Nyesha Brown – Alumni Spotlight, Class of 2017

Nyesha Brown, Class of 2017, graduated with majors in Gender & Women’s and Human Development and Family Studies. Learn more about what Nyesha is doing today.

Describe your work. How did you get to this point in your professional life?

After I graduated from UW-Madison, I immediately started my Master’s program in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas-Austin. My thesis research explored Black women’s birth work (as doulas and granny midwives) in Austin, Texas as a praxis of Black feminism that disrupts the violence of medical spaces. In the final year of my graduate program, I worked as a Maternal and Infant Health Policy fellow at a local nonprofit working on maternal health advocacy issues.

After the fellowship period ended, I took some time off then transitioned into a new role as the Academic Program Coordinator for an equity oriented student success program within UT-Austin’s Business School. In this position, I work with first generation students and students from underrepresented backgrounds to ensure they are equipped with the resources they need to succeed in college. This work is quite different from my academic work but very similar to my work experience with UW-Madison’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Educational Achievement. I am excited to be working with students again, and I always look forward to offering my interdisciplinary perspective to the Red McCombs School of Business.

Does GWS figure in the day-to-day of your work? If yes, how?

My background in GWS informs the way that I see the world, so it does figure into my work daily. I find that because I have a background in GWS (and HDFS), I am better able to understand how various forms of discrimination are layered into the structure of college campuses and the ways in which they manifest for the students I serve. Being an Academic Program Coordinator requires me to understand the ways in which students from various backgrounds embody their unique experiences of race, gender, and class, so empowering my students to develop critical analyses of race and gender is the goal for any academic programming I facilitate.

Did you have a favorite class or instructor in Gender and Women’s Studies?

My favorite instructor in Gender and Women’s Studies is Dr. Keisha Lindsay, who taught Black Feminisms and Feminist Theories 441 when I was a student. What I enjoyed most about Dr. Lindsay’s teaching style, and those courses, was that the course material was not invested in representing a singular expression of feminism.

Looking back, what undergraduate experiences were most helpful?

Studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa was one of the best and most helpful decisions I made during my undergraduate career. At the University of Cape Town, I was able to take two GWS elective courses, which counted towards my degree at UW. One of the courses was an upper division course that required me to conduct my own research project related to gender and transportation. I ended up writing an autoethnography comparing my experience of race, gender, mobility, and safety in Cape Town to my experiences in Madison. The end result was a paper that I was able to submit to the Women’s and Gender Studies graduate program that I applied and was accepted into at the University of Texas-Austin!