In New York City’s bustling metropolis, a University of Toledo student will apply his knowledge and passion for a world-renowned fellowship this summer.LaVelle Ridley, a third-year English major and Africana studies minor, was selected as a research fellow for the 2015 Schomburg-Mellon Humanities Summer Institute in New York City.
The highly competitive program accepts 10 rising seniors each year to participate in projects at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which is affiliated with the New York Public Library. The institution is the world’s leading research center devoted to the preservation and dissemination of materials on the African and African Diaspora experience.
“I feel really honored, grateful and proud of myself and my department,” Ridley said. “It really hasn’t even sunk in all the way. Even if there was only 100 other applicants, the fact that they thought I deserved it more than others and they find that my work is something to be invested in, that’s an honor.”
With the purpose of encouraging primarily minority students with an interest in or passion for Africana studies to pursue graduate degrees in the humanities, the program is right up Ridley’s alley.
“When I started the English major at UT, I originally wanted to research the Romantic period of literature. I really like the Romanticists, like Byron, Shelley and Keats. But something that really stuck with me was a professor saying you have to research what you’re passionate about.”
And it’s obvious Ridley is passionate about his heritage. When asked about his fervor for his cultural background, he said, “I’m connected to these people who did these great things so that I can do what I love to do more. I almost feel like I’m paying homage to them. I’m indebted to them in that sense because if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to do so many things.”
The seven-week program will begin Monday, June 1. This year’s focus is “The Global Black Experience in the 20th and 21st Centuries.” In addition to some personal research the participants will be able to do, they will all take part in a group project whose focus will be decided when they all arrive.
Each participant will receive a $3,000 stipend in addition to all-expense-paid travel and housing in Harlem — an aspect of the program Ridley is very excited about.
“The program is geared toward students of color, so I think there’s almost a spiritual aspect of going to Harlem,” he said. “The Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement and how impactful this city is to our culture and development of my race are really going to be important to me.”
While Ridley said he is excited to go to the Big Apple for the first time, he’s most looking forward to meeting the other fellows he’ll be working with this summer.
“You know, I’m really excited for the professors and teachers we’ll have, but what I love most about going to conferences like this is meeting people who are my age that share this passion for the same type of work I do. There’s a bond there that you just can’t match,” he said.