Cloonan Middle School, Stamford, CT
Princeton University (BA, 2000), University of Michigan (MFA, 2002), Columbia University (MA 2003, Phil 2005, PhD, 2011)
My English teacher was our National History Day teacher.
Individual Exhibit titled: European Impact on the Art of Benin: A Cultural Encounter in 1992
I created a project about cross-cultural contact between West Africans and Europeans in the Renaissance. My father is from Nigeria and I focused on that region (known as the Kingdom of Benin in the early modern period) for my research. I remember going to New York City with my parents to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to get a first hand look at the ivory and bronze sculptures there and feeling that I was learning about the past and about my own family's history at the same time. I arranged an interview with a curator of the exhibits and enjoyed talking with her about the works I had been researching. I was so excited, during the competition, to share my insights and my sources (like the interview) with the judges. When my name was called when the finalists were announced I was so surprised and so proud that the work I did was being recognized in that way. I remember jumping up with a huge smile and looking back at my parents as I headed to the stage.
I certainly trace my interest in research in the humanities back to my NHD experience. I learned something very important: what I research is as much about learning who I am and how I want the world to change as it is about learning about others and about how the world has been in the past.
I won first place in Connecticut and went on to the national competition.
I returned to my research on cross-cultural exchange between Europe and Africa during the Renaissance (early modern period) as a graduate student. I wrote a Master's thesis in which I used some of the same primary sources and images of Afro-Portuguese objects and went on to study the broader topic of concept of race in the early modern period in English literature for my doctoral dissertation. As a professor I wrote my first book--Shakespeare and the Cultivation of Difference (forthcoming from Routledge)--about race and other forms of difference in Shakespeare.
I am now a Professor of English Literature, a scholar of race in the early modern period, and a mother. My research has been supported by funding from the Ford Foundation, the John Carter Brown Library, and the National Sporting Library.
NHD turned out to be a truly formative experience for me. I learned that I take delight in research, and that researching is one way I can learn about history and about myself at the same time.