Frequently Asked Questions
Teaching and Mentoring
I’d like to apply to the PhD program in your department. Are you taking students?
The most likely answer to this question is maybe. I don’t have a straight-forward answer. While I am open to taking students, my approach is to make that decision based on applicants’ complete files, where I see we might have synergy, and if I believe I can be the best mentor to them through the dissertation and beyond. You should also know that great deliberation goes into putting together a cohort. Thus, even if I am excited about a particular applicant, there is still the possibility that other applicants might take priority based on a range of things (department needs, advising considerations across the department, creating the most intellectually diverse cohort as possible, etc.). I am sharing this as a gentle affirmation that regardless of what the entire process turns out to be, there are so many factors that go into decisions, and many of them have nothing to do with your worthiness or capability as a candidate.
What are you looking for in potential PhD students?
I am not interested in mentoring or creating a mini me. I am looking for students who ask thoughtful, creative questions about any number of things: food systems, Black geographies/ecologies, carcerality/plantation geographies, etc. etc. I am also very open to mentoring students who are working on things that are not explicitly related to my own interests – as long as there is some link that makes our pairing make sense and I feel confident that I can guide them in the ways they need. My dissertation advisor and I did not do the same kind of work, but she was a great mentor for me. My approach to choosing and mentoring students is in part influenced by her willingness, ability, and skill with working across our varied intellectual interests.
I have just read Black Food Geographies, and I have questions. Could I schedule a time to chat with you about it?
You are welcome to reach out, but these requests are hard to fulfill— in part because I need to prioritize the students I am teaching and mentoring on my campus but also because at this point, I believe Black Food Geographies has a life of its own. Whatever questions you may have about it, may be questions that are not mine to answer. But, if you are interested in hearing more about my process, there are a number of recorded talks floating around the web. Start there. And if you do reach out and I do not respond or cannot accommodate your request, don’t take it personally. I, like many other Black women scholars, am trying to balance it all while keeping some parts of me to myself for myself.
My class/program/internship requires me to interview a scholar in the field. Can I interview you?
There are increasing numbers of requests for these types of interviews. While I am honored that you have chosen me, I can’t guarantee that I can meet your program’s requirement. In instances where the request is made with ample lead time and flexibility, I will try my best to schedule a 20-30min conversation with you, if what you are asking for is within the scope of what I can reasonably provide.
I am an undergraduate student who is looking for mentorship. Can you mentor me?
Maybe. If you are a student at the university where I work, please email with your request. I prioritize students I have taught or worked with before.
I am a PhD student who is not well supported in my program. Can I talk to you about my project? Or, could you be on my committee?
I’m sorry that you are not getting your needs met within your department. I know that it is difficult to be in a program without good mentorship. To the extent that you can, I encourage you to strategize with someone you know and trust to either a) change advisors or b) consider a different program. If we do not have an already established relationship, I would not be comfortable being that person. That said, when time allows, I’m happy to take short meetings related to your work. This is especially true for Black (women) and students who are first generation college/PhD students. A good time to request a chat is during conference season (if we’re ever able to go back to in-person). I am usually attending AAA, ASA, and AAG. When requesting a meeting, please be clear about what you’re asking of and from me. I get a number of requests like this, and though I empathize, I can’t talk to everyone who wants to meet. In the meantime, here is a piece I wrote for Anthropology News. I hope it helps.
What should I send you if I want to ask you to be on my doctoral committee?
Thank you for considering me. Putting together the right committee is an important step in successfully navigating your program. If you are asking me to be on your committee, please send me a description of your project, your CV/resume, and a tentative timeline to completion. When you are emailing, please also indicate the specific reasons why you’re asking me to join your committee (e.g. – am I the “food” person? the “ethnography/methods” person?, etc.). That information helps me know where I can be especially helpful to you as you shape your project.
Can you write me a strong letter of recommendation?
It depends. You should first email me an initial request at firstname.lastname@example.org. From there, if I agree to submit a letter on your behalf, please fill this form.
Who to Read and Who to Follow
I want to support Black-led food justice initiatives. Whose work should I be following?
There are so many great people and organizations to follow! I am almost reluctant to name names for fear of missing someone I’d otherwise suggest. But, to get you started, here is a list of organizations and people whose work I follow. Most are Black-led, but a few are POC-led. Check them out and vet them for yourself.
Do you have any books or articles you’d recommend for someone who is interested in related subjects?
Here is a non-exhaustive list of books and articles that may be helpful. Also, every year MSU’s Center for Regional Food Systems publishes an annotated bibliography on structural racism and the food system. That is a good place to start if you are interested in that particular area of study.
Self and Community Care
How do you take care of yourself in the midst of trying to do so much?
Sometimes I don’t, and that is not good. I try to learn from those times. But other times, I meditate daily, try to get some movement in (walks have been my favorite thing during the pandemic), and remind myself to drink water. When I feel overwhelmed, I take breaks from social media and sometimes give myself a day or two to hide in my adult-sized blanket fort. I am also slowly divesting from the idea that I am the only one responsible for my wellness and to that end, I’ve leaned into trusting my communities and friends more for support.
How do you write about difficult topics while also remaining well?
This is a tough question to answer, because I don’t believe there is a magic bullet or a prescriptive list for being well. When I am at my best, I have good boundaries around work time, regularly scheduled check-ins with friends and try not to spend the whole time talking about work, long walks, and good food. I also keep a stack of books (mostly by Black women) near my desk. When I’m feeling disoriented or otherwise despairing about something happening in the world, I pick up one of those books and I read from it. They help keep me grounded. Also, I am a student of the ordinary, the everyday. No matter how challenging a day is, I make space for the possibility that some wonder, curiosity, or beauty might come my way. This essay by Christina Sharpe is one that holds me to that promise of possibility.
Do you offer private yoga and meditation sessions?
Yes, I do. Email email@example.com, and we can discuss what you’re looking for and if I am the right person to guide you.
What information do you need up front when being invited to campus?
To cut down on emails, please include the following in your invitation: 1) topic(s) you’re asking me to speak about, 2) 2-3 date options, 3) budget, and 4) everything you’re asking that I be engaged in while visiting.
Are you available to do other things in addition to giving a talk when you come to campus?
You may request additional activities, and we will let you know what can be accommodated. Please note that as a relatively introverted person who is sensitive to high energy exchange, multiple back-to-back activities will rarely be accommodated. Also, if I request to have dinner alone, please do not take offense. Sometimes it is very hard to remain engaged before or after a talk.
Do you have set speaking fees?
I follow the guidance provided by Soul Fire Farm for speaking fees. This will be provided to you when you send an inquiry. However, please note that these guidelines are a minimum. If a) you have budgeted more than the guidance provided and/or b) you have historically paid white men more than what I have requested, please adjust accordingly.
Do you have specific travel and accommodation preferences?
I do! Thanks for asking. You may email firstname.lastname@example.org for a list of preferences.