Black History Month faculty profile: BreAnn Gilkey

Black History Month provides an opportunity for contemplation, learning and raising awareness about the extensive and varied history of the Black community. Wichita State is embracing the rich tapestry of history and heritage by highlighting some of the amazing Black educators who make a difference in students' lives every day.

BreAnn Gilkey is an associate clinical professor, field practicum director and undergraduate coordinator in WSU's School of Social Work. She says her experience as a Black woman lets her know it's imperative that she shows up for all her students. Read more about BreAnn's experience.

Name, department and courses you teach: BreAnn M. Gilkey, LMSW; School of Social Work. I teach the Practicum Seminar Classes for graduate and undergraduate students, Introduction to Social Work and Women, Children and Poverty. 
Explain your background and journey to becoming a faculty member at Wichita State? I am a product of the WSU School of Social Work. I graduated in 2003 with my BSW and in 2005 with my MSW degree. My first couple of jobs, I was introduced to via my practicums at Episcopal Social Services, now known as Breakthrough Ministries and United Methodist Open Doors. I remember having a conversation with the then director of field education, Sabrina Perez-Glatt. I asked her about how much she liked her work. She informed me that she loves what she does, and I told her that I wanted to do what she did one day. Her response: "You just might!" That was about 2004. I believe that every job that I have had from that point was something that helped me build my skills to prepare me for the positions at the School of Social Work. 
What are some memorable experiences or challenges you've faced as a Black educator? When I started at Wichita State University, I received an email from Dr. Marche Fleming-Randle to come to her office. When I went to her office, she informed me of all the opportunities that I could take advantage of to get me more connected across campus. It was through Dr. Fleming-Randle that I learned about the Council of University Women (CUW) and African American Faculty and Staff Association, to name a few. Those groups connected me to many individuals across campus who have become true friends and others whom I know I can call on if I have a question for myself or a student. 

Challenges that I have experienced as a Black educator have been not being thought of as someone who deserves my position. Not only because I am Black, but also because I do not have a Ph.D. 
How do you think your identity as a Black individual has influenced your teaching or research approach? Representation matters, and it helps to be a face out there that looks like some of the students that come through the social work program. However, I am here for all of my students! What I know every day is that there are individuals that I look up to, like Bobbye Humphrey and Bernice Hutcherson, that have paved the way for me to be in the positions that I am in today. As a Black woman, I am at times overlooked or underestimated in my capabilities. I do not want any student to feel like that in my presence, and if they do, I am open to having that conversation with them. Relationships are important, and it does not matter the term (short or long). It has been my experience as a Black woman that lets me know it is imperative on how I show up for my students. 
What advice would you give to college students? Communicate with your instructors. Most of us are humans and we want our students to be successful. We know and understand that you all have lives, and you are living real experiences. Also, find your tribe ... your people. That may be people in your program, students who share similar interests or someone who knows and understands this particular chapter of your life. Oh! Use those office hours! 
Lastly, what does Black History Month mean to you? Honestly, Black History is recognized and acknowledged every day of me and my kids' lives. So BHM is the time to watch EVERYONE ... mostly everyone around me, acknowledge all the monumental things that Black individuals have contributed to our country! 

About Wichita State University

Wichita State University is Kansas' only urban public research university, enrolling more than 23,000 students between its main campus and WSU Tech, including students from every state in the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Wichita State and WSU Tech are recognized for being student centered and innovation driven.

Located in the largest city in the state with one of the highest concentrations in the United States of jobs involving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Wichita State University provides uniquely distinctive and innovative pathways of applied learning, applied research and career opportunities for all of our students.

The Innovation Campus, which is a physical extension of the Wichita State University main campus, is one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing research/innovation parks, encompassing over 120 acres and is home to a number of global companies and organizations.

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