Forging a Path for Others
“Most of what I am doing now and plan to do in the future is about representation,” said James T. Carter ’13, who has pursued his passion for psychology and issues of race at Rice University, following his graduation from St. Stephen’s. Following his college graduation this May, he plans to earn his doctorate in either social psychology or organizational behavior and then pursue a career in academia.
“I want to become a professor because I have only had two black faculty members at Rice, and there was only one full-time black faculty member at St. Stephen’s while I was there,” Carter explained. “I want people who move through the space that I have moved through to have role models that look like them.”
Carter credits St. Stephen’s with helping him to develop the intellectual and emotional skills necessary to act as a change agent in Rice’s socio-political environment. Like many St. Stephen’s graduates, Carter immediately threw himself into all that his university has to offer. Since his freshman year, he has focused his academic studies on psychological research and now conducts lab research on racial diversity and discrimination and how the two manifest themselves in the workplace. “My goal is to create tools that mitigate discrimination and stigma within these environments,” he explained.
In addition to serving as the diversity facilitator during new student orientation week, Carter founded an organization at Rice called the Student of Color Collective, which works with university administrators to help make the Rice experience more equitable and inclusive of all students, particularly students of color. “Part of my work includes working with the administration to clarify the admission policies and financial aid opportunities for undocumented students,” he said. “There are plans to diversify faculty, better explicate the financial aid offerings, create an African-American studies major…and admit more students of color.”
When asked about the St. Stephen’s faculty and staff who influenced him in his career choice, Carter replied, “I don’t think I could ever actually list all the faculty and staff who influenced me, but I would be doing a great disservice if I didn’t mention Laurel Eskridge, who introduced me to psychology and set me on the life-changing path that has led me to pursue a Ph.D.”
Ultimately Carter is thankful for his time at St. Stephen’s because it provided an environment that he had no previous exposure to and helped mold him into the individual he is today—analytical, thoughtful, questioning and nonconforming. At St. Stephen’s he learned to stand up for what he believes in, speak his mind, challenge the way things are and be unapologetic about what he believes in.
St. Stephen’s also taught him about the realities of the world, such as wealth differences and disparities, and that not all students, particularly those across town, get the type of education provided by St. Stephen’s. He also discovered how much one can learn from living with their peers; it’s an experience he would welcome all over again.
As for his future, Carter plans to earn his doctorate and “enter academia as a professor and teach students, create a pipeline for young students of color, and research and write on social phenomena that impact everyday life,” he said. “Although there is not a direct pathway for this to happen, it would be nice to return to St. Stephen’s in a diversity capacity and a teaching capacity, doing the things I love at the school I love.”
Until that time, Carter encourages students to enjoy the St. Stephen’s experience and capitalize on the challenges presented to them. “Use this experience to springboard into college or the world you choose to enter once you leave because you will be far more prepared than most and you have the potential to be a change agent if you so choose because of the lessons you learned here,” he concluded.
—Nolu McIlraith ’12, alumni relations and giving coordinator