Inspired

Some of our Black Studies faculty tell us why they are energized and excited during the fall semester.
Dr. Stephen Graves teaching in person.

Dr. Graves with some of his Students

Ashley Jones
News Source: 
College of Arts & Science
Departments: 
Black Studies

We asked the College of Arts & Science department chairs to share their feelings during the Fall 2020 semester. April Langley, chair of the Department of Black Studies, said their faculty are largely feeling inspired and invigorated despite this year's many challenges. Department Chair Dr. April Langley surveyed her colleagues that shared this conviction and their responses are as follows.

Q: How are your faculty members feeling since class started?

April Langley:

Black Studies faculty are feeling inspired and excited about their courses. Whether face-to-face, blended, or 100% virtual, they share a passion for teaching and the possibilities of what our Black Studies courses are able to bring to contemporary discussions. We discuss and study what is happening in our world right now, and there is much to discuss. We cover everything from racial health disparities, socio-economic inequities, LGBTQIA+ and gender interconnectedness and interracial oppressions (e.g. colorism, classism, etc.) to language, literatures, histories, and politics of Africa and the African Diaspora, and the current Black Lives Matter and anti-blackness violence. Our class discussions, readings, and course assignments are engaging our students and faculty in productive research, reading, and critical thinking about the most impactful issues of our generation. As a result, Black Studies faculty are thrilled to be bringing all the passion and fire to the class that they have brought to their decades of research and service.

Q: The black studies department said that faculty are inspired – can you elaborate on that?

Stephen Graves, Assistant Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Black Studies:

What inspires me about teaching this semester is the enthusiasm the students are bringing to campus after a long summer. I feel the energy, especially from the first-time students on campus. It is fantastic to be able to share the first college experience with these students who, despite everything happening around the country, are excited to be here and have expressed much enthusiasm about the work being done in the classroom. The emails all of our students send about their interest in the major and what other classes are being offered is encouraging.  I'm inspired to provide the best classroom experience I can to our students in hopes of being a positive force, even through adversity.

Dr. Graves enjoys time with his students

By best classroom experience under times of adversity I mean and interactive and engaging experience where students can have that feeling of purpose of why they came to Mizzou in the first place. A classroom where students are heard and free to share and engage with ideas and other students.

Q: How do you see this department-wide inspiration help students?

April Langley:

I am seeing students taking more time to be thoughtful about their discussion board questions and peer responses, even in an asynchronous online course.

It feels amazing to have students asking for more reading or additional sources rather than lamenting the amount of course assignments, reading or homework. It’s also wonderful to hear students citing sources and referring to what they studied in their Black Studies courses, at zoomposiums (virtual black studies conferences) It’s especially encouraging to see them using their critical thinking in response to celebrities, pundits, politicians, public figures, and pop culture.

Q: How does this inspiration effect your teaching and research?

Stephen Graves:

Seeing the enthusiasm and passion reflected back from my students about the Black Studies material and discussion makes me value my research that much more.  Hearing the students’ perspective and what direction they would like to see Black Studies go gives me new insight and ideas that help improve my research.

Elizabeth Kaganda, Instructor, Department of Black Studies:

My teaching and listening to students translates into new research ideas. I’m glad to be part of history and to keep us moving forward with both research and teaching consistency.

April Langley:

Some of the questions students raise encourage me to look for different ways to enter prevailing discourses about race, class, sexuality, gender, politics, and religion. As I work harder to make a richer learning experience for our scholars, I dig deeper into my own research questions, and there is amazing synergy.

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