By Ayomide Aruwajoye.
Jacqueline Wood is an Associate Professor and the Interim Director of the Black Studies Program at UMKC. Through her educational career, Professor Wood has been an example of overcoming stereotypes and how maintaining belief in yourself can enable you to achieve your goals. This year will be her second year teaching at UMKC. Below is the transcript from our interview.
Why did you go into your field?
- “I have always loved literature, especially Black literature because it speaks to who I am and to my close ties with my family.”
What was it like being a woman in your field when you entered it? And what is it like being a woman in your field today?
- “I was very much alone, not only as a woman, but also as a scholar. Much of my learning about Black studies was not formal; I read a lot and researched materials before I began my work at the Ph.D. level. Being a woman in the academy now is very different from years ago. Women are more accepted in higher education although there still often is a disparity in salaries. But I faced a great deal of resistance from people in the academy because of my research and teaching subject. They did not want to give Black studies respect as a discipline, nor did they want to give my specialization—Black women dramatists—any credit, calling it work on “minor writers.” I was even denied tenure at my former institution although I had much more than the required high quality publications to earn tenure. I was forced to appeal the decision of their English department to the level of the School of Arts and Humanities. Ultimately, after a year of absolute misery, the department’s unfair decision was overturned, and I was awarded the tenure I deserved.”
What is the most exciting aspect about your field? What do you find rewarding?
- “Truly the most exciting aspect of my job is the enthusiasm and joy I see in my students when they encounter Black studies. They are almost always delighted to find a discipline that speaks to who they are or to their love of diversity and encourages them with the knowledge of what so many outstanding people of African descent have accomplished throughout history and around the world. I love to see the pride in their eyes.”
The Black Studies Program: The Black Studies Program provides critical skill sets in written and oral communication, research, analysis, theory building, multicultural understanding, and global awareness. It provides in-depth knowledge regarding the perspectives, institutions, and experiences of African Americans, Africa, and the African Diaspora while contributing to the general education requirements of the university in both the humanities and the social sciences. The Black Studies Program serves to enhance the professional development of its students. It also seeks to develop scholars in the field.