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Thanks to numerous on- and off-campus supporters, as well as the
initiative taken by Akilah Alleyne to immerse herself in the community,
her success at UD was just beginning when she earned her
bachelor's degree in 2015.
Akilah Alleyne enrolled at the University of Delaware in 2011, she was
confident it would be a great place for her to pursue her undergraduate
education but was not planning on spending more than four years in
Newark, let alone a decade. Though the Baltimore native felt great about
her decision to cross the state line, which was strengthened by the
overall appeal of the campus and an impactful visit to UDs Center for Black Culture during her tour, she envisioned herself spending her mid-20s as a young professional enjoying the vibrant life of a large city.
Thanks to numerous on- and off-campus supporters, as well as the
initiative taken by Alleyne to immerse herself in the community, her
time and degrees at UD were just beginning when she earned her bachelor
of arts in human services in 2015.
I stayed at UD because of the people I met here, said Alleyne. I
have had some really great mentors who have been key to my success.
In the spring semester of her first year, Alleyne was greatly inspired by taking Introduction to Sociology with Victor Perez,
associate professor of sociology. She recalls Perez describing
sociology as the study of society and dimensions of it, including race,
gender and class, and looking at how they intersect and affect how we
behave as human beings.
His explanation of sociology was very intriguing to me and I
thought, Wow, I really want to explore this more, said Alleyne, who
minored in sociology. I had always enjoyed focusing on the individual
mind, but when I heard about sociology, which is more of a broader sense
of studying human beings, I said, Thats for me; thats exactly what I
want to do.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Akilah Alleyne expects to complete her doctoral degree in sociology in May.
Alleynes budding interest in
sociology then merged with criminology during the fall of her sophomore
year when she took Introduction to Criminal Justice with Chrysanthi Leon,
associate professor of sociology and criminal justice. By addressing
how the law or institutions like the criminal justice system deal with
or respond to human behaviors, the class helped her understand the
intersecting relationship that people have with systems and
Impressed with Alleynes work ethic and dedication in her class, Leon encouraged her to apply for the McNair Scholars Program,
a 10-week summer research internship that awards a $3,500 stipend to
its participants and offers preparation for doctoral study to
low-income, first-generation college students and students from groups
underrepresented in graduate education at 152 colleges and universities
in the United States. Before Alleyne had even told her she was
definitely interested in the program, Leon had already sent a letter of
recommendation on her behalf, which included the following:
"Akilah is one of a select group of students who consistently
participated in class discussions in my very large lecture course. She
sat in the front row, brought her notes and own questions to class, and
was thoughtful and helpful in commenting on course materials. She was
truly a delight to have in the class; I could always count on her to
have prepared thoroughly.
Alleyne was accepted into the McNair Scholars Program, and the
additional groundwork was laid for her postgraduate education. Following
the completion of her bachelors degree, she continued her study of sociology
at UD by earning a master of arts in 2017 and pursuing a doctorate,
which she intends to wrap up in May. Currently assessing her career
options, she is interested in both teaching and research especially
education policy and has positioned herself for both avenues.
Just as her instructors have done for her, Alleyne would like to be a
role model for students. Along with serving as a UD teaching assistant,
she has been an adjunct instructor in the Universitys Associate in Arts Program and taught an academic summer enrichment program for Delaware Technical Community College.
A research assistant for five years, Alleyne has spent the most time
with the Wilmington Street PAR (participatory action research) Project, a
coalition of community partners conducting an ethnographic community
needs assessment of Wilmingtons oldest and most violent neighborhoods.
She loves the participatory part of research and the chance to immerse
herself within the populations she is studying and disseminating
knowledge on by working alongside the community members.
Through her research work and volunteer service, Alleyne has been
involved with several other local organizations, including the
Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, which recently invited her to
serve as one of the moderators for a debate it hosted for many of this
years candidates for Delaware offices. She was humbled to be identified
as an active and emerging leader serving the state and relished the
opportunity to interact with the candidates and their campaign managers.
As a graduate research scholar, I believe that nothing is more
valuable than building a rapport with both the members and leaders of
the communities that we read about, write about and speak on behalf of
in our position as experts, said Alleyne. Ive learned that in my work
as a graduate student, the most important and most fulfilling
experiences are those that allow us to be able to align research with
both engagement and practice. By participating in the debate, I was able
to do each of those things while also encouraging the communities that I
so passionately serve to participate in the democratic process I
couldnt be more proud.
Among other groups, Alleyne is also passionate about her association with the Education Funding Organizer
program. Designed for advocates to converge, build their knowledge of
education funding, and advocate for excellent and equitable
opportunities for all Delaware students, she and the other organizers
are tasked with working collaboratively with the Education Equity Delaware coalition to engage and educate their communities. This involvement has enabled her to get to know Paul Herdman, president and CEO of Rodel,
a nonprofit organization partnering with Delawareans and educational
innovators from around the world to transform public education in the
I see Paul around and he has been awesome to me, said Alleyne. He
has been a mentor by helping me shape how I see education funding,
particularly as it relates to Delaware.
As Alleyne has demonstrated, she has two words of advice for all UD
students, get involved. She encourages her classmates to network
both on and off campus and not be afraid of tapping into social
circles that may be out of their comfort zone. Alleyne has made many
contacts by attending lectures and other events and said her membership
in UDs Mu Pi chapter of the nationally recognized, historically Black Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. has been the foundation for her success and led to numerous networking connections.
While Alleyne still may end up in a big city at some point, she has
positioned herself for her future by embracing the abundance of
opportunities and benefits offered by UD and the rest of the First
Delaware is so small that you can literally rub elbows with the
governor at a networking event, which I have done, said Alleyne.
Living here has allowed me to grow and flourish in a way that has given
me the confidence to move forward after I finish my education. I am
super excited to say I came out of the University of Delaware and
encourage others to pursue their dreams like I am doing.
Article by Adam S. Kamras; photos by Teaunah Molden
Published Sept. 30, 2020