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Student Spotlight – Qiaira Riley


Qiaira Riley

Lake Forest College, studio art

GSEF Fellow, Cohort 1
Research Placement: Northwestern University

"I think it is important to feel that I am growing, learning, and networking with people who will one day be leaders and innovators."


How would you describe yourself in a few sentences?

I'm Qiaira Riley, an impassioned advocate for social justice majoring in Studio Art and African-American Studies at Lake Forest College. When I'm not cozying up with my Netflix account, I love attending concerts and music festivals. As a proud Chicago native, I also enjoy exploring restaurants in the eclectic neighborhoods of my hometown.

What kind of research are you working on this summer? Who are you working with?

This summer, I worked with Rebecca Zorach at Northwestern University, exploring the relationship between Black womanhood, sexuality, stereotypes, and food through an investigation of representations of chicken and watermelon in contemporary art. I surveyed works from Black women artists and analyzed the manners in which they employed stereotypical food imagery.

What have you learned so far?

I have learned the importance of working with peers who are as invigoratingly passionate about their work as you are. In being surrounded by such a diverse range of research interests it is refreshing to see other students who are so dedicated to their fields. I was really able to learn different ways to cope with the highs and lows of research and academia from other students. I've learned to refuse to be trampled by the challenges of my work, but to instead embrace them.

What part(s) of this experience will benefit you most? How so?

Being able to connect with students who look like me and are also dedicated to similar goals is incredibly beneficial. We often discussed how wonderful it will be to look out and see a familiar face when attending future conferences in our fields. I think it is important to feel that I am growing, learning, and networking with people who will one day be leaders and innovators.

What do you want your faculty mentor and/or university to remember about you?

I initially had no idea what I'd be doing at Northwestern this summer, but I came up with a creative project that explored my various interests in an original way, and because of this I'd like to be remembered as an inventive and artistic.

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