Tracing the contributions of Black women educators in Cuba

July 5, 2022

An Anthropology grad moves on to the University of Pennsylvania.

 Angela Crumdy
Angela Crumdy, who studied the experiences of Black Cuban women educators for her dissertation, will be a Provost Postdoctoral Fellow at U Penn. (Photo credit: Alex Irklievski)

This fall, Angela Crumdy (Ph.D. ’23, Anthropology) will begin a Provost Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, where she will work closely with faculty mentor Amalia Daché and co-teach a course on race and education in Afro-Latin America. For her Graduate Center dissertation, Crumdy studied Black women educators in Cuba through a feminist lens, using social reproduction theory to better understand their experiences and the evolution of formal education in the country. Her research was funded by the National Academy of Education, the Spencer Foundation, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. She also received a Provost’s Enhancement Fellowship from the Graduate Center, which supplemented her Ph.D. stipend.

We recently spoke with the former high school English teacher to learn more about how she landed the U Penn fellowship, the roots of her research, and what she wishes she had known when she first began working toward her Ph.D.

The Graduate Center: What do you think made you stand out when you began looking for a postdoctoral fellowship?   

Crumdy: I have extensive experience doing research in Cuba. My first time visiting the island and conducting original ethnographic work was in 2011, during a study abroad program as an undergraduate. In graduate school, I visited the island over summer breaks to make connections and to determine the feasibility of my project. Overall, I think that my dissertation research is rather unique because there aren’t a lot of studies about the intersections of race and education in Cuba.

GC: How would you describe your research to someone unfamiliar with your field?

Crumdy: For my dissertation, I trace the experiences of Black Cuban women educators throughout the course of the 20th and 21st centuries to better understand the ways that they contribute to the maintenance of society through their work in the home, school, and broader community. I use a variety of methods including archival research, oral history interview, and participant observation. This research helps to illuminate how the teaching profession can be used to map broader trends in society related to race, class, and gender. My work also provides a way to rethink women’s work practices in Latin America and the Caribbean because existing studies generally only focus on domestic labor or sex tourism.

GC: What drew you to the topic? 

Crumdy: In my own educational experiences, I have been extremely fortunate to have close relationships with some my own teachers. Our interactions allowed me to see them not only as educators, but also as community stakeholders, parents, spouses, etc. I wanted to know what it was like to be a teacher in another part of the world. I also learned that Cuba was experiencing a teacher shortage in recent years, so I was curious about what kept some teachers in the profession while others decided to leave.

GC: What surprised you the most about your Graduate Center experience?

Crumdy: I was most surprised by the relationships that I was able to build through my fellowship program, the Presidential MAGNET Fellowship, now known as the Provost’s Enhancement Fellowship. The events organized by the Office of Educational Opportunity and Diversity helped to create the community that I needed as someone who moved to New York City without knowing anyone. I now consider the other fellows not only colleagues but friends.

Learn more about the Ph.D. Program in Anthropology

GC: Is there anything you wish you’d known in the early years of your Ph.D. program?

Crumdy: I wish I’d known that it was OK to share my ideas in the classroom even if I didn’t have everything completely figured out. I spent a lot of time trying to understand things perfectly by taking copious notes and stressing myself out, when really that only made it harder for me to participate. 

GC: What advice do you have for students who are hoping to follow a similar career path?

Crumdy: I would advise students to be intentional about building their professional network. Meeting people in your field of interest is something that you can do now even if you are not yet thinking about job prospects. I met one of my most valued mentors by attending a mentoring session hosted by the American Educational Research Association. Attending conferences, serving on graduate student councils, and even taking classes throughout the Interuniversity Doctoral Consortium are great ways to meet people who are interested in similar topics but with whom you would not normally interact.

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