Fighting Tears of Joy

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Today I had a meeting with an American Literature Professor at the University of Oxford (Her name is Dr. Michele Mendehssohn). I am applying to the University of Oxford next year for the Rhodes scholarship, and I need to think of people to work with, and she was a good fit. She is interested in the Henry James, Oscar Wilde, and Harlem Renaissance writers. I went to Mansfield College at 3 to meet with her. She took me down to this special room and she offered me hot chocolate and cookies, which I gladly took and consumed, and then sat and talked with her.

We had about an hour chat about Henry James, James Baldwin, and Ralph Ellison. She asked tons of questions about things I am interested in, and let me explain myself and my short career as an aspiring academic. I went really well! She was so fascinated by me being born and raised in Vicksburg because she is writing a book on Oscar Wilde, and he wrote about a lynching he saw in Vicksburg, and she has being doing research on Vicksburg. What a small world. She applied for the Rhodes scholarship and made it to the final interviews, and she wants me to send her drafts of my statement of purpose to help me out with the process. She also invited me to a talk at the Rothmere American Institute that happened later on today, which I went to. An African-American Lit Professor from UCal-Berkely talked about the trickster in literature. We talked for a while afterwards, too. He said keep in touch also. Dr. Mendelssohn also introduced me to another American Literature Professor at Oxford who co-teaches the class I would take if I were to go there for the Rhodes scholarship. He, too, was also very nice and interested in my academic career. She wants me to talk about how I met them and spent a day with them in my Rhodes application. I am so glad she was so nice and wants to help me get back to Oxford.

To top it all off, she said she helped organize a conference on Alain Locke a few years ago at Oxford. I’m sure you all know this, but he was the first African-American Rhodes Scholar, and he studied literature and philosophy also. She said I reminded her of him. That was very kind of her to say. It really meant a lot. I must say that inside I shed a tear inside when I heard that. I had to compose myself inside for a minute. I mean, wow! That is all I can say: what a lineage to put me in and I pray to God I live up to that compliment in the future.

alain locke

It was also good to meet other graduate students in the program after the lecture at the Rothmere Institute. They were all very sharp students, and I hope to one day be as sharp as them. With time and hard work, I know I can get there. What a day! I am so inspired by all of this, so thankful for all of this, and I am left speechless.


Here is an email I got from a professor at MSU when I told him about my day. His name is Dr. Tommy Anderson. He is an English professor and the Undergraduate advisor for external scholarships, like the Rhodes Scholarship:


All I can say is, “amazing!” You are only just now embarcking on your lifetime academic journey where your ideas, your intellect, your curiosity are the currency that insures you a seat at the table. When academia works, it works brilliantly to reward hard work, passion and a commitment to saying things that matter. You’ve got a great start on just this kind of profile! I am so happy that your contacts at Cambridge and Oxford were so receptive and generous. I know Dr. Snyder is proud of you too, especially because the Oxford program that means so much to him and to our Honors College has worked so perfectly in your case. Suffice it to say that I’m jealous:)


Dr. Anderson

English Professor Tommy Anderson

MSU is so great when you meet the right people and work with them. I do not know what I would do without people like Dr. Anderson.


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