Ashley J. Lewis

2014 Major: African & African American Studies

Current Employer: Esperanza Community Housing Corporation in Los Angeles, Calif.

How has being an African & African American Studies graduate from Duke helped shape your professional success?

"More than anything my degree in AAAS helped me gain further understanding of my own culture and the importance of history and community in the work that I do as a public health professional. The professors and experiences offered in the department have really shaped the ways in which I interact with fellow members of the African American community at a grassroots level, and I'm appreciative of the fact that the knowledge I gained while studying AAAS often becomes relevant in my work.

"After getting my BA in AAAS I went to UCLA and pursued a Master of Public Health in Community Health Sciences at UCLA. As a student who was interested in public health while at Duke and who also wanted to work predominately black communities I've found that my MPH has given me tools and skills to apply the knowledge I gained at Duke in AAAS to the work I do in black spaces now."

What advice would you give students in African & African American Studies?

"1) Take a class (or two) with Dr. Mark Anthony Neal. He's a fantastic professor who creates especially great dialogues in his class. If you can take a class with him in the summer with a smaller number of students I would highly recommend that as well; 2) Go to events and talks sponsored by AAAS department; 3) There's a ton of reading and writing assignments in AAAS. Sometimes you won't get through every single page of the reading assignment, it's okay, just do your best. As for writing, use Duke's writing center. It's a great resource and will make your life so much easier."