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Hard work pays off for young historian

Jazma Sutton

After lots of hard work, things are coming up roses for graduating senior Jazma Sutton, a double major in History and Africana Studies.

Jazma originally came to SIU from Romeoville to pursue a degree in Dental Hygiene. After shadowing someone to see what it was all about, she realized the profession was not for her. Soon thereafter she enrolled in a class with Dr. Pamela Smoot and was surprised to discover an interest in history, a subject she had cared little about in high school. After two additional history courses with Dr. Shannen Williams, Jazma realized she had found a new direction.  She had never featured herself as a historian but “seeing what they did, their research, made me think I wanted to do that.”

Specifically, Sutton is interested in 19th century African American women’s history in the Deep South. She developed as a researcher and was oriented toward graduate study by her involvement in the McNair Scholars program, which is headed-up by Rhetta Seymour, Associate Director for the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, or CURCA. The McNair program is a mentored academic enrichment program for students who are typically the first in their families to pursue a college degree or are members of a group that is underrepresented in higher education.

Professor of History Natasha Zaretsky lauds Sutton's dedication: "Jazma was one of the strongest, most dedicated history students I've encountered in recent memory. Whether she was engaged in primary source research at Morris Library's Special Collections, reading works of historical scholarship, dialoguing with her classmates, or writing papers, Jazma consistently showed a level of engagement, creativity and seriousness that will serve her well as she moves to the next stage of her career as a historian. It's students like Jazma who make teaching at SIU so meaningful."

Sutton will go on to graduate study in history at Indiana University Bloomington, where she has been awarded five years of funding toward the pursuit of a PhD.

Her parting advice to entering freshmen? “Get involved on campus. Take advantage of the resources that the university has to offer—especially the research opportunities.” Recalling how shy she was on arrival, she urges “Don’t be afraid to build mentoring relationships with professors. These help you!” She counts the McNair experience as the best memory she will take away from her years at SIU.

Jazma graduates magna cum laude as a member of the University Honors Program. She was the recipient of many scholarships and awards during her career at SIU. Among them were: the Edward O’Day Paper Prize for the best undergraduate history paper written at SIU during the year; the Norman Caldwell / James R. Sanders Scholarship for a senior majoring in history with the highest GPA; the Emma Smith Hough Library Research Scholarship Award from Morris Library; the Donna M. Summerfield Women’s Studies Undergraduate Scholarship from Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and the African American Achievement Scholarship.

In addition to engaging in original research, Jazma also participated in the “Speaking and Teaching” RSO, volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale, and is a member of Delta Epsilon Iota Academic Honor Society, Sigma Epsilon chapter.

--L.A. Brown