Gertrude Gonzales de Allen
Walking across campus at Spelman College, where she is an associate professor of philosophy, Gertrude James Gonzáles de Allen '89 is reminded of Susquehanna University and how a small, liberal arts college can feel like home.
"It's familiar ground," says Gonzáles de Allen, who is from the U.S. Virgin Islands.
When she first met with Susquehanna University officials at a college fair in St. Croix—at the urging of a trusted music teacher—she planned to pursue a health career, but the liberal arts curriculum opened her eyes to other options.
"Taking a lot of different courses, I discovered things about myself," she says. "I learned my brain functions better with the kind of thinking you do in the humanities and the arts. As I took more courses in religious studies and philosophy, I found I had more of an affinity intellectually in those disciplines."
She continued her education in that field, earning a M.A and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Binghamton University, before accepting a professorship at Atlanta's Spelman College, where she teaches courses in practical reasoning, postmodernism, neurophilosophy and Africana philosophy.
She is writing a book, "Sedimented Subjectivities: A Phenomenology of Layered Being in the United States Virgin Islands," which examines how key moments in U.S. V.I. history shape collective and individual identities.
"Many of the intellectual foundations in philosophy I got at Susquehanna," she says. "It's also where I first became interested in issues of culture, race and diversity. I was one of fewer than 10 black students at the school at that time, and of course the international community was very small. I became very interested in issues of diversity, of how we are classified and defined, of how we treat each other."
At Spelman, the country's oldest historically Black college for women, she continues to engage in issues of diversity, while offering some of that same 'feels like home' support to her own students.
"Having grown so much in that small college, liberal arts setting, I have a fondness for what it can do, the kind of impact it can have on students," she says. "It's permanent."