Category Archives: Ravynn

Week 14: My Scholarly Philosophy

I often ask myself what type of scholar I want to be, and not in a hypothetical way. I ask myself this question so that I can think through how I write, for whom I write, and why I write. I ask myself this so that my scholarship matches the way in which I live my life, so I’m not just words, but so that I live my beliefs as well. I also ask myself this so that I know how I will orient myself in my classrooms and how I will approach teaching my future students.

In order to figure out what type of scholar I want to be, I often look to senior scholars for examples. This process was admittedly very stressful at the start of my graduate school career because I was not sure how I wanted to market myself as a scholar. As time has gone by, the more experience I get, the more I read, and the more people I interact with, the more I can add to my “scholarly philosophy,” or my personal approach to scholarship and how I will maneuver the Academy.

This time when I asked myself what type of scholar I want to be, it was a direct response to reading Dr. Roopika Risam’s new book, New Digital Worlds: Postcolonial Digital Humanities in Theory, Praxis, and Pedagogy. The arguments themselves were compelling, but I found myself captivated by her methodology. As advertised, the book was indeed equal parts theory to praxis to pedagogy, and I found this endeavor to be postcolonial in and of itself. I admired the way she took care with her terms, sacrificing no nuance in her quest for clarity and readability, something I am to do myself. In the book’s orientation towards both postcolonial scholars and digital humanities scholars, arguments had to be clear to both audiences, resulting in using many rich examples of digital humanities projects which do postcolonial work to illustrate her point. For me, the high point of the text was the chapter on pedagogy, which offered very tangible ways to bring the postcolonial and the digital into classrooms to spoke to my heart, such as using comics, editing Wikipedia pages, creating podcasts and social media pages for characters from books. Risam ends with a “Call to Action:” a cautiously hopeful rallying cry, which I heard and took to heart. In her work, Dr. Risam gave me a model for the type of scholarship I ultimately would like to do.

I want to write scholarship that is rigorous, but still accessible.

I want to cultivate a dynamic classroom environment in which my students feel safe to question, learn, grow and create.

I never want to be trapped by my own words; that is to say, I want to build infrastructure to change the way we think about higher education and knowledge production and its dissemination, not just write about change.

I want to engage in critical making as it pertains to world building in the real world. I want to create communities, scholarly and otherwise, where people are cared for and nurtured.

I want to be an advocate for my students.

Fortunately, I have had a whole host of good examples of scholars who have shown me how to do the work I desire. Dr. Roopika Risam gave me a model of how to write book that does that work. Dr. Jessica Marie Johnson has shown me how to think critically about citational politics; how to express gratitude for everyone and everything that has impacted your thinking. Dr. P. Gabrielle Foreman and Dr. Lynn Weiss have shown me how to truly care for students. Dr. Liz Losh has shown me good mentorship, how to organize a careful syllabus, and how to think ahead.

Thanks to them, I look forward to creating classes which incorporate theory, guest speakers, project analysis and critical making; classes that experiment; and which take input from the students. I am already looking forward to teaching an Afrofuturism class that draws from literature, film, comics and music, while employing digital humanities final project ideas. I aim to be firm but reasonable, rigorous but kind in the classroom. My goal with teaching will not only be to teach my students the content, but to also have them consider new ways of showcasing that knowledge. There will always be something to be said for a well-written paper, but why does knowledge production and dissemination have to know bounds when the content defies imagination?

I will write the traditional dissertation so that one day I can advocate for the grad student that wants to write a novel, create a digital humanities project, or start a nonprofit for their degree. But this is not to say that my dissertation will not have a signature Ravynn flair.

I will find a way to not only write peer reviewed articles but fiction as well, and I will start that magazine. Making art, not just analyzing it, is going to be a critical part of my praxis.

I am going to get through this doctoral program and I am going to demystify this process for those that come after me. Assuming I work with graduate students, I am going to be the mentor that asks my students to co-author with me, that helps them network with my peers, that sits down with them and helps them chart a trajectory through grad school. And assuming I work with undergrads, I am going to hope that they leave my classroom better than they did before walking in.

It comes down to this: while I was preparing my comps lists, I showed my dad what I was working on. After the shock of seeing that I had to read nearly 300 books in less than a year wore off, he asked me, “Is reading these books going to make you a better person?” I hesitated because the truth was, I knew this process was going to make me smarter, but ultimately he wanted to know if this would help me become a good person. So, I told him the truth: “I hope so.”

The truth is I just want to be a good person that does some good in this world. I hope having a philosophy for how I will approach my chosen career path will help me do just that.

Week 13: Gratitude

I will be the first to admit that as the semester draws to a close, I spend less time writing my weekly Black Girl Does Grad School posts, and more time pouring over books and articles to sustain one of the multiple arguments for my final papers. I have spent much of the last couple of weeks stressing and wondering how it’s all going to get done.

This is my fifth semester as a graduate student, so you’d think I would know by now that it always gets done. Some way, somehow, I always manage to pull through to the end of the semester.

As it stands currently, I have three more class sessions in which I have to be present. 8.5 hours of class time standing between me and the end of the semester– me and the last time I ever have to be in classes as a student (Unless, of course, I decide to pursue a MFA in creative writing after I finish this whole enterprise, but that, my friends, is a beast of an entirely different nature).

As I approach the end of this stage of my doctoral program, I think it would be a great moment to practice some gratitude for everybody and everything that has gotten me through the past two and a half years.

Thank you:

  • First, to my parents. Thanks Mom, for always listening patiently when I called home with some story about miscegenation law from the 19th century. Thanks Dad, for throwing in your two cents when I read off some of my Critical Race Theory texts to you, confirming or denying these very abstract theoretical claims from your personal perspective.
  • To my family generally, for supporting my education however you could– from all the Barnes and Noble gift cards to showing up at my graduations (But like shout out to TJ in particular for never missing a single important occasion even after you moved away).
  • To my best friends, Micah, Kelsey, Alexis, Leah and Kaili. Y’all are the sisters I always wanted. The best friends I could ever ask for. Thank you for all the texts, the phone calls, the FaceTimes, the meet ups, the coffee dates. Thank you for your time and support.
  • To my favorite professors– Dr. Weiss, Dr. Ely, Dr. Losh, Dr. McGovern, Dr. Donnor– for always pushing me; for challenging me to think deeper and harder; for knowing that I am capable of more and always encouraging me to show that; and for believing in me as I am, and me as I will be.
  • To my Master’s committee: Dr. Knight, Dr. Weiss, and Dr. McGovern
  • To my Comps committee: Dr. Weiss, Dr. Losh, Dr. Pinson and Dr. Ely
  • To James Padilioni, Jr. Thank you for being a role model for me. Always trying to get like you.
  • To Chris Slaby (and Cameron Slaby) for all of the stimulating conversations and for always welcoming me into your home.
  • To those in the digital humanities/twitter community who have welcomed me, valued me and my contributions and encouraged me: Nathan Dize, Dr. Parr, Dr. Wernimont, Dr. Phillips, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Foreman, Dr. Steele, Dr. Lothian
  • To the many Black graduate student digital networks that I remain on the fringes of, but whose work I admire.
  • The Lemon Project Team, particularly Dr. Allen, Dr. Sarah Thomas, and Dr. Vineeta Singh, for caring for me so diligently.
  • Dr. Wulf for being supportive of me and my endeavors.
  • Thanks, as always, to Dean Gregory and Ms. Cathy for always happily responding to my (sporadic) calls and emails.
  • To Professor Harold. I wouldn’t be where I am had it not been for several conversations with you on the Corner, in your office and around Grounds.
  • To everyone involved in any way with Black Girl Does Grad School. I LOVE Y’ALL. Y’all are making my dreams come true every day.

But also, thank you:

  • My lovebug, Genghis. You’re getting an honorary degree when I get this PhD, bud.
  • To the staff of Aromas on North Boundary. The caffeine fix keeps me sane.
  • To Charles Benbow and the staff of The Coffeehouse. When I do go, I stay all afternoon and work, drinking cup after cup of delicious coffee. Thanks for the good drinks and ambience.
  • To Lorelai and Rory, for keeping me company so many difficult evenings.
  • The Library, ILL and the librarians. Y’all are the real MVPs.

…Did I already thank my parents? Eric and Faye, seriously, thanks for giving me the world.

Week 12: A Quick Love Letter to Myself, Past, Present and Future

Dear little Ravynn,

I hope I’m making you proud. I’m not the engineer you envisioned, nor the diplomat you came to dream about as you aged. I’m sorry to disappoint you but you outgrew almost all of your friends (except Jared, he’s still around so be extra nice to him next time you see him.) You didn’t get to go to Governor’s School, you stopped playing piano when you got to college and you didn’t go to Princeton.

But you did get to go to your dream college: The University of Virginia. You cry almost every time you think about the look on your Dad’s face when you met up with your family after the big graduation ceremony on the Lawn. You’re working towards becoming a professor, which means you’re getting a Ph.D. I know you’ve always wanted to be a Dr. It’s taken you a while, but you finally found friends I think you’ll manage to hold onto. Oh, and you did, at one point, cut off all your hair, just like you wanted. (Granted, parts of your hair did fall out from stress first so you had to cut it–but that’s not what matters most.)

You’re not as far away from home as you’d always hoped, but you do have your own apartment, your own car, and a dog that you named Genghis. And even though you may not want to admit it, you do like going home almost every weekend to see your Mom and Dad while you’re in grad school.

Keep dreaming big. Your accomplishments will exceed your wildest dreams.

Love,

Ravynn


Dear Ravynn,

I promise, you’re going to be alright.

Love,

Ravynn


Dear Future Ravynn,

I hope you published those novels you’ve been sitting on since June of 2015. I hope you got that Ph.D. I hope you’ve got tenure. I hope you started that magazine. I hope you write your heart out all the time. I hope people are reading and engaging with your words the way you’ve always dreamed.

But most of all I hope you’re happy.

I hope you got to see Chicago and San Francisco, Senegal and Italy. I hope you teach with kindness and compassion. I hope you changed a few lives or spoke to a few hearts along the way.

I hope you find your voice– not your writing voice, but your actual voice. I hope you remember that only fighting with a pen as your sword and paper as your shield has never been enough for you.

I hope you have a family that loves you and that you love more than you could ever imagine.

I hope you never stop reading. I hope you never stop dreaming. I hope you never stop striving.

I wish you peace, love and mental and emotional fortitude.

Love,

Ravynn