April 9, 2019 – Ijeoma Njaka (G’19) is using art to build awareness about the experiences of traditionally underserved students on campus through her research. The exhibit she curated, (In)Visibility at Georgetown: Past, Present, & Future, opens April 12 and is featured in the Healey Family Student Center and Sellinger Lounge at the Leavey Center.
Hometown: Maple Grove, Minnesota
Degree Pursuing: Master of Arts in Learning, Design and Technology
Undergraduate School: Brown University
Undergraduate Major: Public Policy and American Institutions
Research: Njaka, a graduate associate working with the Doyle Engaging Difference Program and a member of the Inclusive Pedagogy Team at the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS), co-develops and co-facilitates workshops to advance inclusive teaching practices among faculty.
The master’s candidate, who will graduate in May, says growing up with a mother who was a career educator and her experience attending school in Minnesota shaped her interest in education.
“I was very often the only African American in my classes, and that became even more true as I started pursuing advanced placement and honors courses,” Njaka recalls. “I benefited from the teachers and allies who were able to help me work through that experience.”
Through her work with the Doyle Program, Njaka encourages Georgetown students and faculty to address cultural, religious and other forms of difference through learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom.
She also coaches and supports 12-15 Doyle Faculty Fellows as they redesign their Georgetown courses to engage difference and diversity.
Social Justice Through Art: Working on the Provost’s Diversity Advisory Committee last fall, the graduate student started thinking about ways the broader campus community could learn from the experiences of students from underrepresented communities.
“I was taking an elective last fall in the museum studies program, and was learning about best practices in arts education,” Njaka explains, “and how learning in museum environments in particular can induce a shift or change in people, like increasing empathy and compassion and tolerance.”
She worked with the Office of the Provost and the Division of Student Affairs to create the (In)Visibility at Georgetown: Past, Present, & Future exhibit that features visual art, film and other media from Georgetown students.
“We invited students across campus to submit art inspired by themes for a campus-wide conversation about the past, present and future of obscured and marginalized experiences at Georgetown,” she says.
View on Leadership: Adanna J. Johnson, senior associate dean of students and director of diversity, equity and student success, worked with Njaka on the advisory council and lauded her initiative for creating the exhibit.
“Ijeoma is the epitome of an engaged graduate student. She's incredibly thoughtful yet she takes initiative and has demonstrated collaborative leadership,” Johnson says. “This work she's begun with art and social justice is innovative and will undoubtedly enrich our community.”
Campus Honors: Njaka received the Exceptional Masters Student Award for Humanities this year for her research and contributions on campus.
Why Georgetown?: Njaka decided to pursue her master’s degree to build on her work as an educator.
“This program stood out because it was interdisciplinary and pulls from different facets of education.” Njaka says. “I think there are a lot of creative elements to the program that allow me to draw on my curriculum design background.”