2 BMQFG students earn U-M Research Fellowships

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Alanna Grace-Marie Schwartz (left) and Braneshia Loyd (right)

Sometimes, one moment in your life can change everything.

For HFC students Alanna Grace-Marie Schwartz and Braneshia Loyd, one such moment was attending a Black Male and QUEENS Focus Group (BMQFG) lecture, reflecting on its meaning for their future, and getting involved. Schwartz and Loyd have both been accepted into the University of Michigan Mellon Scholars Research Fellowship (MSRF) program, due in part to their ongoing association with the BMQFG.

The BMQFG is an academic and social support network for students at Henry Ford College. The MRSF program is a 20-week paid opportunity in which HFC students interested in the humanities and related social sciences undertake part-time research alongside U-M faculty. The MRSF program runs from Oct. 5, 2020 to April 21, 2021.

The MSRF program is part of the Transfer Bridges to the Humanities@Michigan. Transfer Bridges students begin by studying the humanities and humanistic social sciences for two years at HFC, making connections at U-M Ann Arbor. Then they transfer to U-M’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) to complete their bachelor’s degree at one of the nation’s leading institutions.

“Alanna and Braneshia represent the best of what it means to embrace our sacred mission of academic excellence. Their diligent commitment to success will serve as a blueprint for others. I am proud of these sisters,” said Dr. Kalvin DaRonne Harvell, HFC Sociology Professor and coordinator of the BMQFG.

Alanna Grace-Marie Schwartz

Attending Harvell’s “An Uncomfortable Alliance: Racial Microaggressions and the College Campus” lecture changed Schwartz’s career path.

Originally, Schwartz, an honors graduate of Lincoln Park High School, was majoring in studio art at the College. After listening to Dr. Harvell’s lecture, Schwartz spoke to Harvell at length and changed her major to liberal arts, with a focus on sociology. She also got involved with the BMQFG.

“That single lecture opened my eyes and helped me find the major to match what I care about and really wished to pursue,” said Schwartz, of Lincoln Park. “After speaking with Dr. Harvell and other students in the BMQFG, I joined the group and began contributing to make positive changes in the community.”

As one of the leading members in the BMQFG, Schwartz attended the Black, Brown and College Bound Summit in Tampa, FL last March.

“The group has provided me with endless opportunities to expand my horizons and connections through networking,” she said. “Being a member of the BMQFG makes me proud, because we support one another in the most meaningful ways. Organizations like this are essential for students like me who do not have enough support from home due to lack of resources.”

Schwartz is also a member of the Henry Ford II Honors Program and was recently accepted into the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honors Society. She will graduate from HFC in 2022. Upon graduation, she plans to transfer to U-M and major in sociology with a focus on racial and ethnic diversity.

Her ultimate career goal is becoming a sociology professor. Until then, Schwartz plans to work as a racial and diversity specialist, as she’s very passionate about racial equity – moving beyond the idea of equality – in society.

“Equality is simply treating everyone the same. For example, with equality, everyone gets $100. That seems great, until you realize that most people already had a lot of money, and others started with nothing. Everyone gets some benefit, but the majority of people still have more. Equity is about providing the proper resources people need to survive and effectively compete among their peers and community,” explained Schwartz.

For Schwartz, the best part of her time at HFC has been BMQFG.

“I have never felt so supported and comforted by a group of people in my life,” she said. “My life experiences have been completely validated through sharing my story with members and friends of the group, which is important to me because I have spent most of my life dealing with confusion and uneasiness as a feminist Black, biracial woman in predominantly white spaces. My leaders never let me forget that I am never alone.”

Braneshia Loyd

Initially, Loyd was pursuing child development, but switched to community leadership after Harvell invited her to sit in on a BMQFG meeting.

“It’s great to know there is a team of individuals who are aiding and advocating for our voice as students and human beings during this era of uncertainty,” said Loyd, of Lincoln Park.

She also took SOC 212: Leadership in Diverse Communities and Organizations, which Harvell taught. This class was a game-changer for Loyd, whose focus is helping underprivileged communities and children. This will be her focus of study in her MSRF program.

“I’m grateful to be considered for the MSRF program. I plan to use partnerships and share my passion with other like-minded individuals for greater work that’s needed for minorities in society,” said Loyd. “Dr. Harvell encouraged me to apply and expand my passion for helping underprivileged communities and children.”

A 2009 alumna of Allen Park High School, Loyd took classes at Wayne County Community College District before transferring to HFC. She expects to graduate from HFC in 2023, and is considering transferring to U-M.

“My career goals are to educate myself about community effort by listening and understanding the troubles of others and to find a solution to promote wealth and education in each household of those who are less fortunate,” said Loyd.

Loyd is also involved in the Detroit-based community organization called WRENCH: A Tool for Positive Action. This grassroots effort supplies bicycle donations and bicycle parts for children across Metro Detroit. Not only are the bikes free, but the program teaches children also how to repair them. Loyd also works at Wayne Metro Community Action Agency and Ford Motor Co.

Loyd spoke about how attending HFC has changed her life for the better.

“The diverse teachings each professor gives you serve to help you understand and apply lessons to your life,” she said. “That’s very valuable.”