Member Spotlight – October 2015

IMG_9004Name: James Holly Jr., (Please say the Jr.)

Hometown: Detroit, MI (Detroit-proper) aka D-Town aka Motown aka The Motor City

Bachelor’s Degree (Major & School): Mechanical Engineering, Tuskegee University. Also have a Masters degree in ME from Michigan State University

Current Program: PhD student in Engineering Education, housed in the College of Engineering

Interview with James

  1. Tell us something about your research project:

James: I haven’t begin it yet, but for my dissertation work I want to provide/study a culturally and socially relevant context for racial/ethnic minority students from low socioeconomic status (LSES) backgrounds to learn the habits of mind in engineering (HOME). More specifically,I will use the problem solving mentality exhibited by Engineers as a transition point to guide students from thinking like engineers in technological environments to thinking like engineers in social environments. There are many aspects of engineering that make its content operable as a means for socially transformative education, which is my ambition.

2. What are your favorite activities?

James: Playing basketball and talking with people. Few things energize me more than a good conversation, and playing basketball have been a consistent hobby throughout my life.

3. How did you get involved with BGSA?

James: Funny story, I’ll try to keep it short. Last year I hadn’t been to a single BGSA meeting the entire academic year. I was interested but wasn’t on the email listserv and didn’t do the work to inform myself on what was going on. Well, the Graduate Student community of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) informed members of the date/time for the final BGSA meeting of the year, I figured I’d finally attend since I had the information. Well, surprisingly I was also notified that I had been nominated for an E-board position! Fortunately, I was able to reject the nomimantion, but was instead nominated for another position during the meeting, which I accepted. Thus, the #GetDisMoney movement was born. Although I secured this position following a peculiar sequence of events, I have sincerely enjoyed my participation on the E-board and in general with BGSA. Shoutout to the BGSA community, your faces and your personalities truly energize me.

4. Finish this sentence, “The world would be a better place if…”

James: There were at least 10 more clones of myself in existence. HAHA, I’m just kidding. This is a sophisticated statement, I mean I feel I could write an essay on this. Hmmm I’ll say The world would be a better place if more people cared about making it a better place. There are many who make this their life’s ambition, and there are many others that have an individualistic mentality. This is part of the reason why I like this year shirt theme, “Purdue Talented Tenth.” It implies I am pursuing higher education for the betterment of myself, but also for the betterment of my community, or my people, or society at large, whichever someone chooses. I know the answer to all the world’s problems, but baby steps right (haha); we’d be better off if more of us considered others in all that we do.

5. What’s one piece of advice you can give to fellow Black graduate students pursuing advanced degrees?

James: Just one, dag. I love the concept of community, and it is often the case that Black graduate student’s academic success suffers because of social isolation. You’re intelligent that’s how you got here, but intelligence alone isn’t enough to thrive. Maximize your engagement with the community, whether with fellow Black students or otherwise (or both!). I believe you have skills/gifts to offer us (the community) and we have much to offer you as well. One more thing, join the #GetDisMoney movement! Email me at to assist in coordinating and/or participating in fundraising events.