HRC Blog

Reflections from HRC Scholarship Winner Dr. Thelathia “Nikki” Young

Post submitted by Sharon Groves, HRC Director, Religion and Faith Program

HRC is thrilled to announce that Dr. Thelathia “Nikki” Young, the inaugural winner of HRC’s scholarship and mentorship dissertation scholarship, has successfully completed her doctoral studies.  Nikki reflects on what she gained through the experience at HRC’s summer institute, and on the support the dissertation scholarship provided as she deepens her commitment to being a scholar-activist committed to LGBT equality.  Stay tuned for announcements of the class of 2011 summer institute awardees and dissertation winner.  Dr. Sharon Groves, Director, Religion and Faith Program.

I was celebrating Cinco de Mayo with my partner and friends in Atlanta, Georgia, last year when I received a phone call from Dr. Sharon Groves.  After we exchanged hurried salutations, she exclaimed in a larger-than-life voice, “You won! You are the inaugural recipient of the HRC Dissertation Scholarship.”  I was elated.  Sharon explained that the scholarship included a mentor, financial award, and travel to Vanderbilt University for the HRC Summer Institute.  Neither she nor I had any idea how those gifts would expand and transform my experience as a dissertating graduate student.

Rev. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Brite Divinity School, was appointed as my mentor.  He acted as an accountability partner, cheerleader, advisor, and friend.  His commitment to my project on black queer families and ethics was unwavering.  Steve’s example of being a scholar-activist showed me how important it is to do work that is both rigorous within the academy and relevant outside of it.  Even more, his ongoing concern for my wellbeing and that of my family reminded me that being a scholar-activist required ongoing cultivation of family and community relationships.

In July, I participated in the Summer Institute, a weeklong seminar that joined together a diverse group of graduate students and faculty doing queer religious studies in the U.S.  It was through my experience at the Institute that I learned that intersectionality allows us to think simultaneously about intersecting categories of oppression and the need for inter-relational learning and action.

In my dissertation, I write about ethical frameworks, race, gender, sexuality and families, so I recognize the importance of continued conversation with the HRC community and my colleagues from the Institute.  We are all concerned with liberation, the impact of our queerness on family and relationships, and the ongoing dialogue between what is real and what is possible.  My dissertation left me believing that the possibilities for family and morality – i.e. visions of “family values” – are broad and far-reaching.  I look forward to developing these possibilities, emphasizing their intersectional roots, and working with diverse communities to enhance our shared and distinctive goals.

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