Getting you behind the blackboard and into the personal office spaces of some of the most interesting professors on campus. Know of some good characters? We’d love to meet ‘em, get to know ‘em, explore their history. Send suggestions with mini-bios (name, classes, why is (s)he so interesting?, etc.) over to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include “office space professor” in the subject.
Dr. Patricia Hilliard-Nunn sits at her desk in her Walker Hall office. Nunn, a professor of African American studies, keeps a framed picture over her desk of her great-great-grandmother, who was a salve in Georgia. Photo by Ciera Battleson.
Room 105 in Walker Hall is a quiet space with high ceilings and a window that lets in the afternoon sun, illuminating all the objects that reside on the shelves, walls and desk. After moving from office to office for quite some time, Dr. Patricia Hilliard-Nunn finally has a permanent space of her own.
Hilliard-Nunn, who grew up in Monrovia, Liberia, started as a full-time professor of African-American studies at the University of Florida in 2006. Her current research focuses on the experiences of African-Americans in Alachua and Seminole communities throughout Florida.
Days are packed full, leaving little time for retreat in her office. Still, she takes pride in creating a surrounding that inspires her. Artifacts abound, her space reflects her salient passion.
“I want to communicate a sense of joy, the fact that African-American people have been through a struggle, a sense of history and the beauty and diversity of African and African-American culture,” she said, looking at the colorful posters, paintings and the large quilt that she made herself.
“I am also an artist in painting, multimedia, sewing and gourd art,” Nunn said. It all helps to focus and ground her.
Upon earning her undergraduate degree in mass media arts and a MFA in film production at Howard University, she worked in freelance media production. Outside of academia, she has worked as a Coca-Cola trade examiner, community organizer and a children’s book author under Makare Publishing Company, which she owns.
High up on the wall to the left of her desk hangs a framed picture of her great-great-grandmother, Mary Hilliard, who was enslaved in Georgia from the 1840s to 1865. After enslavement, Hilliard and her husband bought 100 acres of land in Texas that their family farmed together.
“She took her son’s place working in the fields so that he could go to school and get an education,” Nunn said. “It’s nice to have her looking over me.”
This picture, which serves as a reminder of the impact education has had on many families like her own, is one of her most prized possessions.
Nunn eventually picked up a small statue of the Sankofa bird. The term sankofa, which translates to “go back and fetch it,” is an adinkra symbol in the form of a bird turning its neck back to capture something left behind.
“When I taught my first class in women studies as an adjunct, my first slide had a picture of the Sankofa bird,” she said.
Nunn continues to include this symbol in her classes, reminding her students that they have to look back into history before they can move forward.