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Exeter Welcomes Three New Fellows

2013 George Bennett Fellow writer in residence Joshua Camp Brown (standing) and PEA's first Dissertation Fellow inductees, Onaje X. Offley Woodbine and Dena N. Simmons

September 16, 2013

Two of the Academy's newest fellows arrived on campus before the start of school, eager to learn about PEA and primed to complete their theses. This year, a new program, the Dissertation Year Fellowship, was launched with its first inductees – Dena N. Simmons, from the Bronx, NY, and Onaje X. Offley Woodbine, of Roxbury, MA. Both were selected from a raft of Ph.D. candidates.

Associate Dean of Faculty and Instructor in Modern Languages Rosanna M. Salcedo worked to create the posts to support candidates who might not otherwise have the opportunity. "This fellowship in particular helps under-represented Ph.D. students finish their dissertation – and we know that Ph.D. candidates need this support. We are bringing individuals with advanced degrees to campus to interact with students and adults, and to learn about opportunities at PEA. It is a great networking opportunity; it enriches our campus, and we are helping others."

Simmons, who received her bachelor's degree from Middlebury College, plans to spread the word about PEA's Dissertation Year Fellowship program to her network of scholars, "so this program remains sustainable and meaningful to the PEA community."

Dena N. Simmons, Joshua Camp Brown and Onaje X. Offley WoodbineNow in her 5th year of a doctoral program in health education at Columbia University, Simmons' thesis assesses educator preparedness to identify and effectively manage bullying in middle schools.

As a Harry S. Truman Scholar and a J. William Fulbright Fellow in the Dominican Republic, she says it is vital that young people learn about such opportunities early on. "If PEA students could know of the endless possibilities now instead of later, I would be happy to have helped. Onaje and I are excited about being a [source of] support to students and the PEA community in whatever capacity we can," Simmons says.

Woodbine attended The Lawrenceville School and Yale University. He is completing his doctorate at Boston University, utilizing French social theory, linguistics and African-American mysticism to explore expressions of grief, hope and transcendence on basketball courts in U.S. cities.

He describes PEA as a community of "gifted and caring individuals." Right away, he and his family noticed expressions of non sibi. "There seems to be a conscious effort on the part of this community to allow each individual their own special way of coming to grips with who they are in the context of a larger world . . . sharing those human moments that touch the deepest part of who we are, for me, is what education is all about," Woodbine says.

George Bennett Fellow

Dedicating time to complete his poetic manuscript – about the birth of American roots music – strikes a special note for this year's George Bennett Fellow writer in residence Joshua Camp Brown. His poems have appeared in The Louisville Review (under J. Camp Brown) and other publications, and he plays bluegrass music on his mandolin. Hailing from Arkansas, Brown completed his master's degree in creative writing this spring at the University of Arkansas; before earning his degree, Brown taught writing courses.

"I am most looking forward to meeting poets and storytellers on campus, and creating connections with these burgeoning writers. I am eager to offer whatever guidance I can to students who could use a little help forging their voice and wielding that voice with guts," Brown says. He is also keen to play his mandolin with other musicians on campus.      

— Famebridge Witherspoon