I am a Rhodes Scholar, currently pursuing a doctorate in Politics at the University of Oxford. My research focuses on participatory development initiatives--in particular, my dissertation explores the dynamics of parental participation in community-managed schools in Honduras and Guatemala. I also completed my Masters in Philosophy in Development Studies at Oxford. Prior to that, I was a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, pursuing a project in Chile and South Africa entitled “Nascent Democracies Reexamined: Through the Eyes of the Homeless and Landless”. This project focused on collecting oral histories in economically, geographically, and socially marginalized communities.
I have also worked with various non-profit organizations in the United Stated and South Africa, focusing on issues of housing and community organizing. I worked for the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board to help low-income New Yorkers form housing cooperatives. Later, I was a consultant for the Generation Change program of the Center for Community Change in Washington, D.C. developing strategy reports on how to involve higher education institutions and the federal government in the effort to develop new community organizers.
I have written extensively on the Honduran political crises for Americas Quarterly and The Huffington Post. In addition, I have published pieces in The San Francisco Chronicle, Foreign Policy Online, and NACLA Report on the Americas.
I was the convener of the Rhodes Scholar African Forum in 2007-08. I also informally led a group at the University of Oxford that met to discuss and organization action in response to the crisis in Zimbabwe in 2008-09.
As a doctoral student, analytical and writing skills are essential for my work. These skills have also been central to my recent journalist work. Since my research is based on community case studies in rural Central America, my work also relies on my ability to interact with people from radically different backgrounds.
My courses in Black Studies made me a much better writer. In particular, Professor Ferguson’s emphasis on clean, clear writing has served me well. These lessons have not just improved my prose; they have improved my analysis by preventing me from using vague language that masks my own uncertainty. Now, when I confront poorly written sections of my work, I carefully consider whether this simply reflects poor writing, or broader confusion about the content of my research. This has improved the rigor and intellectual honesty of my writing.
The intimacy of the Black Studies Department exposed me to the world of academia in a way that other departments did not. Professors encouraged me to conduct serious research and participate in conferences. I never expected that I would still be a student in 2010, but my experience in the Black Studies Department played a significant role in the path I have taken since graduating from Amherst.
Advice to current majors:
My advice to students is that they should seek out the most challenging classes you can. The courses that demand the most—particularly those that require you to write frequently—will serve you best in the long run.
Also, study abroad if you can. My study abroad experience was probably the most formative period in my undergraduate experience. It opened my mind to new ways of living and thinking. It also gave me personal experiences that reinforced and enriched my academic work in the Black Studies Department. Amherst encourages students to study abroad, and you should take advantage of this.