From a small town to studying higher education dynamics: McNair scholar thrives at UNCG

Posted on August 11, 2022

A portrait of a woman wearing a blue sweatshirt who peers into the distance
Antoinette Gregory, an undergraduate student in information science, studies higher education dynamics as a McNair Scholar.

When Antoinette Gregory was a junior in high school, her family moved from their small hometown to a nearby city. And, to her and her mom’s excitement, the local high school had an International Baccalaureate program.

Gregory began interacting with her teachers at this new school and realized that attending college could be a feasible path for her. Through taking college-level coursework that challenged her, she also discovered that she had that essential quality in pursuing scholarship: a “thirst for knowledge.” 

“All of this led me to look at the world beyond my small town for the first time in my life and that led me to Greensboro, which led me to UNCG,” Gregory said. “I am a proud Spartan to this day.”

Gregory, now a junior and UNCG-McNair Scholar, is channeling her curiosity and drive into her research efforts and academic studies where she is majoring in information science and minoring in African American Studies and Philosophy. She is mentored by Dr. Jesse Ford, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Higher Education. Gregory communicates her research focus fluidly, demonstrating aptitude as a mentee.

“My project is focused on how Black women’s race and gender (and its intersectionality) influences their experiences in post-graduate higher education settings,” she says. 

Within this topic, she aims to better understand how gendered racism in higher education can impact Black women’s  “sense of place” and emotional, mental and physical health. Gregory says she brings a black feminist lens to her work.

To study this topic, she has honed her skills as a qualitative researcher. Gregory is leading focus groups with Black women who have taken graduate classes and asking them about their experiences. For example, what are these womens’ perceptions about how their race and gender may influence their interactions with faculty?

A woman stands in front of the Forney Building with her arms resting on the balcony.
Gregory stands outside of the Forney Student Success Commons.

Gregory is using an interview guide with open-ended questions to develop a nuanced understanding of Black womens’ experiences in higher education. This is a topic that is both personal and professional for Gregory, who plans to pursue higher education – both a master’s and a doctorate in education – herself. 

“As someone who wants to be a professor, I think it’s important to understand how the intersectionality of the students that I teach can impact their experience,” she says. “I hope to utilize this knowledge to create a space where my students feel safe, heard, and seen.”

Gregory herself says she, too, has felt “heard” and “seen” by her own mentor, Dr. Jesse Ford, who has provided guidance along her journey. 

“My mentor, Dr. Jesse Ford has constantly challenged me to reach beyond the limits I place on myself and go for what I want in my academics and life,” she says. “I am encouraged every step of the way to hold onto my independence and really hone my skills as a researcher and an academic.”

Experience with the McNair Program?

“These programs have enabled me to do so much more with my college experience than I ever thought possible and I’ve made some of my closest friends through those programs. These are friends that I hope to share my life and my life story with far beyond my time here at UNCG.”

Three women smile and speak with one another.
Gregory speaks with (middle) Stephanie Macfoy, Associate Director of the UNCG-McNair Scholars Program, and (right) Melissa Lore, Associate Director of SSS Tutoring Services.

“Being able to have an environment where my intellectual skills are developed and honed and my academic boundaries are expanded was very important to me, and McNair was the perfect program for these things to occur.”

Favorite Place on Campus?

“The meditation room in the EUC and the various TRiO and the Guarantee office in Forney.”

“The reason why I really enjoy being in the meditation room in the EUC is because it gives me a time when I’m having a really busy day – I might feel very flustered or frustrated – I’m able to go there, take a few deep breaths, decompress, maybe even meditate before I keep going about my day.”

A woman sits cross legged in the meditation room.
Gregory sits in the meditation room, one of her favorite places on campus.

Story by Rachel Damiani & Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Photography by David Row, University Communications


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