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Student Spotlight: Canisha Russ

Hear from Canisha Russ, the 2017 Promise Prize Scholar, about her experience at the  Change-Create-Transform Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. Topics covered include academic career and personal interests. The interview was conducted by Zorgie Sanchez in Fall 2017.

person posing for photograph in front of outdoor concrete stairs

“One of the best parts of the trip for me was the community fostering. I got to meet a bunch of the other scholars, like the new scholars, and it became a close-knit thing.”

Canisha Russ  |  2017 Promise Prize Scholar & AAST Minor

Tell us about yourself, what is your major/minor and how did you come to choose them?

Canisha Russ: Well I’m a music business major and an African American Studies minor. I chose music business because I’ve been singing since I was a kid, so, I originally wanted to be a singer when i grew up. But  now I changed it around, because I figured it would be more, I don’t want to say profitable ….but…you know it would be kind of profitable to major in music business so I can do the management side of it and manage musicians. Like I want to manage singers and stuff like that since I study singing so I can help them learn how to sing and then like manage them and push their music, and then also like perform on the side.

And the African American studies minor obviously came from this past semester. I thought like I was interested in taking African American Studies and classes, and since I was going to be taking quite a few anyway, I figured I would minor in it, you know?

Okay, great. Now that we know a little about you, tell us about about the award you received this past school year.

Russ: So, It’s the Marie Nesbitt Promise Prize Award and it is for the organization Change, Create, Transform. The award was $5,000  and a trip to Washington D.C over the summer. The person who runs the organization is named Vicki Prior and the point of the trip was basically to have a summit. You sit down and have round table discussions with other scholars about current events that are like plaguing the African American community and stuff like that. Politics and everything. We do excursions on the side, like going to museums and restaurants. We went to an African restaurant and ate Kenyan food and had ambassadors speak to us.

I saw all of your pictures, you looked like you had an amazing time. What was your favorite place out of all of the ones you visited?

Russ: Um, actually it was the African American Museum. There were so many floors and so many different things to see in there. I spent a lot of time on the fifth floor, so I didn’t get to see everything  [laughs]. The fifth floor was really geared towards my major so that’s why I spent so much time there. But I didn’t see the bottom three concourses which goes form slavery all the way up to I believe Obama’s inauguration. And then after that you have a bunch of floors dedicated to things like sports and entertainment.

Okay, what was the fifth floor?

Russ: It was the entertainment floor [laughs]. So I spent a lot of time there, it was my favorite place. It was very interesting. They had like everything there, and I mean everything. Anything that you would expect to see, I mean even hair products were in there. I was like, really?

Was there anything else you enjoyed from the summit?

Russ: One of the best parts of the trip for me was the community fostering. I got to meet a bunch of the other scholars, like the new scholars, and it became a close-knit thing. Like they even said you’ll be closer to the people you came in with. We had to do a project together and talk about our experience, like what it means to be a scholar to us. We talked about community service and education and all that kind of stuff and what it means to us. The community was definitely the best part of it, even meeting the older scholars from like 2010 and who are well into their careers. And then you have us who are still on the college level still trying to build ourselves up. It’s a big difference, but I was talking to one of the older ones and he was telling me that if I ever needed any help in my career he could introduce me to people in the business world.

That’s amazing.

Russ: Exactly, so yeah the community is one of the best part of being a Promise Prize scholar. The networking too.

Aside from the community fostering, what else do you believe you gained from this experience?

Russ: I think conversation, how to get a conversation flowing to solve problems. Like, we were talking about the struggles of the African American community right now, how you have to come up with a plan to get people to work together. And I think to get people on the same page right now is hard, you know you have different groups like the church, and the LGBT community, and the they don’t completely align, you know? So we were trying to discuss how they could possibly work together. I don’t know if we came up with a solution but, uh, a big takeaway was fostering and continuing a conversation.

Do you see yourself implementing that now?

Russ: I hope so. I don’t know if it’s possible to get everyone on the same page.

Well, I mean, do you see changes in yourself? Are you more willing to start a conversation now?

Russ: Yeah, so I hate speaking publicly. It’s a really big thing to me, I don’t like to raise my hand in class and I don’t like to speak at all, but I do now try, you know when the teacher asks a question and no one raises their hand, I’ll try to get the ball rolling and start something.

How did you hear about the Promise Prize?

Russ: I actually heard about it from Professor Natasha Barnes. She emailed our AAST 100 class and she said,“Does anyone want me to sponsor them for this award?” Originally I wasn’t going to reply because I thought ‘No, I’m not going to win that’, but then I decided to anyways because I thought, you know, why not? And that’s how I hear about it. Now the program wants me to do an ambassador kind of thing and they want me to kind of spread the word and get people to know about it by holding special events. Professor Rhodes wants to hold Q A events and stuff like that where you can get other people to know about this.