Faculty Spotlight: Juliana Nfah-Abbenyi

The NC State belltower on a sunny day.

Headshot of Juliana Nfah-AbbenyiWhat kind of research do you do? How do you choose what to research?

My research is on postcolonial literary and cultural studies with an emphasis on African and African-diaspora literatures and women’s and gender studies. I choose to do research on topics and texts that I find stimulating, especially texts that pose new questions, that challenge my thinking and extend or deepen our knowledge of what we think we already know. These are texts that empower us to fill in some gaps, to raise more questions, and expand our knowledge of the field.

As a distinguished professor and acclaimed author of several books, can you tell us your secret to your writing success?

A combination of three things: passion for the material I’m working on no matter how boring the material might sometimes be/seem; delight in new discoveries during the research process; and, exercising patience during the (sometimes) painstaking writing process.

What has it been like serving as the assistant dean for diversity in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences? Any diversity initiatives that you’d like to see implemented on our campus or in our department?

It has been rewarding to serve as the first assistant dean for diversity of our college. I enjoy working collaboratively with our college leadership and academic units on initiatives. I have implemented programs and organized transformative activities related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism that faculty, staff, and students have found useful. I am happy to see that our student body is growing more diverse each year, but I would like to see more representation of staff and faculty of color in departments and across campus. One often hears the saying, “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” Representation matters! Having a place and a voice at the table matters. I would therefore like to see more hires of people from underrepresented groups at all levels of administration and the recruitment and retention of students from underrepresented groups at NC State.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are you most excited about right now?

That what I do has a meaningful impact on people’s lives; that my work plays a part in advancing our university’s mission of fostering a campus climate that empowers us to grow and thrive as members of a think and do community.

Any advice you’d like to give to aspiring students?

Always be inquisitive; you’ll be thankful for it. Seek out friendships with people who are different; you’ll enjoy the experience. Build community; it will catch you if you fall. Cultivate relationships with mentors and never hesitate or shy away from seeking their counsel if/when you need a sympathetic ear.

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