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Chase Black

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Hometown: Berkeley, CA 

Professional interests: As an Academic Guide, I’m excited to help students navigate life at Duke with greater awareness of how their intellectual development and overall wellbeing are intertwined, with the broader goal of supporting each student’s idea of what personal fulfillment means as this evolves over time.

Summary of previous professional experience: I have a background in teaching and research in the humanities and cultural studies. I’ve taught college writing, multiethnic literature and courses on US colonialism and popular culture. The institutions I worked at before coming to Duke are UC San Diego, UCLA, and the University of Southern California. In recent years, I have made a shift away from academia to work at the intersection of academic affairs and student affairs. 

 Educational background 

  • Ph.D. in Literature, University of California, San Diego  
  • M.A. in English, Brown University  
  • B.A. in English, University of California, Los Angeles 

Intellectual interests: Race, colonialism, and popular entertainment in the 19th and 20th century U.S., with a focus on Hawaii; American music and Americana; Photography; Comedy 

Fun fact:  

While in college, I missed playing organized sports and was looking for an alternative to solitary long-distance running, so I decided to play rugby for UCLA during my junior year. I probably could have chosen a less injury-prone sport, but I had fun learning the rules and strategies and figuring out my role on the team (which was winger). 

What was the most challenging part of college for you? What did you learn from that experience?  

I was a music major my first year at UCLA with a focus on French horn performance, but by the end of my first Spring semester, I decided to study English and American literature instead. I loved my English classes at Berkeley High and knew I wanted to explore the English major in college, but I had been practicing and performing music from middle school onward and felt a certain pressure to follow this professional track. It probably didn’t help that the French horn is notoriously difficult and, as I can see looking back, it encouraged my perfectionist tendencies. At a certain point I realized I was getting in my own way and made the transition to the wide world of literary and cultural analysis. From this experience I learned the importance of listening to your inner voice even if you are unsure what a new direction has in store. 

What did you learn or gain in college that you have carried with you? 

I attended a very large university that had a student body of over 30,000 people at that time (now it’s even larger), and it was often a struggle to feel a sense of belonging. Over time, this experience helped me realize that sometimes communities aren’t just “there” waiting for you to find them and join. A community is also something you can imagine and create for yourself and the people or ideas you care about. Gaining the confidence to create my own reality and to be more proactive in seeking out creative, intellectual, and emotional support networks — has been a valuable lesson. 

What do you know now that you wish you had known in college? 

I would have benefited from seeking out a faculty mentor to talk over ways to translate my intellectual interests into a professional path, even if this faculty were someone in a field other than English. Too often I was self-reliant, and I did not realize it is OK to ask for support from faculty even when you’re not taking their class or in their discipline. Having a mentor to check in with about courses, research, or next steps after college would have made a big difference in helping me understand and envision what to do with my love of literary and cultural studies.