Congratulations African American and African Studies Award Winner

Monben Mayon

photo of Monben Mayon

Major: African American and African Studies
Psychology and Public & Non-Profit Administration

I am a poet, scholar, and painter from Newark, New Jersey, born in Monrovia, Liberia. During summer 2020, I served as a member of the inaugural research cohort for the UD (University of Delaware) and Race Project, a research initiative with the objective of highlighting Delaware’s historical relationship to race and racism. During the fall 2020 semester, I took the course Black Women in the United States, which fulfilled my seminar requirement. The research I produced in the course was focused on Black women musicians and how their careers were shaped by respectability politics. This fall, I will be attending Teachers College, Columbia University to pursue graduate study in the field of Anthropology and Education. I hope to publish research, become a professor, and engage in fieldwork that focuses on optimizing classroom learning for Black students who come from working class families. In addition to graduating Summa Cum Laude, I am proud to be the recipient of the 2021 Wendell A. Jean-Pierre Award and the School of Arts & Sciences-Newark Dean’s Award.

What did you enjoy most during your time here at RU-N?

 The cultural diversity. It was beautiful to see how students from different branches of the African diaspora (Caribbean, African, Black American, etc) come together to participate in cultural exchanges. It is normal and encouraged at Rutgers Newark for students to participate in cultural organizations that may not necessarily reflect their personal identity. So, though I am African, and though I enjoyed the Organization of African Students (OAS) events I attended, I was more likely to be found in a Haitian Association of Students At Rutgers (HASAR) meeting. I learned a lot that I did not know about Haitian food, songs, religious beliefs, and cultural practices through my participation.

What was your favorite AAAS class(es)? Professor(s)? Favorite book/reading(s)?

Classes: All of them! There is not a single course for my major that I considered uninteresting or unnecessary. The curriculum is exquisitely designed. Everything I learned was super important, so I was always stimulated by my coursework.

Professors:  Fortunately, I only have great things to say about every instructor within the department whose student I have had the honor of being. Professor Holbrook, Professor Miller, Professor Hunter, Professor Hill, Professor Tillet, and Professor Lombardi have had the most impact on my scholarly development.

Favorite book/reading(s): Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward; The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead; Democracy in Black by Eddie Glaude; The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander; Slavery by Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon; Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo by Ntozake Shange; Sula by Toni Morrison; God Help the Child by Toni Morrison; In Search of Billie Holiday by Farrah Jasmine Griffin; The Color Purple by Alice Walker; In Search of the Color Purple by Salamishah Tillet

​​​​​​​What advice do you have for incoming AAAS students? 

Some people may try to redirect your interest in this field (and the humanities, in general) by telling you that there are more lucrative career paths. I vividly remember being in office hours with two of my professors early on, expressing to them that I was hesitant to choose AAAS as a major because I did not “want to be broke”. Pursue that which you are passionate about, because when things get tough sometimes our passion and dedication are all we have to propel us forward.

I can confidently say none of the important encounters and opportunities that made my graduate acceptance possible would have occurred had I chosen to major in another discipline. Following my heart landed me in the right places every time. To ease the anxiety of finding career opportunities post-graduation: talk to your professors about it, visit the Career Development Center as often as possible, and participate in research/professional opportunities during the summer.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Describe your experience in the Department in three (3) words or phrases:​​​​​​​

Immersive. Life-changing. Prophetic.