Blair Proctor and Justin Coles with representatives from TIAA at a reception in March, 2016.
Thanks to a gift from financial services organization TIAA, Michigan State University doctoral candidate Blair M. Proctor will study identity construction within a Coloured community in South Africa and a Creole community in New Orleans.
With research interests based in sociology, Proctor will use the Ruth Simms Hamilton Graduate Merit Fellowship to explore how a Coloured community in South Africa and a Creole community in New Orleans intricately construct their identities in the twenty-first century. Among other themes, Proctor is interested in how subjects conceptualize the African Diaspora, black consciousness, cultural formation processes, and space. His research builds directly upon the scholarship and legacy of the late Dr. Ruth Simms Hamilton.
Majoring in African American and African Studies, Proctor will receive $34,000 to conduct his field research in the United States and South Africa.
In addition to selecting Proctor as recipient of this fellowship, the awards committee named a runner-up for the award. Justin A. Coles, a doctoral candidate pursuing a degree in Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education, received a $4,000 Graduate Office Fellowship. His dissertation research focuses on literacy practices of black male high school students, focusing on the intersections of literacy, urban schooling, and violence.
Named after longtime MSU Sociology professor and leading scholar in the study of the vast African Diaspora, Ruth Simms Hamilton, who died in 2003, the Ruth Simms Hamilton Graduate Merit Fellowship provides tuition, stipend, and research costs. Doctoral students whose research is related to the African Diaspora are eligible to apply.
During her 35-year career at MSU, Hamilton was also a core faculty member of the African Studies Center and Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. In addition she served as an executive board member for TIAA-CREF, also sitting on the board’s corporate governance and social responsibility committees.
In 2005 TIAA established the Ruth Simms Hamilton Research Fellowship at TIAA. The fellowship supported students throughout a six-year period, awarding fellowships to one or more graduate students studying the African diaspora at an accredited U.S. college or university. By establishing the new endowment at MSU in 2013, TIAA brought the fellowship back to Hamilton’s home university.
TIAA is a national financial services organization with $861 billion in assets under management (as of December 31, 2015) and is the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields.