IU names Abegunde as first director of new Graduate Mentorship Center

Thursday, August 14, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Maria E. Hamilton Abegunde, the first person to receive a Ph.D. from IU’s Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, will be the first director of the new Graduate Mentorship Center, said James Wimbush, Indiana University vice president for equity, diversity and multicultural affairs and dean for the University Graduate School.
The center, based within the University Graduate School, will support and provide services to doctoral and master's students as they work toward completion of their degrees. Mentoring services include workshops and training to help students as they enter traditional and nontraditional career paths.
"Effective mentoring is crucial, especially in the early stages of a student’s career," said Wimbush, who oversees academic master's and doctoral programs on Indiana University’s eight campuses. "The Graduate Mentorship Center provides students with support and guidance as they endure the rigors of their graduate programs.
"While all faculty function as advisors, not all know how to be effective mentors, and even fewer are likely to be familiar with unique aspects of mentoring graduate students."
It is hoped that after they complete their master's degrees and doctorates, the IU graduates will be able to better function as mentors in their careers.
“I am excited to assist in the creation of the Graduate Mentoring Center," Abegunde said. "The center will provide bridge services to new under-represented graduate students; deliver mentorship activities and workshops to graduate students, postdocs and faculty; and organize interactive, multigenerational mentoring groups at IU Bloomington and IUPUI.
"We are definitely looking forward to working closely with students and faculty as the center develops," she said. "Because successful mentorship has multiple dimensions, we will also partner with other IU centers, departments and groups, and national/international organizations, to support the IU Bloomington and IUPUI communities through as many opportunities as possible.”
This spring, Abegunde became the first person to receive a Ph.D. from IU's Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences since the doctoral program was established in 2009. As such, she both appreciates and understands the role of mentoring in academic success for graduate students at IU, Wimbush said.

Abegunde also will be a postdoctoral fellow and visiting lecturer in African American and African Diaspora studies.
"Maria's appointment is critical for the kind of work she will be doing in the University Graduate School," said Valerie Grim, chair and professor of African American and African Diaspora studies. "A recent Ph.D. graduate, Maria will be able to draw on her vast experiences in education and the research she has done on such issues as trauma and memory. She will also be a valuable asset to our department through teaching, research and creative activity.

"She is one of the department's most popular instructors, and we are pleased to have her involved with instruction. She is and will continue to be a great ambassador for African American and African Diaspora studies and the IU community."
As director of the Graduate Mentorship Center, Abegunde will better incorporate mentoring skills into graduate education through workshops and near-peer partnerships, with a focus on postdoctoral and graduate students, who, in turn, will work with research-focused undergraduate students.
The center will partner with similar centers and programs across the Bloomington campus and sponsor a speaker series.
In addition to her IU doctorate, Abegunde earned a Master of Arts degree in women's and gender studies with distinction from DePaul University, a certificate in African studies at Northeastern Illinois University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Northwestern University.
Abegunde is the author of three poetry chapbooks, and her poems have been anthologized in publications such as "Gathering Ground," "Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century" and "Knowing Stones: Poems of Exotic Places." She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Instituto Sacatar and Ragdale.  
She also served as poet and ritualist-in-residence for the UNESCO Transatlantic Slave Trade Route-USA Project. She served as lead team teacher on the first leg of the historic Middle Passage Voyage Project, which retraced the slave trade routes between Puerto Rico and Africa as part of an educational sailing endeavor to teach about this part of the enslavement process. She also created the Arroyo Healing Network.