February 2012

February 2012

PAWs - Promoting Awareness and Wellness

Ashford University is proud to show you our PAWs. That is, our Promoting Awareness and Wellness initiative! Every month, we'll highlight different causes and opportunities that reflect the values of the University. You'll also learn ways that you can participate or be more involved.




Above: Today's young people can be inspired by the many African Americans
who have so greatly enriched our country in the sciences, arts, politics, and more.

This year, the NAACP celebrates African American History Month by highlighting a theme of Black Women in American Culture and History. While many of us are familiar with the struggle of Rosa Parks, the writing of Maya Angelou, and the journeys of Harriet Tubman, there are countless other African American women whose stories are nothing short of inspirational and whose lessons will forever be invaluable.

The tradition of African American History Month dates back to the early 20th century. Carter G. Woodson, the renowned educator and historian, founded what was then called “Negro History Week” in 1926. Woodson chose February in honor of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two men he considered the greatest advocates of the emancipation of American slaves (www.naacp.org). In 1976, Negro History Week became African American History Month, a time when President Gerald R. Ford said Americans should “…seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history” (1976). (www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov.)

Above right: Frederick Douglas, a former slave who became an abolitionist leader and an inspiration for the first "Negro History Week" in 1926.

African American Women of Note

Mary McLeod Bethune (July 10, 1875 – May 18, 1955)

It was Bethune's career as a teacher that helped her achieve her dream of opening the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in Daytona Beach in 1904, with only five students. Despite its humble beginnings, in 1929 the school became Bethune-Cookman College, an institution that became fully accredited in 1943.Mary McLeod Bethune was the first African American woman to be involved in the White House and held council with four different American presidents over the course of her career. Bethune founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935, a group she called an "organization of organizations," and one that she hoped might bring the concerns of black women to the world’s attention. She also wanted a venue through which she might give black women the opportunity to become advocates for social justice and equality.

Above: Bethune Park in Minneapolis, MN is named after Mary McLeod Bethune, the first African American woman to serve as the head of a federal agency.

Bethune was best known for her influence on Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal Government and from 1936 to 1945 she worked closely with the administration. Bethune also worked as Director of Negro Affairs for the National Youth Administration, an organization that was created to help young people find employment. Because of her great contributions in the fields of advocacy and equality, Bethune became the first African American leader, and the first woman, to have a monument erected in her honor on public land in our nation’s capital (www.ncnw.org).

Gwendolyn Brooks (June 7, 1917 – December 3, 2000)

Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Kansas in 1917 and raised in Chicago. During her prolific career as a poet and writer, she authored more than 20 books of poetry, including Blacks (1987), Riot (1969), The Bean Eaters (1960), and Annie Allen (1949). The latter work was so acclaimed it made her the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Brooks was named Poet Laureate for the state of Illinois and was also a Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Her awards and accolades include an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, the Frost Medal, a National Endowment for the Arts award, the Shelley Memorial Award, and fellowships from The Academy of American Poets and the Guggenheim Foundation (www.poets.org).

While much can be said about Brooks’ career, it is only fitting that we allow her writing to speak for itself. The following poem is currently included in an Ashford literature course curriculum:

We Real Cool

The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon (1960).

For more poetry from Gwendolyn Brooks, please view this video:


Mae Jemison (born October 17, 1956)  

Mae Jemison is a doctor, an astronaut, and an inspiration to anyone that follows the fields of science and medicine. She began her secondary education at Stanford University, where she received degrees in both Chemical Engineering and African American Studies. After graduation, she went to Cornell University Medical College, where her educational journey was both exciting and enterprising. She studied in Cuba and Kenya and worked at a refugee camp in Thailand. Jemison also did medical research as a Peace Corps medical officer in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

During her time in Sierra Leone, Jemison applied for NASA's astronaut training program. She was accepted and became one of 15 candidates selected from over 2,000 applicants. This selection also made her the first African American woman ever admitted into the astronaut training program. Jemison trained with NASA for a year and became a science mission specialist. On September 12, 1992, she flew into space aboard the Endeavour and spent just over a week in space conducting weightlessness experiments on herself and the crew (www.biography.com).

Listen to Mae Jemison talk more about her experiences:


The positive impact that female African Americans have had on our country’s history is incalculable. While it is impossible to credit every educator, artist, political figure, doctor, scientist, and advocate for social justice in this article, we hope that you’ve learned something about these women who made great contributions to our country, and we encourage you to look at their lives as examples of what can be accomplished despite any prevalent limiting or prejudiced beliefs of one’s time.

More information on African American History Month can be found at www.naacp.org.

Bachelor of Science in Biology

"My name is Nkemdilim Okwumabua, but everyone calls me Kemi – pronounced like Cammy." This 19-year-old Illinois native graduated from Auburn High School (Rockford, Illinois) in 2009 before enrolling at Ashford University, where she is now pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Biology. In high school, Kemi participated in band, creative and performing arts, volleyball, and track. She also ran for USA Track & Field's Golden Eagles Track club every summer.

Clearly, running is a big part of Kemi's life, so it is not surprising that the main reason she chose to attend Ashford University was the running program. "I knew I wanted to continue running and the coach called me, so I made a visit. The second time I visited, I thought to myself, 'What isn't there to like? I'm close to home, I'll be receiving a scholarship, and it's a small school.'" Two years have passed, and Kemi is confident she made the right decision. "I would most definitely recommend Ashford University to any graduating high school senior."

In addition to track, Kemi sings in the Inspirational Choir, is the president of Ashford-Clinton Unity (a dance mentor program), and is the vice president of AU Life (a Christian organization). She also finds time to participate in most of the events offered on campus. "Last year we took a bus to Iowa State to help with the Special Olympics Tennis Clinic. We also rent buses to support our sports teams all the time, and Ashford provides lunch and dinner. The Student Government Association and Hall Council always put on a lot of enjoyable events, as well, such as holiday parties, picture booths, prize giveaways, and cook-outs."

Kemi reports that one of the biggest surprises about Ashford was the diversity of the student body. "We have people from all over the world – people from Europe, Africa, Central and South American, and Asia. I came from a diverse high school so I was already very open-minded about other ethnicities, but I was surprised to meet some people who were not. I've learned that many people grow up in places where there is only one race, or places where people don't date outside their own race. Sometimes my new friends would ask me questions that took me by surprise, but I just reminded myself, 'they never saw that, or they didn't know that.'"

Beyond campus activities and the diverse relationships developed on Ashford's campus, Kemi appreciates the academics. "The teachers really do care if you understand or not, and they really want to teach you all they know."

After graduation, Kemi plans to pursue a graduate degree in physical therapy. "I also want to teach some kind of music or dance, and maybe go to the Olympic trials, and hopefully get married. Wherever the Lord takes me will be fine – these are just some of my plans that I think would be nice."


Black History Month. (n.d.). Retrieved on December 28, 2011 from http://www.naacp.org/campaign/black_history_month?utm_medium=email&utm_source=NAACP&utm_campaign=20110201BlackHistoryFacts&source=20110201BlackHistoryFacts

Brooks, G. (1960). We real cool. The bean eaters. New York, NY: Harper & Brothers.

February is African American History Month. (n.d.). Retrieved on January 1, 2012 from http://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/about.html

Gwendolyn Brooks. (n.d.). Retrieved on January 3, 2012 from http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/165

Mae C. Jemison Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved on January 2, 2012 from http://www.biography.com/people/mae-c-jemison-9542378

Mary McLeod Bethune. (n.d.). Retrieved on January 4, 2012 from http://www.ncnw.org/about/bethune.htm