Morgan Braswell said she is not the first in her family to attend college. But she is the first to stay the course.
A sophomore, Braswell expects to graduate from Michigan State University in 2024 with her bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She’s also on track to complete a second major in African American and African Studies. It’s a scholarly path that allows her to nurture her passions as well as her aspirations to help others, particularly people in her community.
“I’m incredibly interested in mental health because it can be such an overlooked topic in the Black community…My goal is to help the Black community and to break down barriers that can prevent people from opening up.Morgan Braswell
“I’m incredibly interested in mental health because it can be such an overlooked topic in the Black community,” Braswell said. “Some people don’t have the resources to get help, and when they do, they may get help from a provider who doesn’t look like them. My goal is to help the Black community and to break down barriers that can prevent people from opening up.”
A Culture of Challenge and Inspiration
Braswell originally set out to become lawyer. She interned in high school for a metro-Detroit attorney and with the City of Southfield.
“Sometimes you say things when you’re little about what you want to be when you grow up, and everyone thinks you’ll follow that,” she said. “So, I started at MSU in political science, but just wasn’t feeling it. My dream job was always in psychology, so I decided early on to change my major.”
Braswell was raised with an awareness of community, causes, and perseverance. Her mom and dad worked multiple jobs in the Detroit area to make ends meet. She grew up witnessing their hard work and struggles and felt an inner pull to help them by being the best student she could be. Her father, too, constantly opened her eyes to the Black experience by discussing books, history, social structures, and systems that affected the lives of Black people.
“Both my parents were very community involved,” Braswell said. “They grew up in Detroit and worked or volunteered at community centers. They showed me that community is the first step in much of Black culture, and to never lose sight of that.”
Braswell lived part-time in Detroit and part-time in West Bloomfield where she attended public school. She navigated the challenges of being Black in a predominantly white district, as well as moving back and forth between households. Her parents were always there, supporting her dream, telling her to stick to her path and not to sway.
“My mom is a strong woman and my inspiration,” Braswell said. “She always said that my dream was her dream, too, and that she would support me no matter what.”
Braswell applied to several in-state and out-of-state schools her senior year. In Fall 2020, she started at MSU.
About mid-way through her freshman year, she decided to capitalize on her interest in Black literature, history, and culture. She remembered the books her dad had given her that were written by Black authors and scholars and how they would discuss them constantly. She found herself driven to revisit those works and to expand on the knowledge and sensitivity her parents had instilled. She started by taking courses in African American and African Studies (AAAS).
“Morgan is passionate about AAAS and is excited about growing with the department. A creative writer, critical thinker, and community builder, she brings an unwavering commitment to Black people and love of Black culture to her coursework.”Ruth Nicole Brown, Professor and Inaugural Chair of the AAAS Department
“I knew I wanted to focus my studies and work on advancing Black communities,” she said. “I’ve seen how hard my people struggle to be heard and understood. I want to see more Black people in more spaces like health and education so we can continue to help one another.”
Braswell said her AAAS studies helped her weather the challenges of the early pandemic, as well as the social unrest and injustices that threaded throughout 2020. The times and circumstances were monumental, she said, and continue to be. While she was learning, she often felt mentally drained and exhausted by the trauma and protests that overlaid every day.
Looking ahead, Braswell plans to ramp up her AAAS studies and join several Black student organizations on campus, including the Black Student Alliance.
“Morgan is passionate about AAAS and is excited about growing with the department,” said Ruth Nicole Brown, Professor and Inaugural Chair of the AAAS Department. “A creative writer, critical thinker, and community builder, she brings an unwavering commitment to Black people and love of Black culture to her coursework. AAAS is ready to receive Morgan’s brilliance and contribute to her success!”
Braswell says that being around people who look like her and share similar cultural experiences helps her feel more confident and to realize she can effect change and contribute.
“So far, MSU and all my AAAS professors and classes have inspired me an immense amount,” she said. “Being in courses taught by Black women who are in spaces I want to be in shows me I can do it, too. They’re inspired me to keep educating myself, to keep reading, to keep writing, and to never stop.”