Samantha Campbell M’24 is proud of her African roots, and she hopes to one day teach a new generation to feel the same.
“Having that knowledge (of my heritage) helped me to embrace myself as I am,” she said. “Where I am from, there is still that Eurocentric view of beauty and what is being an ideal person. Having this information then I can take it home to my family and say, ‘This is why I wear my hair the way I do…this is my African self.’”
Campbell is currently enrolled in Merrimack’s higher education graduate program. Her dream is to one day pursue her doctorate in higher education and ultimately uplift underrepresented communities.
Growing up in Mocho, a rural town in Clarendon, Jamaica, Campbell said she was always fascinated by her African heritage.
“I think growing up in that community, learning more about the culture from people who are more grounded in Afro-Jamaican culture and not so influenced by other cultures, it gave me a more hands-on experience with my Afrocentric roots,” she explained.
The phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child,” fit Campbell’s upbringing to a T, she said. Elders of the village would teach children traditional practices such as herbal medicine techniques.
Mocho, Campbell continued, is not considered “prim and proper” by the larger Jamaican public. She said people from the region are typically seen as less privileged or not as smart. As a curious student of history, Campbell sought to investigate those attitudes and how they shape Jamaican identities and the peoples sense of self.
She received both her bachelor’s in history and heritage studies and a master’s in heritage studies from the University of the West Indies, Mona. Her master’s thesis examined popular Jamaican culture, particularly music, and how it reflected contemporary politics and interpersonal relationships between men and women.
After receiving her master’s, Campbell worked at the University of the West Indies Museum where she focused on researching and developing historical educational content for public engagement. This, along with working with students at the secondary level, developed her interest in pursuing a master’s degree in education.
Once Campbell learned about Merrimack’s higher education program and its roots in social justice, Campbell said she immediately knew it would be a perfect fit.
“I looked into it and I was like, ‘What? Social justice? I am heavily interested in this!’” she recalled. “I would definitely love to work in this area where I can practice advocacy for underrepresented groups and be able to teach and guide students.”
Campbell moved to the states this past July and has been studying at Merrimack ever since. She is currently embarking on her fellowship as an academic progress coach.
“I’m working with Elaine Ward (the department chair, program director and an associate professor of the higher education program) on an external research project on higher education,” she said. “She’s allowed me to focus on areas I’m interested in based on my doctorate interests.”