OnFeature is Ms. Bianka Charity, C’2015
This interview was conducted by Ms. Ashley Reid, a sophomore in Economics and Political Science, and a member of the Honors Program.
Q: How did you first become involved with the honors program?
In my freshman year I was accepted into Alpha Lambda Delta [a national honors society] and was elected to serve as president of the local chapter. As president, I worked closely with Ms. Cynthia Cooke (Honors Program Coordinator). I became knowledgeable about the honors program and applied for membership later that spring semester.
Q: What opportunities in the honors program have you taken advantage of?
I was the president of Alpha Lambda Delta throughout my sophomore year. So I was very involved in the honors program at that time. I was also able to travel to a leadership conference in San Antonio. On top of that it has helped me become a great candidate for other opportunities on and off campus. It has challenged me in my course work to strive to be the best that I can be. I know that I am capable, and the honors program has held me to a higher standard.
Q: What honors classes have you taken and how have you enjoyed them?
The ones I can distinctly remember are Honors Philosophy, Black Women’s Status, Achievement, and Impact, and Honors General Psychology. However there are so many honors electives available, and many of them were required for my major, so I can’t recall them all. But as a graduating senior I have had enough time to take classes that I have wanted to and complete my honors requirements.
Q: Do you notice a difference in honors classes?
The professors give you much more responsibility as a student and depend on you to actually do the work and communicate with them what you are and aren’t learning in class. Instead of professors giving you a specific directive, it’s implied that you come to class prepared to have a discussion about not only the given text, but about how the current topics are relevant in the world.
Q: Since you came in as a sophomore, do you see a distinction between honors students and non-honors students?
When I was accepted into the honors program, it definitely boosted my confidence. It gave me confidence in the sense that I had more will power to succeed, and that really helps you take advantage of opportunities that you may not have otherwise.
Q: How has honors influenced you in your matriculation at Spelman?
I’ve had a really great experience. I have been working on my Honors Psychology Thesis for almost two years now, and I can say that it has been a really challenging and rewarding experience particularly since I want to go into research [as a career]. I think it really has allowed me to be an exceptional candidate for graduate programs. Currently I am applying to be a lab manager at several universities as I want to get more experience before going into my PhD program.
Q: Can you tell me about your past summer research experiences.
Sure! I was a University of Virginia Curry School of Education SURP [Sumer Undergraduate Research Program] intern. I looked at the impact of youth-adult relationships, how important it is for youth to have relationships in their communities, which of those relationships are most successful for students, and under what conditions. Being at UVA, and in a graduate school lab, I was given a lot of flexibility to create my own research questions using the research that had already been conducted. I’m really interested in family dynamics, so I looked to see how family structure impacts who youth seek out in their communities. It was really interesting to conduct research, and it actually further motivated me to solidify my own research interests.
Q: Can you tell me more about your thesis and the process?
My first semester of my sophomore year, I took statistics, with Dr. [Valerie] Taylor and following that semester, she invited me to become a research assistant in her psychology lab. Through working with her and building a great relationship with her, she became my first introduction to psychology applied to real life. I also became interested in my current topic, how communities can assist children in their learning and development.
With Dr. Taylor as my thesis mentor, I felt it important to incorporate her research interests with my own on the race of female role models and on the performance of black female college students. Because Dr. Taylor’s research looks at racial interactions and how people of different backgrounds are able to interact and communicate with one another, I married that with my passion for mentorship.
Q: Do you have any advice to underclassman thinking about their thesis?
I’d say to stay encouraged, particularly when collecting data of your own and not using preexisting data. It can become a little discouraging when you’re having a hard time recruiting participants or compensating students for their time. So stay encouraged and utilize all your resources. I have a great relationship with both the honors and psychology departments. Through utilizing those relationships I was able to secure funding to compensate my participants. I’d also say to network and manage your time well. When I was first starting out, we had scheduled Honors Thesis meeting times, which was in the structure of a course. Now that I’m finishing up, it’s all up to me to make sure I stay on task and get everything done. I think it’s good to practice it [time management] early on in your thesis preparations, that way toward the end you’re not procrastinating.
Q: What else are you involved in on campus?
I am a Teachers Assistant for general psychology for non-majors. I’m a part of that because as a child in order to learn I had to re-teach things to myself. So I would stand up on my bed and talk to imaginary beings and re-teach them the information. Since that’s how I had to learn it’s no surprise to me that I’m interested in teaching. I’m the president of SHAPE [Student Health and Peer Educators], and I’m very excited to finish up the year with them. I’m the second Vice President to SKIRTS [Sisters Keeping It Real Through Service], a community service organization; I’m also the Vice President of my Sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, and a WELL Scholar.
Q: How to you give back to the community at Spelman?
Through my experiences in SHAPE and SKIRTS, and other leadership roles I play, I have very humbly accepted the responsibility of being a role model to so many underclassman, and I think it is a huge but amazing responsibility that is unique to Spelman. At this caliber anyone can be a mentor or role model, but with Spelman being such an intimate community, it makes it all the more special. Integrating both my leadership roles and being myself have worked in a way that I can give back by providing advice to younger students, and by tutoring, or just being a sister.
Bianka is a graduating senior majoring in Psychology with a minor in Comparative Women’s Studies. She is a native of Hampton, Virginia.