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I Am A Researcher

Dr. Candace Katungi

UC San Diego Major and Graduation Year: Ethnic studies and political science (double major), 2002

Graduate Degrees: MPS in African American studies at Cornell University, 2005; MA in history at Cornell University, 2009; PhD in history at Cornell University, 2019 

URH Programs: McNair Program

What did you research while in the McNair Program?
My McNair research project was titled - The Politics of Congregation: Black Student Unions at Predominantly White Institutions. I explored Black identity, student success, and group support within Black student organizations.  

The University of California San Diego (UCSD) was the research site and I used a participant observant methodology.  I interviewed all of the members of UCSD’s African American Student Union (AASU) during the 2000-2001 academic year. My primary research question was: what variables motivate students to participate in race-based student organizations? Interviewees indicated they joined AASU because they believed they shared common experiences and backgrounds with the other members. The shared experience of “isolation” was the top unifying factor within the group studied above both cultural practices and socioeconomic status. Many of my participants mentioned proposition 209 and the debates surrounding Affirmative Action when discussing feelings of isolation. I presented the specifics of my findings at an undergraduate research conference held at UCSD and at the 2001 Pennsylvania State McNair Conference.

How did your experience in the McNair Program help you on your journey?
My research with the McNair Program was instrumental in my journey to pursue a graduate degree. McNair sparked my interest in scholarly research and helped me see the way I could fit into academia. The opportunity to work with a faculty mentor and present my research fueled my confidence as a budding scholar. I benefited from GRE tutoring and other workshops to learn more about graduate school and the application process. I also received funding to help with the cost of my graduate school applications. Overall, I credit the McNair Program (along with the Ethnic Studies Department at UCSD) with propelling me into graduate-level work. 

What are you doing now? (Career, research, mentoring, etc.)
I am an associate professor of Black studies at San Diego Mesa College and an expert in African American women's history. I also work with K-12 teachers to develop anti-racist curriculum and am involved in state-wide collaborations to support the growth of ethnic studies at California Community Colleges. 

What is exciting about what you do professionally?
I love teaching Black studies and introducing the discipline of Black studies to students. I also love sharing my research on the long history of Black women's activism in the United States.

Any tips for success for current undergraduate researchers?
My tip to students - research something you are passionate about and lean into the process.

Any links showcasing your career (e.g. publications, stories, videos) you want to share with students?

Publication - "Committed to Institution Building" James Turner and the History of Africana Studies at Cornell University, An Interview (Journal of African American Studies. Vol 16. No. 1, March 2012)

Public Talk - "To Get A Little More Learning": Sarah Harris Fayerweather and the Freedom-Centered Pedagogy of Black Women Abolitionists (San Diego Mesa College - Social Science Department, Occasional Lecture Series, February 2016).

Master's Thesis (2005) - Reclaiming the Sister Struggle: Women and the Black Nationalist Tradition

Doctoral Dissertation (2019) "Following the Internal Whisper": Race, Gender and the Freedom-Centered Trinity of Black Women's Activism (1735-1850)