Staff Profile: Dae Newman, African American Studies
Dae Newman’s relationship with VCU is best described as multi-layered. They are an alum, graduate student, employee and community activist, and each role offers its own unique perspective of the university that Newman has called home for more than a decade. “I enjoy seeing how campus culture and resources have evolved, largely as a result of people’s hard work. For example, I graduated only a year or two after VCU started offering Lavender Graduation for LGBTQIA+ students, and it was still a pretty small affair. Now it’s a much bigger celebration, and I’ve enjoyed being a part of it as a guest or volunteer. Students may only get to see what happens over the course of a few years, and I like seeing a bigger picture.”
Newman got their start at VCU when they transferred as an undergrad in 2011. “I was one of those students who kept changing my mind about what I wanted to major in because I found everything I studied interesting,” they said. They eventually decided on an English major with a minor in mathematical sciences, which further enhanced their love of reading and writing. Newman graduated in 2013, but kept a close eye on the VCU job postings. “One of the things that drew me to working in higher education was that I love learning and scholarship.” That love eventually led to a full-time position in the Department of African American Studies (AFAM). “I have learned a lot through osmosis about African American Studies and the African diaspora that I wish I had an opportunity to learn when I was in college,” said Newman.
As the department assistant (and sole staff member) for AFAM, Newman does a little of everything, from running the front desk and assisting with course scheduling to updating the AFAM website and helping coordinate the annual Black History in the Making awards. They said the best part of their job is everyone they get to work with. “We have wonderful faculty and students. I've been lucky to work with such a great team, and I've learned a lot from them. I enjoy witnessing our students' passion and dedication and seeing some of the great things they accomplish.”
“Getting involved in service opportunities [like Equality VCU and CAPS Council] has been a great opportunity to feel more connected to the VCU community, as well as a great opportunity for professional development and collaboration with colleagues outside of my immediate department.”
Newman has also been a strong advocate for their fellow colleagues as a member and (former) co-chair of Equality VCU, a collaborative, advisory and advocacy body representing the aspirations and concerns of the LGBTQIA+ community at VCU, and as secretary for CHS’s Classified and Academic Professional Staff (CAPS) Council. They also facilitate Safe Zone workshops. “Getting involved in service opportunities like these has also been a great opportunity to feel more connected to the VCU community, as well as a great opportunity for professional development and collaboration with colleagues outside of my immediate department,” said Newman. “I've learned a lot that both helps me in my current job and has helped me think about the direction I'd like my career to go in over time.”
And Newman is not done learning or leading. They are currently pursuing their master’s degree in educational leadership through VCU’s School of Education, a decision directly related to their work in the community. “I'm interested in student affairs and equity, inclusion and diversity. I realized after working with Equality VCU that no matter what roles I end up in, I want advocating for equity, inclusion and diversity to be part of my career,” they said.
In their spare time, you can find Newman reading, writing—“I'm currently working on a novel and some short fiction”—and knitting.