Stefan Bradley

Exchanging Knowledge

 

For Stefan Bradley, Professor of African American Studies and BCLA Coordinator for Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives at LMU, there’s ample opportunity for us all to benefit from a Jesuit education. Bradley, who joined the top-ranked LMU Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts in 2017, doesn’t teach students what to think but rather how to think, encouraging them to develop greater habits of mind and heart — especially when it comes to matters of race and race relations in America today.

At its bedrock, Bradley explains that African American Studies encourages students to critically analyze and celebrate the black experience, then asks them to take the knowledge gained and share it with the larger community.

“At the center of all my classes is a conversation,” Bradley, who employs an interdisciplinary approach to the field, said. “We discuss taboo topics concerning race, racism, and black life in America, and we do so in a way that’s not just for the sake of learning but also for the benefit of the larger black community.”

He added that this constructive conversation goes hand in hand with actively engaging his students in the black community, the keystone of all his classes.

For instance, in his Introduction to African American Studies course, students are charged with interviewing African American elders about their life experiences to intimately know what Jim Crow Laws meant, thereby developing a greater understanding of what people went through before them.

“We teach community in my classes,” Bradley said. “People can have different points of view, but not recklessly. I ask my students to share their points of view based on the evidence that they have, and we strive to do so in a way that everyone is supposed to be learning from everyone else, and we depart as friends.”

Earning a Ph.D. in U.S. History from the University of Missouri, Bradley says that he was drawn to teach at LMU for its emphasis on undergraduate education and the diversity of its student community. Moreover, he was impressed by the range of resources LMU offers to its diverse populations — most notably LMU’s offices of Intercultural Affairs, Black Student Services, and The Learning Community.

He describes LMU students as intellectually curious and polite, and all with this question on their minds, ‘how can I become an activist for the greater good?’

“Part of what I tell them is to have an awareness of systems that are adversely affecting the lives of people,” Bradley said, pointing to housing, education, politics, and health. “I also tell them not to fall into the trap of thinking first I’ll get my degree, then a job, then I’ll help people. You have to train that muscle right now, practice that right now, and you can do so by caring for those who are most marginalized and acting on their behalf.”

For his part, Bradley is an active presence on campus. He is Chairperson of LMU’s Presidential Black Leadership Accountability Council and sits on the board for the Center for Reconciliation & Justice. Additionally, he is the author of several books, including “Upending the Ivory Tower: Civil Rights, Black Power and the Ivy League” and “Harlem vs. Columbia University: Black Student Power in the Late 1960s.”

As for what advice Bradley has for future LMU Lions?

“Try to unfix your mind to the idea that you’re coming to the university for an education solely for yourself,” Bradley said. “Knowledge needs to be shared with others, and it’s a privilege to attend a university like LMU.  With this privilege comes an obligation to help those in need.”