African American Studies Student Ambassadors
An involved and caring student, Je’Von – a transfer student from East Mississippi Community College – is a natural leader who received the Emerging Leader Award from the UM Black Student Union and attended the Men of Color National Summit last Spring. He serves as the UM ambassador for the Andrew Goodman Foundation, a national organization that supports leadership development and social justice initiatives on campuses across the country. Je’Von works part-time at the Center for Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Engagement as a peer coach and mentor. In his “free time,” you can find him at the UM Athletics Department, creating social media content to spread the word about UM teams.
Why did you decide to major in African American Studies?
I wanted to learn more about my heritage and the struggles that African American people have faced. By studying AAS with a minor in education, I feel that I’ll be better equipped to educate children of color on issues that our ancestors faced. This will allow me the opportunity to expose my students to parts of history that I wasn’t aware of growing up.
Why should someone decide to study AAS at the University of Mississippi?
UM has a great department with dedicated professors. They have helped me gain knowledge and an understanding of the past and present situation of African-descended people in the United States. This major will prepare you to critically examine, explore, and analyze the unique experiences of African-descended people. Post-graduation, people with a degree in AAS go on to become teachers, lawyers, and doctors just to name jobs a few you can obtain with a degree in this major.
What’s a memorable school-related activity you’ve done?
I loved traveling with the Luckyday Residential College to Memphis to catch a Grizzlies game. It was a great mid-semester getaway, where I could bond with administrators and other residents of the college.
After providing students with a quality education as a teacher and then a principal of a school for several years, I plan to pursue my ultimate career goal of becoming a transformational school superintendent.
Have you had an experience at UM that made you feel empowered or gave you a leadership opportunity?
UM has provided me with leadership skills that I will be able to apply to my career after I graduate. I’m the UM ambassador for a national organization, the Andrew Goodman Foundation; president of the Luckday Residential College Community Council; director of intercampus relations for the Black Student Union; and I’m a community assistant in UM student housing. I spend a lot of time speaking with students because I always make time for them when they need to talk.
Any particular support or encouragement you have received from a professor?
My AAS professor, Dr. Owen Hyman, has been a great mentor. Through his effective leadership and guidance in an introductory AAS class, I have a great foundation as an AAS major that will aid me in all of the classes to follow. He’s also been there to encourage me and support me.
What do you enjoy doing outside of academic pursuits at UM?
I enjoy serving as a student volunteer manager for Ole Miss Women’s Basketball. When the opportunity comes my way, I’ll be ready to coach!
What is your go-to meal in Oxford?
My go-to meal in Oxford is Moe’s BBQ on the Square. They have the best BBQ in Oxford.
What are you binge watching?
I am currently binge watching How to Get Away with Murder.
Why did you choose to attend UM?
To be totally honest, I wasn’t planning on coming to the University of Mississippi at first. There were just so many things about it that made me question whether or not it was the institution for me. I went to Oxford High School right here in Oxford, Mississippi, so I was right near the heart of the University. But, I was only on the outside looking in. My second semester of freshman year at Northwest Mississippi Community College all of that changed. My mentor, Bruce Ware, introduced me to Dr. Ajootian and Dr. Edney on my real first visit to campus, and if you know these two professors then I’m sure you know how my world changed in those moments. It was jarring to meet people so devoted to the betterment of not just learning and academia, but also the world as a whole. Their words in that small conversation were essentially a parallel to the codes of conduct that I live and love by. I could tell that those two professors sitting with me out on the Circle beneath the trees were a testament to the incredible dedication, resources, advancements, and promise that I would be met with at the University of Mississippi. That moment convinced me that this was the place for me.
When and why did you choose your major(s)/minors?
I’ve always been interested in history and writing pursuit of history & the betterment of our collective future. I just wasn’t sure where that (and all of my other interests) put me as a student in the expansive (and constantly expanding) world ofacademia. When I met some ofmy mentors here at UM, I saw all of these possibilities and I thought to myself “why not cultivate a space where your interests meet and intermingle in a way that not only opens doors, but has the capacity to widen the views of modern history?” And, so I chose the two of the most influential cultures to every exist to study: Greek & Roman history and the history of people of African descent. Two cultures that so greatly impacted (and still continue to impact) this world being studied in tandem has the potential for incredible academic exploration and, in turn, astonishing historical findings leading to the advancement of society as we know it today. I chose these majors because I believe in the betterment ofthe world around us through learning everything we can about the experiences and interactions that it’s made of.
I hope to get into a graduate program after I leave here and get a masters degree in either history or creative writing. Soon after, I want to get a PhD in History with a Creative Writing concentration and later get a JD of Fine Arts. Outside of academia, I genuinely just want to do whatever I can to make this world a better place.
Have you had an experience that made you feel empowered at UM?
Yes, I have. One of my most empowering experiences unfolded very recently. First, here’s some background information about me: Some of my biggest moments in life have been those that’ve shifted my narrative about mental health & trauma in life. As a relatively recently diagnosed neurodivergent person, it has been a huge part of my life unpacking trauma around my disability and learning more about what it means for me as a person. The experience that I’m referring to was the very first time that I’d ever reached out to Student Disability Support Services about accommodations and I’d never met anyone in the SDS office before. I spoke with Corey Blount and the first words out ofhis mouth after I’d rambled on and on about how I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to ask for accommodations were “it is your civil right to ask for what you need in this world.” It was probably one of the most empowering conversations that I’ve ever had in my life.
Is there a professor who has been particularly helpful to you?
So many ofthe faculty and staffhere at UM have been more than hospitable and considerate towards me, so that’s a tough question. I’d definitely like to highlight that Dr. Derrick Harriell welcomed me so warmly to the African American Studies program and that’s a big part of why I want to be an ambassador. I wanna give students and parents that same warm, eye-opening welcome to the African American Studiesprogram.
What are you binge watching/reading/listening to?
I just recently started the award-winning podcast Ear Hustle. This podcast takes you into every-day prison life and presents remarkable stories of those living through it and after it. The hosts, Nigel Poor and Earlonne Woods, are funny, light-hearted and honest, which brings so much ease to the listening experience. And, while there’s so much ease to listening, these stories are incredibly raw and sometimes difficult to conceptualize as a non-incarcerated person. This podcast does a beautiful job of debunking some of the myths about prison life and re-humanizing those who experience it after the media and prison has done so much to take away their stories and voices.
What do you want to change about the world?
I’d like if we, as a society, brought a lot more attention and emphasis to the importance of empathy. Not just how we experience it, but how we teach it, cultivate it, disperse it, view it, and implement it into the things that we deem profitable. I think it’d change our world entirely.