“Why do you all want to be lawyers?” Dr. Gary Paul was standing in front of the class again talking about getting a Ph. D.
I came back to FAMU to get a masters degree and I already knew that I was going to be a lawyer. This diatribe provided me with just enough time to zone out and review my notes before he got off his soapbox and we had to take our test. He finished his speech, I passed my test, and I didn’t think twice what he was telling me.
Again, later that semester, Dr. Paul stood in front of the class recruiting for the academy. By this time, I had a new appreciation for learning. I had developed a passion for my disciple. He said, “If all of you go to law school there will be no Black Ph.D.s… Who will teach in the HBCUs… Who will lead our institutions?” This time, something struck a cord with me. I thought hard about what he said and considered the implications. I decided that I wanted to teach. I was going to get a Ph.D.!
Graduation was approaching and I was excited. I decided that I would work for two years and then enroll in a Ph.D. program. I had a few job offers but none that really excited me.
A few days after graduation, a 5-9-9 number appeared on my caller ID. No one likes to see a campus number appear on their phone so soon after graduation. Immediately, I thought the worst and answered the phone quickly. The voice on the other end was Dr. Jackson, my Department Chair. No one wants to have their department chairperson call them so soon after graduation either. I told him about my career plans and he offered me a teaching position in the Department of History & Political Science. This is my FAMU experience.
FAMU inspired me to be more than I ever imagined I could be. FAMU removed the limits to my potential. Now, as I tell my students that they can be more than lawyers, I think about my experience. I tell them what Dr. Paul told me. You can be anything that you want to be if you are willing to put in the work.
FAMU has given each of us a bag of tools. By graduation, we have everything that we need to be productive citizens. Through the trials and tribulations of late net checks, lost paper work and tough finals, we gather the tools endurance, innovation, and faith. In our times of happiness and joy, we gather the tools fellowship, compassion, and courtesy. FAMU has given us all that we need. It is up to us to use our tools-not as stumbling blocks but as stepping-stones.
Keneshia Grant graduated in 2005 with a degree in political science.