Graduate Student Spotlight: Denae Johnson (by Sarah Wanenchak)

JohnsonGirlsWhere did you attend for undergrad, and how did your experience there contribute to where you are now?
I attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Indiana, PA for my undergraduate studies, focusing on racial inequality and Pan-African studies.  Having attended an institution in the Pennsylvania Appalachians and feeling very isolated at the beginning of my studies, I learned how to reach out to like-minded people and develop a sense of community.  I am grateful for that experience.

What made you decide to come to Maryland?

Besides the university’s standing and some of the excellent faculty, University of Maryland’s proximity to my hometown, Philadelphia, was a major deciding factor.  Also, I am absolutely infatuated with the DC-MD-VA area.

What is the best thing about being part of this department?
The best thing would be the people.  I have come across some excellent minds and personalities in such a short amount of time!

What motivates you most in your academic life at this point? What do you think is the foundation that keeps you moving forward?
My nieces and nephews motivate me more than anything.  They give me hope, and I want them to have opportunities that were never an option for me.  My family is and always will be the foundation of every aspect of my life.

What is one thing that you especially enjoy and find fulfilling outside of grad school?
My work for The CHARLES Foundation (Creating Healthy Alternatives Results in Less Emotional Suffering), named after my deceased brother, is also a large part of my life.  The CHARLES Foundation, based in Philadelphia, PA, seeks to reduce gun violence through offering and supporting local events and fundraisers, partnerships with city and state authorities, community-based organizations and schools, and the construction and eventual opening of a foster care home for adolescent boys.  Please visit our website at (soon to be renovated!).
Denae is a 3rd year PhD student. Her research interests include intersections of gender, sexuality, and race.

Sarah is a 4th year PhD student


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