Student Spotlight with Amanda Washington Lockett

THE RIVER CITY: Richmond, Va., native Amanda Washington Lockett is a Ph.D. student in the Graduate School of Education (GSE). The great-great granddaughter of civil rights and education icon Booker T. Washington, she says she was interested in studying at GSE in order to work with Marybeth Gasman, a professor of higher education, director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI), and one of the leading scholars on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). “I really loved the work that she was doing around the work of leadership and minority serving institutions,” Lockett says. “I wanted to participate in this work, and in the larger work of the Center for Minority Serving Institutions. She and the incredible faculty within GSE's Higher Education program were 100 percent the draw to GSE.”

HBCU FAMILY: Lockett completed her undergraduate studies at Spelman College, a women’s HBCU in Atlanta. Generations of her family have attended HBCUs; Booker T. Washington attended Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia and founded Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama, which he built with his bare hands; her great grandparents went to Fisk University in Tennessee; her grandmother attended Spelman; her mother graduated from Tennessee’s Meharry Medical College; and her father is a Howard University and Howard University College of Medicine alumnus. Lockett says her grandmother planted the Spelman seed in her when she was very young, gifting her Spelman sweatshirts, blankets, and teddy bears. She has done the same with her younger brothers, who are applying to Morehouse College and Howard. 

KNOWLEDGE OF SELF: Attending an HBCU taught her a lot about herself, her ancestry, and those who came before her, Lockett says. The Afrocentric curriculum highlighted the achievements and contributions of African-American women and black women across the diaspora, information she was not exposed to during her formative K-12 schooling. “I think that [HBCUs] are relevant,” she says. “I think they function with a very loving and very nurturing lens. It was wonderful to have an education environment that included challenging professors, diverse classmates, and a comprehensive curriculum that spoke directly to me and my advancement as a scholar and woman of color.”

CMSI SCHOLAR: At the CMSI, Lockett is a research associate participating in a study with Gasman and Thai-Huy Nguyen, a senior research associate, looking at the effect of HBCUs and women in STEM fields. She has also participated in other research projects, assisted with the Center’s annual micro-giving campaign, and looks forward to continuing to study minority leadership in higher education.

MRS. WASHINGTON GOES TO WASHINGTON: Lockett did two graduate student internships at the White House during the Obama administration. In 2014, she worked on the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, helping to create a resource toolkit for first generation, post-secondary school students. In 2015, she worked on the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, assisting with developing programming for HBCU Champions of Change, which honors HBCUs that are successfully promoting college success and completion. She also co-authored two toolkits to help HBCUs obtain federal grant funding. (Unfortunately, she says, she didn’t get to meet President Obama.) 

A LEGACY OF HER OWN: Booker T. Washington’s name reigns among historical African-American figures alongside the likes of Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. But Lockett says her parents never pressured her to maintain his legacy. “They always let me know I was standing on the shoulders of those who have come before me,” she says. “While I feel grateful to the legacy, I also look forward to contributing original ideas, theories, and practices that I think are important and needed in this 21st century.”

Washington Lockett