Growing up in Jamaica, Kamille Gentles-Peart aspired to be on television, as glamorous as the island nation’s beauty queens. It’s no surprise, then, that she studied television as a student at Lehman College in New York City. There, Gentles- Peart underwent what she calls a “cultural studies awakening” and applied to the prestigious McNair Scholars Program, a Ph.D. preparation program for first generation college students. Along the way, a teacher was born – and in just three years at RWU, Gentles-Peart’s engaging teaching style earned her a 2010 nomination for the University’s Excellence in Teaching Award.
OPENING MINDS: A product of two distinct cultures – Jamaica and the U.S. – Gentles-Peart has learned to develop an open mind, a perspective critical to her classroom success. “I see my role as expanding students’ minds. I want them to think beyond their context, background and lifestyle. I try to challenge their way of thinking.”
A SENSE OF HISTORY: Communication studies requires broad historical context, but students often get tunnel vision, Gentles-Peart says. She sends them straight to the stacks: “They forget there’s a whole body of research to look at since the 1800s. I want to give them a sense of that history.”
BARREL KIDS: Gentles-Peart’s parents immigrated to New York City when she was eight, leaving their two daughters with relatives. “It was painful for me and my parents. They called us ‘barrel kids’ because our parents sent barrels of goods back home.” At 16, she reunited with her family in the U.S. “When they left, I was Daddy’s and Mommy’s little girl. When I saw them again, I had formed my own ideas.”
ON BELONGING: With stops in the Caribbean, New York, the Midwest (for graduate school) and now Rhode Island, Gentles-Peart has learned to make her differences work for her. “There are times now when not belonging feels like an issue, when it becomes evident you’re an outsider, and that makes me sad. But it also makes me feel buoyant! It gives a sense of not exactly belonging anywhere, and being able to belong everywhere.”