History Department Alumna Briana Royster Pursues PhD at New York University

Profile picture of Briana Royster.Briana Royster is a Tuscaloosa native who earned her BA in History in 2012, as well as MA’s in History (2014) and Women’s Studies (2015). Though she entered undergrad as an engineering student, after returning to school following a break in her studies, she decided to switch to History. Royster wasn’t entirely sure what she wanted to do upon graduation, but Drs. Lisa Lindquist-Dorr, Steven Bunker, and Jenny Shaw encouraged her to consider graduate studies. The professors she had formed relationships with convinced her, as did the available funding package that UA offered.

Initially, Royster wanted to study late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century southern African-American women, but while in grad school, her interests transitioned after taking a class on Brazil with Dr. Teresa Cribelli. She then became interested in how race is viewed outside of the U.S. and wrote her seminar paper on the black movement in Brazil. She was unsure if a life in academia was what she really wanted, and so pursued a second MA through the Department of Gender and Race Studies before deciding to pursue an academic carer.

Royster began the PhD program at NYU in the fall of 2015, with a primary field of African Diaspora and a secondary field in Modern Latin America. Her dissertation, “Of Our Stock and Blood: Empire, Religion, and Afro-Diasporic Identity, 1898-1945,” examines Afro-diasporic identity formation through the intersections of religion, race, gender, and empire in the United States and South America. After completing her doctorate, she hopes to gain a tenure-track professorship at a university.

“The professors and the department were so supportive,” Royster says of the UA Department of History. “A lot of the faculty here have graduated from top twenty history programs, so they know what it takes to get there.” She encourages students interested in pursuing advanced degrees to “do your research, especially if you’re looking for a PhD program. Fit is very important — you can have the most brilliant CV but if your work doesn’t fit with any faculty, they can still turn you down.” She also says, “Find your community of people…research can be lonely. Find a community of supportive people. Keep going and push through.”

Congratulations, Briana! We’re proud of where our alumni go after leaving the Capstone.

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