By Sophia Harris
What is your professional and educational background?
I went to Wesleyan University for my undergraduate degree and I developed my own major in African Studies. After my B.A., I wasn't sure what I wanted to do for the next step, so I did a number of jobs before going to law school. I went to Northeastern University School of Law in Boston. Then, I went straight from there to a fellowship at Georgetown University Law Center. I was a Prettyman fellow in their criminal justice clinic. One of the things I did before law school is I was an investigator with a federal defender in Washington, DC. I knew I wanted to become a public defender when I went to law school. The Prettyman fellowship at Georgetown basically trained you to be a public defender. I also got an LL.M. degree at Georgetown as part of that fellowship, which is a master's in law. … I guess I like school because I went back later, and I got a diploma in international human rights law at American University in Cairo, where I was a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar, and I happened to be there when the Arab Spring broke out, which was an amazing experience. I got a Fulbright research grant. I worked on an oral history that I'd begun in Cairo. After that, I went back to school again and I decided I wanted to teach full time at the college level. I wanted to get a Ph.D. My most recent degree is a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Connecticut. … I am very interested in all different kinds of human rights. I also got graduate certificates at the University of Connecticut in feminist studies, human rights, and race ethnicity in politics.
What is your role at Framingham State and what does your job entail?
I'm Mary Miles Bibb Postdoctoral Fellow. I'm so honored to have this fellowship because Mary Miles Bibb was an amazing woman. I'm a teaching fellow. I'm in the Department of Political Science, Law, and Global Studies. I'm teaching American politics, the presidency, and the Supreme Court.
What is a Mary Miles Bibb Fellowship?
The fellowship was created in response to student concerns over [the lack of] faculty of color hired at FSU. … Obviously, I'm not a person of color. However, it's also for white allies - for people who are going to be invested in supporting students of color and an anti-racism curriculum. So a lot of my research deals with civil rights and human rights. Part of what drew me to FSU was they are very strong in their anti-racism platform. And I believe in that and I support that. Mary Miles Bibb was an amazing woman. She was the first Black woman to graduate from FSU in 1843, and she went on to teach in Boston and Philadelphia. She later moved to Canada with her husband, Henry Bibb, who was an escaped slave. After the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act was passed, they fled to Canada, and they formed this newspaper called The Voice of the Fugitive. One thing I love about Mary Miles Bibb is I love oral history, and she was an oral historian. She was interviewing fugitive slaves who got to Canada, and she was recording their stories and publishing them in this newspaper.
What do you enjoy about being a teaching fellow at Framingham State?
I love to teach. The department I'm in is very supportive and really cares about students, which is why I teach. I think that education is one of the most important ways to help students go forward in their careers, but also to teach about things like social justice and anti-racism and feminism and civil rights.
What would you say some of your goals are as a teaching fellow at Framingham State?
One of my goals is for students to learn both from me and from each other, and to learn about politics and history and its relationship to both tools that have oppressed but also liberated people. … Politics is like a hammer. It's a tool that can both crush and build up and inspire. It's really important for people to learn about it. I'm excited by the role that politics has in people's lives, and I want to share that excitement with students.
What do you enjoy doing outside of your work?
I'm a parent. I have a 17-year-old and he and I love to go camping. We are great supporters of the national parks. We've gone across the country camping and visiting national parks and that's been really great.
What advice do you have for students?
I would advise them to study things that you care about and that you're passionate about. Don't worry if there's things you don't know or that you might give a wrong answer. Just raise your hand and participate. You form your own educational paths, and you can take that in whatever direction you want. An education and a career path doesn't have to be a straight line. And for me, it's been all over the place. I think some of the most interesting lives have gone in many different directions at different times, and that's fine. If you don't know what you want to do yet, that's OK. I hope everyone can use their education to somehow make the world a better place. I think that's one of the most rewarding things that you can do. And it may not come with the biggest salary, but hopefully, it will make you happy and it will help other people.