Following in the footsteps set by her grandfather and mother who both attended Michigan State University, Anel “Nel” Robinson, a junior from Brookfield, Wisconsin, is now making history of her own as a member of the first cohort of students majoring in MSU’s new African American and African Studies (AAAS) major.
“I love making history, and this is neither the first nor last time I will leave historical marks on this world,” Robinson said. “Being a trailblazer is what I enjoy; I like to say that I was ‘one of the first’ or ‘I helped create that.’”
Robinson, who also is majoring in Political Science, had been working toward a minor in AAAS. But after experiencing the AAAS classes, she chose to remap her four-year plan by adding the AAAS major when it first was launched by the Department of African American and African Studies this past fall. Robinson says the AAAS courses offer a learning environment, unlike anything she had experienced before.
“As someone who has always grown up in predominantly white suburbs, I never had classes that were filled with other students who looked like me, and I did not get to learn about Black people in uplifting ways,” she said. “All I knew was slavery and segregation, and I was tired of having to spend time outside of school teaching myself about more uplifting topics and discovering different conversations centered around my Black culture. I said to myself, ‘why pour money, time, and effort into topics that I don’t find exciting or enjoyable? I am interested in AAAS’s entire course catalog. That is what I want to do.’”
After college, Robinson plans to attend law school to become a sports attorney for professional athletes. She hopes her path through college and the AAAS major will serve as inspiration for students in subsequent years.
“It truly is an honor to be one of the first students, and women, to lead the way,” Robinson said. “I hope that some of my work will be used as examples, and I hope that what I and the other majors do with our time at MSU will encourage other students to want to come in and make their own pathways as well.”
“The AAAS Department has become my home away from home. I truly feel comfortable sharing my ideas amongst my peers and being able to lean on and grow with the other majors and our professors in this department.”
Robinson believes that the AAAS Department has created a comfortable culture and supportive community that is helping her find pathways to success, both professionally and personally.
“The AAAS Department has become my home away from home,” she said. “I truly feel comfortable sharing my ideas amongst my peers and being able to lean on and grow with the other majors and our professors in this department.”