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Raquel OtheguyA Bronx Community College Assistant Professor of history will soon be paid to pursue her other great passion: writing about it.

Dr. Raquel Otheguy has been awarded a post-doctoral fellowship by The Spencer Foundation, a philanthropic organization under the auspices of the National Academy of Education that is dedicated to funding education research and improving education policy.

“This is a prestigious national fellowship,” says Dr. Otheguy. “They select 30 post-doctoral fellows out of a few hundred applicants.

“The fellowship gives me a year without teaching. BCC will continue to pay my salary, but the Spencer fellowship will reimburse BCC to allow me not to teach. I’m not allowed to hold concurrent awards or jobs. So it’s not a financial windfall, but it’s very exciting to get time to work on the project.”

The project is a book version of her doctoral thesis (which she wrote with the help of a Spencer dissertation fellowship), made more accessible and chronological for a general audience.

“The book is a history of the emerging national public education system in Cuba in the 19th century that positions Cubans of African descent at the center of that. Black people were interested in education, they were creating their own schools, they were teaching their own children. Some of the earliest teachers who taught children without charging them for it were black women who had something akin to daycare or kindergarten in their homes.

“As the education system was developed and codified, the way that black people fought against their exclusion from the education system is crucial to the way that story is shaped.

“By the end of my book, black activists sue the Spanish colonial government and actually convince it to desegregate the public education system. This is in 1894, 60 years before the Brown v The Board of Education decision in the United States. It was a HUGE hemispheric accomplishment.”

Dr. Otheguy won’t be taking those two Spencer Fellowship semesters right away. “I will be teaching this fall. I anticipate that it will be a complicated time for faculty and students and staff, so I will be here.” She also wants to teach a new version of the Department’s History of Latin America course that she herself redesigned. “It’s already on the books for the fall,” she notes, so that quality time with her own book will have to wait until in 2021.

“I am very grateful to the National Academy of Education and the Spencer Foundation for giving me this second opportunity to not only work on the book but to be a part of a community of experts dedicated to education.”


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