Using scholarship as activism
Throughout her four years at Beloit, senior Jada Daniel has conducted research and been a leader across campus as a means to uplift others. As she prepares for her sociology Ph.D. program at Northwestern, she will continue to, in her words, “give back by producing compelling and accessible research that works with, not on, marginalized and underserved communities to uplift Black joy, liberation, and abolition.”
Jada Daniel’23 is a person of many talents. A triple major, senior class officer, volleyball player, McNair Scholar, and Black Students United president, she plans to become a defense attorney, sociologist, and activist. She came to Beloit College from Riverdale, Ill., seeking a small school, good academics, and a good creative writing program. What she found exceeded her expectations—and even led her on a totally different career path.
Jada toured Beloit four times before she decided to enroll. After visiting the campus and meeting her future peers, she “felt like [she] was at home.” She started out at Beloit intending to major in creative writing, but after being influenced by Beloit professors Charles Westerberg, Ron Watson, Sonya Maria Johnson, and Carla Davis, she shifted her focus to her current majors: sociology, critical identity studies, and political science.
“I was very conscious of the socio-political realities of marginalized groups and how systems and structures have been constructed to oppress them, but I couldn’t quite make sense of it or articulate it until I continued to take those classes,” Jada says.
The unforgiving national political climate during the last few years has been fundamental in shaping Jada’s studies in college. “I think that having a front-row seat to the world being on fire for the Black community not only radicalized me, but reinvigorated my curiosity and learning interests. Beloit has challenged me to think about things I wouldn’t normally think about, as far as how I’m treated, how my community is treated, and intersectionality, which is something I want to research in the future.”
Jada hopes to use that passion to help underserved communities and people with marginalized identities. “I want to do scholarship as a form of activism. With the McNair program here, I’ve been able to find research interests that are grounded in transformative justice and abolition.”
The McNair Scholars Program aims to increase the number of low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students in Ph.D. programs and support undergraduates’ scholarship. Through the program, Jada has studied the association of Blackness with criminality in schools, the news, and within Black communities. Most recently, she presented a research project at a Black History Month event about the connection between the hypervisibility of Black students in school discipline and the justice system and lower graduation rates among Black students in Chicago public schools.
This research is only the beginning for Jada. “I see myself contributing to activism through scholarship, with deep reflection on impacting academia and the communities I identify with,” she says.
Her time at Beloit has benefited her, thanks not just to the college’s “absolutely stellar” academics, but also her involvement with Black Students United, student government, and across multiple departments. “Being here, I’ve gotten to experience lots of things that I wouldn’t have even gotten out of my shell to do,” Jada says. “Beloit has definitely exceeded my expectations. I didn’t think that I would meet as many people as I have.”
Jada recently completed her search for graduate schools, officially accepting her top choice of Ph.D. programs in sociology at Northwestern University, where she hopes to teach sociology and eventually work to become a criminal defense attorney.
She is well on her way to fulfilling her dreams of scholarly activism beyond Beloit College. Whatever she does next, Jada’s goal is to “give back by producing compelling and accessible research that works with, not on, marginalized and underserved communities to uplift Black joy, liberation, and abolition.”