Black History Month: Celebrating the People Who Changed IU

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the month-long celebration of African-American culture and black contributions in the US and across the world. Origins from the Historian Carter G. Woodson and others, “Negro History Week” celebrated black excellence and our rich contributions to advancing America’s history1. As elementary students we are familiar with Harriet Tubman leading slaves to freedom using the Underground Railroad and the writings of Frederick Douglas. We touch on the peaceful teachings of civil disobedience of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and remember Rosa Parks’ resistance to relinquish her bus seat during the fight for Civil Rights.

However, arriving on most college campus, there’s a shift. It as though the teaching of black history, diminishes. African-American’s at Indiana University have a rich history of perseverance and accomplishments all their own that we should take pride in learning. A few notable Black achievements from the Bloomington campus are mentioned below and by all means this is not an exhaustive list.

Dr. James P. Holland2 Dr. Holland received his PhD in zoology-endocrinology from Indiana University (IU) in 1961. As Professor of Biology for more than 30 years at IU, he received the Herman B. Wells Lifetime Achievement Award as well as over two dozen teaching and service awards. Dr. Holland was a seven-time recipient of the Senior Class Award for Teaching Excellence in Biology and Dedication to Undergraduates, an award voted each year by the biology senior class, in which faculty rarely earn the designation more than once. His love and passion for teaching was apparent and appreciated by those around him. As a mentor and role model for all students, not just underrepresented groups, he championed higher education in the sciences helping to form the Mathematics and Science Scholarship Program which was renamed in his honor to the Holland program in 20032. The Dept. of Biology honors Dr. Holland every year with a fall lecture series. An endowment awards a 1st year fellowship to support underrepresented PhD students studying life sciences which I proudly received the first year of my doctoral studies.

 Marcellus Neal and Frances Marshall3 Marcellus Neal and Frances Marshall, were the first African Americans (man and woman respectively), to graduate from Indiana University. Marcellus Neal graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1895 while Frances Marshall earned her English degree in 1919. Thus, the namesake inspirations for the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center (NMBCC). A beautiful building on campus that hosts special events and provides access to computer labs, study rooms and lounge space to promote community building across the IU campus.

 Kappa Alpha Psi (ΚΑΨ) 3 – Created January 5th, 1911 the ten founders of the Alpha chapter established the first Black fraternity on a predominantly white campus. Due to inability for interracial housing and combat racial discrimination, this group of men came together to support students and rally political activism early on at IU.

Information was gathered from these sources, click for more details

  1. http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month
  2.  https://biology.indiana.edu/about/alumni-giving/holland-fellowship.html
  3.  https://blackculture.indiana.edu/about/history.html

Should you visit campus?

Absolutely!  Prospective graduate students tend to have several potential programs in mind, but it is certainly not necessary—or even feasible—to visit them all.  I suggest visiting your top two choices.  This becomes more important if you are looking at doctoral programs, as you’ll be living in the respective place for longer than if you are doing a master’s  The internet can give you a great sense of campus, your prospective department, and the city where the campus is located, but it can only provide you with so much.  You need to determine if you can actively picture yourself living and thriving in a particular place.  If there are things intrinsically important to you and that keep you sane, make sure it will be available in your new location.  A campus visit can show you what the campus and community have to  offer.

Many students are concerned when to visit.  You can visit at various times: before applying, after you have been accepted, or once you’ve made your decision.  Some graduate programs require an interview, so be prepared to use that time constructively to see the town and meet other people in the department.

Here are some tips to get the most out of your campus visit:

  1. Start by contacting the secretary or assistant in your prospective academic department.  He or she will help determine a good day to visit when faculty and graduate students are able to meet with you.
  2. Spend some time researching the department (hopefully you’ve already done this!).  Take note of faculty research interests, classes you’re interested in, and even other graduate students.  If there are particular people you’d like to meet with, mention this when you contact the department secretary.  He or she will either set up meetings for you or provide you with contact information.
  3. Use time with faculty members and other graduate students to get a sense of the department and the environment. This is a good way to see how you fit within the department.
  4. If there are particular places on campus you’re interested in seeing, see if you need to request a tour ahead of time.
  5. Plan on giving yourself a full day, especially if you have meetings with multiple people in the department.  You don’t want to rush your experience and allowing yourself at least one day will give you time for seeing the town as well as campus.  Personally, I stayed the night, had meetings early the next morning, and used the afternoon to apartment-hunt.