Academics University

Celebrating Black scholastic excellence at the U

The University of Miami Black Alumni Society and the Center for Global Black Studies marked the end of the spring semester with a ceremony and reception honoring students receiving scholarships and research grants.
Scholarship celebrations

Taking part in the ceremony and reception were, from left, Bright Petiafo, Kristine Stephenson, and Eric Osei Prempeh. Photos: Dan Perez Photography

When the late Benny O’Berry graduated from the University of Miami in 1962 with a bachelor's degree in education, he became the U’s first Black alumnus—the original UTrailblazer. 

O’Berry’s experience formed the opening chapter in the compelling story of Black students and alumni of the U. This story—one of challenges, successes, and milestones—continued April 25, as 31 graduate and undergraduate students were recognized for their academic achievements with scholarships and summer research grants. 

The University of Miami Black Alumni Society (UMBAS) and the Center for Global Black Studies hosted the award ceremony and reception in partnership with Multicultural Student Affairs, the Woodson Williams Marshall Association, and the Division of Student Affairs. Triple ’Cane Andre Spaulding, owner of the ’Cane Biz After-Hours Café and Pastry Truck—a regular sight on campus—provided refreshments. 

The award ceremony invoked the spirit of the U’s trailblazing Black alumni and hailed the next generation of Black student scholars.

Scholarship celebration
From left, Janice Chukwu, Kemeria Baraso, and April Thomas

As Patricia A. Whitely, senior vice president for student affairs and alumni engagement, remarked, the event not only continued the story begun when O’Berry first set foot on the Coral Gables Campus, it also showcased the strength of the Black alumni community, and the importance of coming together to ensure bright futures for students. 

Whitely reminded the students being honored of the legacy they are called to represent. “[Black alumni] are very invested—they sat where you are,” she said. “Some of them 45 years ago, some 30 years ago, some 10 years ago, and some three years ago, and they are incredibly committed to continuing to foster great scholarship and Black excellence. They want that to happen—and all of you are part of that commitment. Investing in our students ensures that we continue to honor the promise made more than 60 years ago.” 

Astin Hayes, president of UMBAS, noted that the society’s scholarship has existed for over 20 years. In that time, she said, “UMBAS has raised more than $480,000 and helped more than 200 of our students. UMBAS is dedicated to making sure that the true legacy of the scholarship lives on for years to come."  

The 2024 UMBAS scholarship recipients, listed below with their majors, were welcomed to the stage by Ryan Holmes, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students; Amber Lawhorn, representing UMBAS; and Whitely. 

Edmund Abaka, associate professor of history, director of graduate studies, and associate director for the Center for Global Black Studies, and Kristine Stephenson, the center’s business manager, presented summer research fellowship grants to seven graduate students and one undergraduate. 

As Abaka noted, the center’s location in Miami—where the U.S. and the southern hemisphere intersect—gives it a singular advantage in supporting cutting-edge and field-shifting scholarship. The 2024 grant recipients, listed below, will conduct dynamic research encompassing local, global, and transnational communities in various disciplines this summer. 

Scholarship celebration

In his closing remarks, Holmes encouraged everyone to stay involved and committed to supporting these scholarships and grants. He noted that alumni participation and University community support are key to providing students—whom he called “alumni-in-training”—with opportunities “to continue their education, strengthen our culture, and secure our path moving forward.”

University of Miami Black Alumni Society Scholarship recipients

Athena Amancio-Alsobrook, exercise physiology • Destiny Attagba, computer science • Kemeria Baraso, nursing • Christian Blakely, microbiology and immunology with minors in public health, chemistry, and English • Jiovanni Bycinte, computer science • Janice Chukwu, nursing • Cheyenne Clelland, biomedical engineering • Krystelle Emogene, community and applied psychological studies with minors in dance and Africana studies • Mikayla Godbolt, global health studies and psychology • Jordan Hanna, sport administration • DeAngela Higgs, psychology and global health studies • Amara Igwilo, marine biology and ecology with a chemistry minor • Channon Love, legal studies • Amari Manning, biomedical engineering • Jemima Mills, global health studies • Imani Smith, exercise physiology • Christopher Stinson, architecture • Sierra Straker, psychology • Simone Thom, health science and pre-physical therapy • April Thomas, business technology and finance • Lindsey Wanton, advertising management • Ashley Williams, finance and accounting • India Wynter, neuroscience with minors in chemistry, microbiology, and immunology 

Center for Global Black Studies Summer Research Fellowship Grant recipients

Teikillah Abubakari, a doctoral student in the Department of History • Chioma Amuzie, a third-year medical student in the Miller School of Medicine • Frimpong Asamoah, a doctoral student in the Department of History • Gabriel Das Chagas Alves Pereira Souza, a doctoral student in the Department of Philosophy • Bright Petiafo, a doctoral student in the Department of History • Eric Osei Prempeh, a doctoral student in the Department of History • Guerdiana Thelomar, a doctoral student in the Community and Well-Being Program in the School of Education and Human Development • Brendi Wilmore, a senior majoring in classics with minors in geography and sustainable development and political science