Date of this Version
Published in Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Spring/Summer 2017, Volume 18. Number 1.
As a recent alumnus of the West Virginia University Honors College, I recognize my honors experience as a multi-faceted, intellectual journey that pushed me academically, professionally, and personally to become the lifelong learner that I am today. As the only Black honors student in my graduating class, I was aware of my tokenism, especially in my honors courses, in the honors college office, in the honors learning center (testWELL Learning Center), and in university and honors college committee meetings, but I never let it bother me much. My peers misperceived me as an “Oreo”; my physical appearance was Black, yet my mannerisms and opinions were “White” to them. Again, that did not bother me because I felt at home among my honors college peers—until my senior year, when I took my first study abroad trip. After that trip, I experienced my first engagement with the Black community at the university and spent a semester unpacking my distorted understanding of African Americans in American history primarily through the mentorship of a remarkable Black woman. By the end of the semester, I understood the importance of correcting my White friends’ sense of privilege, representing and advocating for my community in this elite academic space of honors, and paving the way for other Black students to succeed in higher education. My self-awakening came at a pivotal time in my life, and it sealed my interdisciplinary interest in law and education.