its rightful place at the top. Hell, we're Rattlers; we strike!

I always knew I'd be a Rattler -
my little sister and I sporting FAMU t-shirts 
To FAMU's new future president: Be good to my alma mater, Dr. Mangum.  You're headed to the highest of seven hills!  Your legacy at FAMU becomes a part of my legacy.  I love Florida A&M from the softest place in my heart.

Other Rattlers will feel this.  Say La La! 

Until next time . . . I'll be over here trying to live out the Rattler motto, "Excellence with Caring."

Monday, January 6, 2014

Can't Nobody Tell Me Nothing: On Graduating

Hey, y'all!!! Happy Monday. 

December was a busy month! It brought my students' final projects (which meant lots of grading for me), determining final grades, and celebrating the holidays.  I was tied up! It feels good to be back blogging again.  Merry (belated) Christmas, Happy (belated) Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, & Happy New Year!

First, a little mood music for today's post.  Today I have selected "Can't Tell Me Nothing" by my hubby's favorite, Kanye West. Honestly, you only get a few opportunities in life to really flex and feel like "can't nobody tell you nothing" as Kanye puts it, and graduation was one of them.

"Wait 'til I get my money right." ~ Kanye
He ain't lying. 

This song is off of his Graduation album, which fits nicely with today's post - finally getting hooded at graduation!

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I defended my dissertation this summer.  It was a great learning experience. I received my degree over the summer and moved on to my new teaching gig.  During the fall semester, I received an email from my alma mater asking if I wanted to participate in the fall commencement exercises.  I went back and forth for a while about whether walking across the stage and being hooded was necessary.  I finally decided that it was.  I mean, during the Ph.D. process, the dream of hearing my name announced and being hooded were the only things that kept me going.

So I decided to participate in the fall commencement exercises.  Because they were held right before Christmas, this meant that I'd also have the pleasure of hosting Christmas in the DMV again this year.  Last year my family traveled here from Houston for my grandfather's funeral and decided to stay for the holidays, but this year we were coming together under much happier circumstances.

Graduation was being held in the evening, so we decided to host a brunch prior to the graduation.  My husband, with the help of my girlfriends and family, planned a wonderful brunch. Thanks to Mulligans at the University of Maryland Golf Course for such a delicious spread!
Is this not the cutest table decoration? Thanks Dr. K!
It was so cool to have folks from my professional, academic and personal lives all come together, including:
Long-time friend and collaborator, Dr. D. came out.

Two of my mentors -  Dissertation chair and committee member 

My advisor. I've written about her here. She changed my life! 

My mommy mingling with my friends
My folks and my in-laws. 
My folks all the way from Houston!  

Dr. K and my girlfriend KW who made it all the way from the Virgin Islands

My Auntie Lucy
We mixed and mingled.  My family and friends said some very sweet and encouraging words, and then I gave a thank you speech accompanied by the ugliest of ugly cries. 

After brunch, it was time to head over to the graduation ceremony.
A pre-graduation selfie

My sister, mom, and mother-in-law waiting for graduation to begin
I was sooo grateful that graduation was short and to the point.  Seriously, the whole thing was under an hour.  That's the beauty of a mid-year graduation, 'cause I've attended enough May graduations to know that this short graduation ceremony was a rare gift!

My girl, Dr. E and I waiting to be hooded
Dr. C fixing my hood while my cheering section went wild.
In that moment, couldn't nobody tell me nothing. 

And after the ceremony, you know we took more pictures, of course. 

My Dr. RAP!!! We met many moons ago when I was a master's student.
She's been an undying supporter over the years.
I love her dearly and I thank her for many of these pictures. 
One of my former students who was getting her master's degree
A big part of the Peanut Gallery that was at the ceremony
There are so many people, near and far, who made graduation possible.  I had family and friends who couldn't make graduation or the brunch, but who were there in spirit, and this meant so much.  I always say that my Ph.D. belongs to so many people.  It's a win for all those who have had an impact on my life.  I think back to a crucial moment during my 3rd year, when I was sitting by myself drafting a resignation letter to quit my program.  I just didn't think I could do it.  I was at capacity, financially and intellectually (so I thought).  I just didn't think I could take any more.  I know that it was the prayers and encouragement of others that kept me going.

If you're a doctoral student reading this and feeling like you can't go on, academically or otherwise, you can.  I'm pulling for you, and I bet that there are so many others in your circle, known and unknown, that are doing the same.  I've added unknown doctoral students to my prayers, just because I know that sometimes divine intervention is the only thing that gives us the gumption to go on.  You're covered. Amen.

Even though I received my diploma months ago, it felt good to participate in the ritual.  I love traditions, and I'm glad I made the decision to participate.

My favorite pic of the day.  Thanks to my husband for capturing such a special moment.
There's nothing like seeing pride in your parents' eyes. 
Until next time . . . I'll be over here lifting up struggling doctoral students.  Keep pushing so that one day, like Kanye, can't nobody tell you nothing.