Mari Rozella

Mari Rozella wearing a striped dress in a field of sunflowers

As the first individual in my family to attend a university, I was thrown into deep water when I arrived on campus. I hadn't the slightest clue about navigating the various departments, colleges, and majors. I knew that I enjoyed reading and writing, and I knew that I had a passion for civil and social justice issues. 

While I tried to get the hang of college life (and changed majors!), I enrolled in Dr. Kevin Mumford's course entitled "The Construction of Race in America" as a general education course. Little did I know that my entire college career would be defined by that course. I like to attribute the moment everything fell into place was when Dr. Mumford walked around the lecture hall, hands clasped behind his back, and asked the class, "so which came first: slavery or race?" The answer is slavery, and my ability to understand and conceptualize what this meant dramatically altered my perspective of the world around me. 

In the remaining time I spent on campus, I enrolled in Dr. Bailey's courses, who mentored me and advocated on my behalf for numerous opportunities. I studied the history of African American culture with Dr. Erik McDuffie, who not only remains the most passionate and dedicated professor I have been taught by, but also commits much of his time digging through history and common teachings in order to include Black women in the conversation. Dr. Desiree McMillion also found time to help me find my place within the AFRO Department despite being deep in the trenches of the final portions of her dissertation. 

The courses offered by the AFRO Department, and the AFRO faculty, change lives and ensure that each student leaves the classroom with new perspective. 

As I continue my career with the AFRO Department during the 2019-2020 school year as a research assistant, in preparation for my enrollment into a Ph.D. program, I cannot express the gratitude I have for this department and all those who are affiliated. My path was unclear for so long, but now I can see what I want my future to look like, and that has all been made possible by the Department of African American Studies.

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