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Graduate student receives Spencer Foundation fellowship

Kristen B. Morales

June 20, 2019

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A College of Education graduate student who connects young adult fiction with social justice has received a national fellowship.

Stephanie Renee Toliver, a doctoral student in the department of language and literacy education, was recently awarded a NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship. The award will allow her to pursue her research into Afrofuturism, a cultural aesthetic used by black authors to reclaim and recover the past, counter negatives and elevate positive realities and new possibilities.

"This fellowship helps my research by ensuring that I'll have time to do the work I need to do without worrying about how to pay for the things I need to pay for," she said. "It will remove a major doctoral student stressor and give me the time to delve deeply into the data to find a way to represent it in my dissertation."

In her dissertation, Toliver plans to analyze the stories of seven black girls taking part in a black women's writing collective, using the experience as a way to help educators and others to recognize and dismantle the oppression of black girls in educational spaces. She will investigate how the participants use oral storytelling and Afrofuturistic short story writing to critique, discuss or subvert social injustices and position themselves as agents of change.

Afrofuturism is one aspect of a range of speculative fiction Toliver studies. She is interested in the ways these stories can promote social justice and equity in the English classroom, and her overall research focuses on representations of and responses to people of color in these types of texts.

Before coming to UGA, Toliver received her undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University, then taught reading to ninth- and 10th-grade students in Florida. She then went back to school to get her master's from Florida State University. Her work has been funded by the American Library Association's Diversity Research Grant and UGA's Innovative and Interdisciplinary Research Grant, and has appeared in numerous academic publications.