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Taking the Road Less Traveled

Taking the Road Less Traveled

Happy New Year, and I hope you had a safe and happy holiday season. As many of us set goals and resolutions for the new year, our first edition in 2002 should prove inspirational to anyone in the academy. Our cover article, “The Academy’s New Cast,” profiles 10 rising stars in fields such as medicine, law, education, humanities, social sciences and others. We decided to profile a variety of young academics not to create a more youthful “Who’s Who in Black Academia” or to exclude other emerging scholars, but rather to exemplify potential realized — to shine a light on what happens to students when they are encouraged and when they are inspired.
More than accomplishments and achievements to add to these scholars’ curricula vitae, we as a society may be on the receiving end of their research. For example, Dr. Jill Bargonetti might ultimately discover the cure for cancer; or perhaps it was our grandfather that law professor Thomas Mitchell advised when Black farmers sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture for generations of farm aid discrimination; or maybe Dr. Nichole Pinkard will design education software that might be the key to helping your child to read. At the very least, they all serve as role models.
These scholars, all under the age of 40, are geographically scattered and come from diverse educational backgrounds — some attended historically Black colleges and others attended Ivy League institutions from undergraduate through graduate school.
As you read each scholar’s profile, several themes will emerge from their experiences. First, most of the scholars seem to have found their own special niche in academia. Yet, the overriding theme seems to be that they took the road less traveled. Many of them have stories of colleagues and advisers who were steering them in another direction, in many cases toward corporate America. But these young scholars all had very particular interests, and it was when they followed their hearts and pursued their passions that they began to blossom. Regardless of your age, you are likely to be inspired by these men and women who have chosen to make their mark in academia — doing innovative research and encouraging students to become the next generation of scholars.
As impressed as we are with the profiled scholars, we also know there are many more we could have included. It’s important to remember this is not a definitive list but only representative of the thousands of the brilliant young scholars in the academy. Although it might be an impossible task to profile every rising star or promising academic, Black Issues looks forward to bringing you similar features in the future, where we introduce you to other members of “the academy’s new cast.” 

Hilary Hurd

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