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Class of 2020 Graduates



Samiha Rahman

Dissertation Title: "Black Muslim Freedom Dreams: Islamic Education, Transnational Migration, and Mobility."

Award: Best Dissertation in Africana Studies




Faith A. Carter

Capstone Title: When we go high, they go low: The Disproportionate Policing and Disciplining of African-American Youth in Public Schools

Note from Faculty and Staff:

"Faith, it has been a joy to witness you rise in your power as a scholar. You have overcome the tremendous challenges of the past months to offer a compelling diagnosis of the enduring structures of anti-Blackness in schools and a vision of justice for Black children and youth. Congratulations for reaching this incredible milestone. We are all so proud of you."

-Krystal Strong, Assistant Professor in the Literacy, Culture, and International Education Division


Imani Davis

Capstone Title: “Things Lovely & Dangerous Still”: Towards a Queer Black Love Poetic

Award: Raymond Pace Alexander Prize in Africana Studies

Note from Faculty and Staff:

"Brilliant scholar, poet, and performer, Imani Davis is the most impressive undergraduate I’ve had the privilege of working with in the last fifteen years. There's so much conceptual heft in her writing not to mention grace and elegance of expression. This is someone poised to change the field of black queer studies and I am eager to see how with great style and substance she will achieve this feat."

-Dagmawi Woubshet,Ahuja Family Presidential Associate Professor of English



Britney Firmin

Honors Thesis Title: The Opioid Epidemic in Rural America: An investigation into how punitive response approaches create for a renewed war on drugs in the countryside

Inductee: Phi Beta Kappa


Mona R. Hagmagid

Honors Thesis Title: A Case for Faith: The Absence of Spiritual Agency in the Existing Scholarship on African American Muslims and Their Communities

Note from Faculty and Staff:

"Mona braved delays that were outside of her control that necessitated a shift from ethnography to textual analysis to write a great thesis. In examining key texts in the study of African American Muslims, Mona makes a convincing case for scholars to turn to "spiritual agency" as an analytic lens. In many ways, this thesis provides an important springboard for her doctoral research at the University of Michigan. Congrats Mona!"

-David K. Amponsah, Presidential Assistant Professor of Africana Studies


Michael W. John

Honors Thesis Title: Decolonizing Conflict: Empire, Race, and Nation In The  Forging  Of Modern Guyana

Note from Faculty and Staff:

"Michael is a curious and diligent scholar. His enthusiasm for learning is contagious and his humor has left us both laughing our way through office hours meetings. I will never forget Michael’s reaction after our first archival trip together. With a face of accomplishment and exhaustion he said, “That was a lot.” It was, but Michael accepted the most difficult challenges of his undergraduate experience as opportunities to excel, and the work that he produced was outstanding. Michael, it has been a pleasure to study with you and witness your commitment to Guyana’s history and to the fields of Caribbean and Africana Studies. Congratulations!"

-Grace L. Sanders Johnson, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies


Sophia P. Linder

Honors Thesis Title: Effects of Tourism Decline on Afro-Cuban Navigation and Perception of the Entrepreneurial Cuban Tourism Economy

Award: Sadie Tanner Alexander Prize in Africana Studies, Best Paper in Sociology

Inductee: Phi Beta Kappa

Note from Faculty and Staff:

"Still remember the very first day Sophie Lindner came to talk to me in my office hours. I was blown away by how much she already seemed to know about her undergraduate research on race relations in Latin America. By working with her, I quickly came to realize how intellectually gifted she was and her work ethics; my very best student ever in Brazil, Switzerland and the U.S. I have no doubt she will thrive at the doctoral program in sociology at Yale University." 

-Roquinaldo Ferreira, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History 

Roberta Y. Nin Feliz

Capstone Title: Santa Marta Es La Dominadora: An Origin Story

Note from Faculty and Staff:

"It is hard to believe that it has been 4 years since Roberta sat next to me on the first day of our black feminisms course. Since that day, Roberta has proven over and over again through multiple academic prizes and publications that she is one of the most critically engaged and astute thinkers at UPenn. Roberta truly pushed herself in this last year as she wrote two theses for her Africana and Computer Science majors. While her projects were different in topic (racial bias in facial recognition systems and a history of the Dominican lwa Santa Marta), both projects were infused with Roberta’s care, creativity, and commitment to study and account for black lives at the intersection(s) of science and spirit. Roberta, your work is inspiring. I wish you all the best in your upcoming season. Congratulations!"

-Grace L. Sanders Johnson, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies


Persia-Ali Pierce

Capstone Title: An Examination of Educational Inequity at the University of Pennsylvania & School District of Philadelphia: The Role of Organizational Culture on African American Student Well-Being



Dominique N. Thomas

Capstone Title: Race, Media Bias, and Philadelphia Eagles

Note from Faculty and Staff:

"Dear Nikki - When you brought your idea to me last summer, and I saw the way your mind was spinning, I knew you had to run with it. I will miss our many conversations about all of the layers in this work, and the unique race and sports story that runs deep in our city. I'm so glad that you took up the call to tell it, and will continue to shape it via different mediums as your graduate career continues, now with undergrad behind you. Congratulations!"

-Brian Peterson, Director, Makuu: The Black Cultural Center