Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Interrogating the World with Students

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Interrogating the World with Students

Article excerpt

Dr.McKinley E. Melton was fascinated by language, learning, literature and the articulation of ideas while growing up but wasn't sure what career path to pursue that matched those curiosities. It wasn't until his time as an undergraduate at Duke University that he became interested in "diversifying the academy."

"Having attended predominantly White institutions, I understood the value of having Black faculty members, and I knew how powerful it was to see someone at the front of the classroom who looked like me, who reflected my reality and served as a reminder that the classroom is a space for everyone Melton says. "I was compelled by the idea that I could be one of the faculty members of color that students were always looking for."

Originally from Marietta, Georgia, Melton is currently an assistant professor of English at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania and has worked there since 2012. He was recently granted tenure and will be associate professor of English beginning with the 2018-19 academic school year.

He received a bachelor's degree in English, African and African American studies at Duke University and a Ph.D. in Afro-American studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He says his time spent at UMass Amherst "shaped the way" he reads and interprets literature and greatly informed his "critical approach to Black creative and cultural expression."

Melton's teaching style focuses primarily on 20th century African-American and African diaspora literatures, and his courses explore the intersections between social, political and cultural movements as part of a critical approach to Africana literatures.

"I'm a firm believer in a learning space that is engaging and interactive says Melton. "I lecture from time to time, but I find that a classroom that's driven by discussion and ongoing conversation feels much more energetic and productive.

"I think it's important that I function as a guide for the conversation but also allow students to feel a strong sense of ownership over their own learning process. That said, I do think it's important to provide lectures when necessary, offering important historical and cultural context that will also help students to engage with the course material."

Melton is teaching eight diversity-enriched courses that include: "Black Superheroes in American Culture: From Nat Turner to Netflix" and "Literature of the Civil Rights Movement and Voice and Visibility: African Americans and the Power of the Spoken Word."

Courses taught by Melton tend to be popular. "I'm happy to take some credit for the popularity of the classes, and I do get students who sign up for multiple classes with me because they appreciate my approach to the classroom, but I think that students are often really drawn to the material that I have the privilege of teaching," he says. …

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