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Black Women in the Ivory Tower

Published: June 24 2008

Stephanie Evans

Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies and African American Studies
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Black Women in the Ivory Tower

As a first-generation student, Stephanie Evans didn’t attend college until she was 25 years old.

“No one who I knew that looked like me went to college, so I didn’t think I could,” she says. Evans now holds a master’s and Ph.D. in African American studies from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and her research and teaching endeavors as an assistant professor of women’s studies and African American studies are focused on the intellectual and educational history of black women in the U.S.

“My approach to teaching derives from my research agenda,” Evans says. “I have melded my personal experiences in the college classroom with the insights gleaned from black women educators like Fanny Jackson Coppin, Anna Julia Cooper, Mary McLeod Bethune and Septima Clark. These four women in particular, whom I studied for my dissertation, were educators from the 1860s to the 1960s who were effective, efficient and dedicated. Reflecting on their pedagogical wisdom was essential in translating and transforming my own teaching.”

Jointly appointed between the UF Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research and the African American Studies Program, Evans teaches courses such as Intro to African American Studies, Interdisciplinary Perspectives of Women, and Mentoring At-Risk Youth. Her forthcoming book, “Black Women in the Ivory Tower, 1850-1954: An Intellectual History,” is scheduled for release in January. Her current research focuses on women academics in Tanzania.

Before coming to UF in 2003, Evans served as the assistant director of the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University and as a research fellow at the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University. She serves on the advisory council for the Ronald E. McNair scholarship program for minority students and is a faculty advisor for the UF chapter of the National Council of Negro Women and the Jewels of Tau service organization. Whether advising student groups, teaching or conducting research, Evans’ enthusiasm for all that she takes on has quickly made her a favorite among students.

“I have a great deal of fun teaching and encourage my students to actually enjoy the learning process,” she says. “Teaching in African American studies and women’s studies, the subjects are often painful and disheartening. My work, however, deals with activism as well as oppression, so I find inspiration from those who historically and contemporarily fight for equality and social justice. When I’m in the classroom, I would not rather be anywhere else. I try to make the topic interesting enough so that the students have a great time learning and feel the same way.”

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Photo credit: Ray Carson — University Photography
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