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February 11, 2015 | Filed under: Front Page News | Posted by: By CHRISTINE SNYDER

Professor, 37, accepts Storer honor for work in social justice

SHEPHERDSTOWN – Growing up in Buffalo, N.Y., Chiquita Howard-Bostic initially envisioned a career in urban planning. Mentors in her community encouraged her to stay in her hometown where some believed she’d someday serve as mayor.

But teaching turned out to be her true calling, explained Howard-Bostic, a second-year Shepherd University sociology professor whose attention to social justice is being recognized with the school’s first-ever Storer College Faculty Award.

Shepherd University sociology professor Chiquita Howard- Bostic has won the newly created Storer College Faculty Award for bringing attention to social justice issues.

“The work I do isn’t one big project that affects 80,000 people,” she said. “I’ve done lots of little things that come together and make a big difference.” Her efforts at Shepherd include helping her sociology students see beyond the stereotypes of “the needy” and forge real connections when they visit Immanuel’s House, a community-based religious organization in Martinsburg that provides meals and other help.

Thanks to in-depth discussions about poverty during class, students who spend time at Immanuel’s House can better relate to those whose lives may be quite different from theirs, Howard-Bostic said.

The new award – aimed at recognizing a faculty member who incorporates diversity and social justice in classroom work, research, scholarship and student interactions – is named for the landmark school founded in Harpers Ferry in 1867 to train people of color for careers as educators and other professions. Storer ran into financial problems after segregation was banned following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954. Storer closed its doors just a year later.

“Given Storer’s mission and all the good the school achieved over the years – it’s a wonderful feeling to be honored with an award that says this is work that’s still important,” said Howard-Bostic, who lives with her husband and daughter in Berkeley County.

Howard-Bostic earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo, then a Ph.D. at Virginia Tech. She was teaching at Tech when her husband Alex Bostic accepted a job as a geographic information systems developer at the Coast Guard in Kearneysville eight years ago. Before joining the faculty at Shepherd, Howard-Bostic taught sociology classes at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in Martinsburg.

“It feels good to see students excited about understanding the world better,” she said. “They’re interacting more effectively with other people – and it’s a chance to improve yourself while creating a new vision of the world. I think it’s always exciting when people can create change.”

At Shepherd, her courses focus on race, class, gender, community and crime. She finds ways to connect what students learn in the classroom to the real world.

Students in her General Sociology and Social Stratification class volunteer at Immanuel’s House and those enrolled in other classes help with the Point in Time homeless count that happens each January.

Such experiences have an effect on students, Howard-Bostic said.

“You see they begin to think critically about who they are and what they can do in society,” she said.

Howard-Bostic said as a child she was always encouraged to contribute to making the world better. “Some would describe the area where I grew up as a ‘disadvantaged’ community, but money didn’t define us,” she said. “I grew up around quality people who wanted to help young people achieve more than maybe they were able to in their own lives.”

Now Howard-Bostic works to help her students see that the importance of treating everyone as individuals.

“I stress that everyone is different, and everyone deserves a chance,” said Howard-Bostic, whose community involvements also includes serving as a Girl Scout leader for her daughter’s troop.

She stresses to her students how much the words they use matter. “Every word you say to another person is impactful,” she said. “When you use the wrong words, you can change someone’s life in a negative way.

“You can label someone as ‘poor’ and miss out on how rich that person might be in joy and spirit. Words like ‘poor’ and ‘disadvantaged’ can devalue who people are. I believe in seeing the people as human beings, that rather than judge someone by the way they’re dressed or the fact that they’re at a soup kitchen, and that you start from the inside and work out.”

Winning recognition

In December, Howard-Bostic traveled to England where she presented her paper, “Emancipation by Evading a Contest: A Feminist Perspective on Power and Success” at Oxford University.

Next month, she’s set to present a paper on domestic violence at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences’ annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. Thomas Segar, vice president for student affairs and chairman of Shepherd’s diversity and equity committee, praised Howard-Bostic and the other four faculty members nominated for the award for “tremendous” success in incorporating diversity and social justice into their work.

But, he said, Howard-Bostic stood out. “She works with underrepresented students serving communities of underrepresented people and incorporates that into her research,” he explained.

The Storer honor brings Howard-Bostic $1,000 to use for professional development. Her name also will be displayed on a plaque in the Storer Ballroom, the area of Shepherd’s student center that in 1995 was named in honor of the Harpers Ferry school.

The committee that selected Howard-Bostic included Segar, two faculty members, an academic dean, an undergrad and a grad student. Nominees were ranked on their teaching, service and research.

It’s important for educators to help students get prepared for real-world interactions, Segar stated in a news release announcing Howard-Bostic’s selection. “We live in a world that’s diverse and where our students need to be prepared to work with, live with and enjoy life with people who are different than themselves,” he said. “Faculty who are able to incorporate diversity and social justice into the curriculum are really preparing students for a greater world outside Shepherd.”