Students speak out on graduate school


(Left to right) Seniors Antione Johnson, Aisha Engle, Damariy`e L. Smith answer questions on the struggles of a black graduate student in the University Union Hinde Auditorium on Tuesday, Feb. 16. The event is sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Center.

State Hornet Staff

The Black Graduate Student Panel met on Feb. 16 to discuss with attendees the graduate school experience from the perspective of African-American students.

The panel, comprised of Sacramento State graduate students Antoine Johnson, Aisha Engle and DeWayne Smith, said their insight on topics range from their backstories to the feeling of being marginalized in Sac State’s graduate programs.

“Me, my brother and my sister struggled together,” Johnson said. “My brother just got out of prison, but he is one of the people who made sure I stayed in school.”

Engle also spoke on having experiences somewhat similar to Johnson’s.

“Living in poverty, living in environments where some of the advantages and disadvantages are thrown right in the pot and I am a part of it,” Engle said. “It propels me to do better, to do more, and to go further.”

A common theme woven throughout the panelists’ stories was that of family.

“I’m big on legacy and want to set a legacy for my daughter,” Smith said.

Johnson said a key component of succeeding in the graduate program was support, whether from blood relatives or people who students decided to make family.

Another commonality the panelists shared was the difficulty of being a minority at Sac State.

“Grad school … is full of microaggressions,” Johnson said. “It’s 110 black grad students out of 3,000 grad students. But stay true to yourself, your identity … find some people you can relate to even if they are not in your discipline.”

Despite potential roadblocks ahead for prospective graduate students, the panelists said graduate school is worth it.

“It is an honor to be able to be in the master’s program,” Engle said. “It’s good company; it’s a community. I feel that at Sac State I’m coming into my own.”

In a discussion panel teeming with advice and insight, Johnson instructed students to fully embrace their education.

“Make your education … a hobby of yours as well,” Johnson said.

Updated at 9:53 p.m. February 18 to reflect new information