African American Studies and Cultural Anthropology Senior
Bryan Richardson

Bryan RichardsonThe pre-graduate school internship has been a whirlwind of experiences. At the beginning of the semester, my primary expectation was to look deep into this process and really know if this was the path I wanted to follow. Was graduate school, the academy, or cultural anthropology where my true interests lie? And would my talents be well-suited to a profession so highly competitive and often lacking support? I found the answers to my questions as I engaged with my advisor and student mentor in the various activities that beset them this semester. From preparing syllabi and grades, to writing travel grant and fellowship applications, and even attending an academic conference, my horizons have been broadened and my desire to pursue this passion of learning has been solidified.

The main focus of my internship was preparing for graduate school. While I worked on completing ten grad school applications and fellowship applications for NSF and Ford, I also closely followed my grad student mentor's journey through comprehensive examinations. Damien Schnyder has spent the last several months reading, writing, and compiling bibliographies of theoretical literatures specific to his proposed dissertation project and the geographic location where his fieldwork will take place. Although I was somewhat familiar of what this process entailed, to see it unfold for this student was mind-blowing. It provided a perspective on how much time and effort this work takes. What is more, all of this work has to be completed in tandem with his obligations as a Teaching Assistant.

Despite his extremely busy schedule, Damien still made himself available to me whenever I had a question about a particular program, theoretical arguments, or needed a second pair of eyes to proofread my statement of purpose. This essay proved to be my biggest challenge this semester. To be honest, writing, and more specifically, reflecting on my life, personal background, and honing in on my professional goals in three to five short pages was no walk in the park. However, the process has enabled me to write concisely and to convey my research project to others in a direct way. I also applied to two predoctoral fellowships, awarded by the National Science Foundation, and the National Academies Ford Diversity Fellows. Both Damien and Dr. Allen, my faculty advisor, stressed the importance of searching for outside funds to cover the costs of graduate education. Not only does this allow for longer periods of fieldwork, but also frees you from certain institutional obligations that might keep you in graduate school longer than you have to be (i.e. teaching assistantships). I am looking forward to April to receive feedback on my ideas and hopefully an awarding of funds.

Perhaps the highlight of this experience was being able to attend the American Anthropological Association Conference in San Jose, California. Just the steps it took to get there became a learning experience, since I had to prepare travel grant proposal in order to cover the costs of airfare and hotel accommodations. My proposal was accepted and deemed worthy of funds, and I was able to attend several panels over the course of five days where I not only involved myself on dialogue about issues in my proposed field of research, but I was also fortunate to network with several scholars who teach and research at the programs to which I am applying. Indeed, one of my most important lessons throughout this journey is that networking, and meeting scholars who share common intellectual interests is a vital aspect of academic life.

Most importantly, I have realized both the dearth of scholars of color in academia and the importance of the particular projects that these scholars often choose to research. All too many of the anthropologists I encountered, supposedly doing work on gender and sexuality presented research that privileged white, middle-class, and First-world peoples. When I offered my insights on the particular ways that gender and sexuality are racialized, nobody had any data that suggested this fact. Overall, it proved that the work I intend to do is important and lacking in much of the current literature on gender, sexuality, and queer theory. I am now even more convinced that I was meant to become a scholar.