Tuesday, May 23, 2023
What is your current role at Yale University?
I am currently the Community Engagement Program Manager at the Beinecke Library.
What are your main responsibilities?
I maintain the relationships between the community and the library’s special collections. I am in charge of bringing the people to the library and the library to the people. The library holds rare accessible material that touches all parts of history, most importantly, local New Haven history. It is everyone’s right to access that history and understand the importance of tangible primary sources. I work with schools, historical societies, museums, churches, and more to develop collaborative programming that expands the town’s knowledge of its accessible history.
What do you like most about your work?
The job is quite rewarding! Being able to connect with the younger generation and educate them about their own history is beyond important. In an era where this medium of knowledge is losing importance, it’s great to see the smiles and attentiveness from students when they get close to such rare resources. It’s their resources to engage with, and it makes me more confident about the future knowing that they know that.
How does your job affect your general lifestyle?
This job affects my everyday life. The great thing about living in New Haven is that I can live in New Haven in a variety of different time periods. History has a stigma of being old and irrelevant. But when you truly immerse yourself with it all, you can see that much of it still exists. The roads, the buildings, and the descendants of people still stand. It makes history so much more relatable, which reinforces its importance. When students and fellow citizens can see the places they lived and worked, it means more to them and strengthens their cultural identity.
How did you begin your career?
I began my career at the Beinecke 5+ years ago as a New Haven Promise Intern. After meeting with the Director of Communications, we shared similar optimism for the future of New Haven and its special collections. I added visual representation to the collections and that resulted in the library’s first New Haven Promise Fellowship. After a few years of event coordination, tour expansion, and visual media development, I went from project manager to community engagement program manager.
What steps would you recommend one take to prepare to enter this field?
For this field, I suggest you get comfortable with engaging with people. People have stories to tell, and this requires you to be a good listener. Beyond that, start with getting familiar with the town and all the groups of people who inhabit it. A place like New Haven is so compact that it makes it more possible to make an entire town more aware of its important local history.
What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential to success in your job/this field?
Curiosity is the most important skill to have in the field of history & community engagement. To bridge the gap between those who do and don’t know of their local history, one must be good at visual storytelling. To do that, one must have a curious mind that takes them into this infinite rabbit hole of knowledge. That makes it easier to explain the importance of primary sources to those who do and don’t care. Connecting with the younger generation also involves bringing the stories to life through digital media. That brings history to the forefront and puts it all in perspective for those who walk these streets and live in these buildings.
If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? If not, what would you change?
If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change anything. I was born and raised in New Haven, yet, I didn’t know much about New Haven history. More importantly, I didn’t know much about Black New Haven history. This job didn’t just provide me with a paycheck. It opened my mind to the hidden world that still exists. There were so many influential black leaders that either permanently resided or came from New Haven. Those people bravely shifted the imbalance of racial equality in America.
What does YAAA mean to you and how have you contributed as a member?
I haven’t gotten the chance to work with YAAA as much as I would like to, but I’m excited to get started! I look forward to building sustainable programs between YAAA and the Beinecke Library. The Beinecke has an abundance of relevant New Haven and Yale Black history, and all people are welcome to immerse themselves in it. I can foresee both groups organizing classes, public events, and even screenings to increase the awareness of Black history in New Haven. The possibilities are truly endless!