Thursday, May 13, 2010
Where are they now? Retired faculty profile: Dr. C.J. White
As a result of a recommendation made in a “who was your favorite professor” thread posted on the unofficial, but very active Metro State College of Denver Alumni and Current Students LinkedIn Group, we are publishing an article about retired professor Dr. C.J. White. Join the group by clicking here.
Retired African-American Studies Chair/Professor Dr. White speaks deliberately and calmly, as if he is deeply considering what is being asked of him. Soft jazz plays in the background, and I imagine a stout man sitting in a comfortable chair, eye glasses perched on the end of his nose, surrounded by books. As our phone interview progresses, I find that Dr. White is, in fact, still deeply involved with the world of learning.
Though he retired in 2003 after working at Metro for nearly two decades, Dr. White still regularly connects with former students, conducts various types of research, writes and presents papers at conferences, and studies. In addition to writing a paper on education in African-American communities that he will present at the Association for the Study of African Life and History fall 2010, Dr. White is engrossed in a personal, pictorial family history project. His mother left him with a large collection of family photos and commentaries, which he is putting together and mounting. He also collects books by African authors, including ones by female authors and stories for children.
“During one of my travels to Africa I noticed the children were playing some of the same games that I played as a child,” he explains. Now that he has the time, he is trying to get at the root of the survival of these games in the United States. This fascination with Africa and African culture was sparked by an early trip to that continent, Dr. White says.
“It increased my level of awareness and added to my knowledge base of the continent of Africa,” he says. “The contributions made by our ancestors will enhance our understanding that we stand on the shoulders of others, and we have a responsibility to move forward, to add to what we inherited.” Not only did his trips improve his experience in the classroom, but they instilled in him a sense of pride in his ancestors. And this is something he handily conveyed to his students.
According to Dennis Green (’92, sociology), a senior instructor of ethnic studies at University of Colorado in Denver, Dr. White had a unique way of supporting and uplifting his students.
“All the students he had under his wing went somewhere and did well because of the level of focus and structure he inculcated in them,” says Green. “He had the ability and willingness to take you step by step to the next level—to help you find a game plan for what you wanted to do down the road within the academic world.”
For example, Green started out as Dr. White’s student, became a teacher’s assistant, and then he began to go to conferences with his mentor, at which he began to see him in a different light. “I was impressed not with the number of people he knew, but with the level of respect they had for him,” Green recalls.
In addition to bringing students up through the ranks, says Green, Dr. White simply set a good example.
“He had a tremendous sense of dedication no matter what subject he was teaching,” Green adds. “His focus on preparation was amazing. I never saw him try to teach something that he hadn’t fully prepared for. He projected the importance of being well rounded.” Finally, adds Green, Dr. White’s enjoyment for learning was so strong that he inspired his students to do the same probing.
Dr. White agrees that he will enjoy being on an educational path for as long as he can. “I’m no longer in the classroom teaching, but education is an ongoing, continuous process for me,” he explains.
In fact, he adds, all Americans should have the same opportunity to learn that he has had. “That is what education is all about. It is one of the primary institutions of American society and should be available and open to all.” That is one of the great things about Metro State, he adds.
“The College gave a wide range of students the option to attend college and earn a degree,” he says. “I really appreciated the mix of students, with reference to age, race, ethnicity, social class and background. Working at Metro enhanced and added to my appreciation of an urban education.”