Queens College 2020 graduate Vallaire Wallace has earned a full scholarship to the University of Virginia to pursue a doctorate degree in English.
Wallace, a resident of Oakland Gardens, majored in English with a minor in drama and theater and graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts.
Wallace would have addressed this year’s graduates and their families as the student speaker at the college’s May commencement, but the ceremony — with its annual audience of up to 10,000 people — did not take place due to COVID-19-imposed restrictions on large gatherings.
While at Queens College, Wallace was named a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow (MMUF). The program was established at Queens College in 1988 as a response to the shortage of faculty of color in higher education, accepts minority students and others who have demonstrated a commitment to eradicating racial disparities.
Wallace said the MMUF Fellowship has changed the entirety of her undergraduate life.
“I am so excited to continue my studies at the University of Virginia, where I will be pursuing my Ph.D. in English,” Wallace said. “I have been awarded the Dean’s Fellowship in addition to my base stipend as a testament to my academic excellence. At UVA, I plan to continue my research on the Harlem Renaissance and develop my training as an African Americanist.”
As an English major, Wallace focused on 20th-century African American Literature and the Harlem Renaissance, finding inspiration in its continuing cultural relevance for readers and publishers. The Harlem Renaissance was the development of New York City’s Harlem neighborhood as an early 20th-century Black cultural mecca and its subsequent flourishing social and artistic scene.
Wallace’s thesis for her honors seminar was admittedly a departure from her usual scholarly pursuits — she explored the paradox of the fictional East African country Wakanda, home to the Marvel superhero Black Panther, as both Pan-African and xenophobic, in addition to the meaning of liberation at the expense of violence as represented in the fictional Marvel superhero Killmonger.
Wallace was a Queens College Scholar, Presidential Scholar, Freshman Honors Program participant, member of the Dean’s List, Freshman Year Initiative Program mentor, an associate for the highly competitive Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers at the Phillips Academy Andover, and editor-in-chief of the Knight News, the college’s student newspaper.
The student speaker is one of two recipients of the college’s Paul Klapper Scholarship, which is provided annually by the staff of Queens College and other friends in memory of the college’s first president to encourage scholarly accomplishment, moral and intellectual integrity, and good citizenship.
The College Committee on Honors and Awards selects the student speaker based on criteria that include high grades and other forms of academic achievement, leadership, community service, breadth of courses taken, as well as evidence of originality, creativity, and promise of future contributions to society.
“We are enormously proud of Vallaire and all that she has accomplished as a Queens College undergraduate,” said Queens College President William Tramontano. “The list of her many successes is deeply inspiring to us as educators and we look forward to the next chapter in her academic career.”