For the first of our 2019 Student Spotlights, we sat down to interview Marianna McMurdock. Read her reflections on education, community, and navigating Brown.
What opportunities and programs have you been part of at Brown?
I did Winter Break Providence and the iProv summer fellowship in 2017 with Youth In Action, an afterschool non-profit in Providence. After that, I kept working with YIA through work-study til after this past summer. Those things helped me feel grounded here (in Providence), and reminded me that there was a separation between school and life. I’m also a Writing Fellow.
What did you learn from these opportunities?
At Youth in Action, I learned to be more comfortable with my voice. Everyone there was a person of color, and they would always ask me: what do you think? What’s working for you, how can I support you? I worked with high school leaders to create workshops on storytelling and social justice topics, and they kept telling me that they wished they talked about these things in school. That’s why I stayed after the first summer, because they wanted to know these things that could really help them in the future. From that experience, I also learned when to leave things. Even when it seemed like it was “too late”, like in my junior year. I learned to set boundaries for myself, communicate my needs and be pro-active about my needs instead of re-active. At the same time, I’m also proud that I put myself in places to learn and be in community.
Being a Writing Fellow has helped me envision what I want my future classroom to look like. I love how we learn from each other’s writing, and that we’re here for anti-racist writing pedagogy. It’s a way for me to subvert the normal expectations of the education system and treat people like human beings, and have real conversations with them.
What would you have done differently in your time here?
I would have kept track of myself as a person, in terms of my mental capacities. I would have pushed myself to reflect on the future and really ask: what do I want when I leave here? What skills do I want, what communities? If I had asked that, I would have been more intentional about the courses I took, the relationships I built, the spaces I was in. Having like a monthly check-in to reflect on my goals and intentions would have been helpful.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Oh, so many things! But a few that I can think of:
Try new things to find what you’re looking for. It’s ok to try them alone- you can still learn.
Don’t be afraid to make your own academic path. I know people who care about education but didn’t like the EDUC department, so they chose the classes they needed to build the education they wanted. Don’t be discouraged, don’t feel boxed in or tied to one thing.
I also highly recommend taking languages when you’re here. I took Spanish and Portuguese and never regretted it. It’s so important to know how to communicate with more people and understand their music, their lives. Everything here is so U.S. centered, and I want to break that down.
How have you stayed true to your values at Brown?
I’ve stayed true to my values by zooming out. Instead of focusing on day to day things, I ask myself: who are my people, and am I supporting them? I to go to as many U-FLi events as I can. When I do, I feel so warm and excited to meet first and second years. It reminds me that beautiful things are happening here–new cohorts, new people. I also photograph things that should be better valued. I say yes to the things I care about. And of course, I celebrate and sleep as much as I can.
What’s next for you?
I want to be with young people. I want to think about writing and how writing is taught, and I want to make schools more loving. I’m looking for work in policy, media, education, work that’ll help us get towards a more economically and racially just world.