Beverly Thompson, W&M Class of 1999
Beverly Thompson arrived at William & Mary in 1994, four years after graduating from the University of Central Florida with a Master’s degree in Computer Science. In her five years at the College, Thompson forged lasting relationships with faculty and completed a dissertation as a part of her program.
After graduating in 1999 with a Ph.D. in Computer Science, Thompson began working at Sandia National Laboratories. Shortly after, she moved to take a position at Leidos, formerly named Science Applications International Corporation. She currently serves as a senior scientist under Leidos while also doing humanitarian work under the United Nations. She also works with Career Girls, an online platform providing young women access to career exploration tools.
In her interview, Thompson says that she owes her husband’s assignment to Fort Lee for her time studying computer science at William & Mary. Despite the College’s historically unwelcoming environment towards African Americans, Thompson says that her department created a “family type of space.” She cites the presence of female faculty as contributing to this feeling of community. In the computer science department, Thompson researched in the agricultural field. She claims that this research aimed at “helping humanity” inspired her to continue working on humanitarian causes throughout her career. In discussing identity, Thompson describes feeling burdened by expectations and stereotypes surrounding African Americans at the College, while also feeling supported as a woman in the computer science department. Thompson emphasizes how the College’s program prepared her for the research she would do after graduation both in the biomedical field and in international development.
William & Mary
Interviewee: Beverly Thompson
Interviewer: Carmen Bolt
Interview Date: November 9, 2018
Carmen: My name is Carmen Bolt, the oral historian at William & Mary. It’s currently around 12:30 p.m. on November 9, 2018. I’m sitting in the William & Mary Washington Center in Washington, D.C. with Dr. Beverly Thompson, a graduate alumna of the class of 1999. So I know I’ve already said it, but can you go ahead and repeat back your name and the date and place of your birth, and then what years you attended William & Mary?
Beverly: Sure. My name is Beverly Thompson. I attended William & Mary from 1994 to 1999. I graduated in 1999, Ph.D. in computer science.
Carmen: Great. And can you tell me, before we jump into your time at William & Mary, a little bit about where and how you were raised and some about your family/
Beverly: So I was born in Tallahassee, Florida. I’m from the South. I’m a Southern girl. I was the youngest in a family of four. I have two brothers and a sister. It was four of us.
00:01:03 Let’s see. I was kind of…wasn’t just the youngest, but I guess also the spoiled child as well. And a lot of who and what I am in terms of science and my interest in that was kind of based on the fact that my sister did a lot to kind of encourage me as a child. So I went to museums, and liked science fiction, and all those type of things. So even though my parents only had like a middle school education, and they didn’t finish high school, and they didn’t go to college, I was able, from the encouragement from my sister and my brothers, to go to college, as they did.
00:01:56 So my parents were really proud of kind of all my accomplishments. And although my father wasn’t here to see me graduate—he had passed away when I was in college—to see me get my Ph.D., my mother was, so that was kind of a great accomplishment, I think, for the family.
Carmen: Yeah, I imagine she was so proud.
Beverly: Yeah. She didn’t understand what all of that computer science stuff was, but she knew it was something, so yeah.
Carmen: That’s awesome. A Ph.D. is something, definitely. So can you tell me a little bit—you mentioned your siblings were really impactful in getting you sort of on this track—but can you talk a little bit more about when you started to think about college and how you landed on the college you chose to attend?
Beverly: So I would say especially my sister, kind of through the course of me growing up in elementary school, middle school and high school, kind of always challenged me to be creative and try and explore different avenues for my interests, and so I really have to thank her for that.
00:03:02 She and my brothers also kind of helped with guiding me because they all had gone to college and they all had gotten master’s degrees as well. So it was kind of a natural pace for me, I think, to go to college. And I got interested in computer science because I think maybe around 11th grade our guidance counselors were helping us go through the process of figuring out what we wanted to do, where we wanted to go to college, what we wanted to major in. And at that time you’re talking about ’80, ’81, ’82, so the whole notion of going into really an area, a career in computer science, was kind of really a new thing, especially with women. There wasn’t a whole lot of women to talk to about that.
00:03:58 But our guidance counselor gave us an opportunity just to explore computers on this…careers on this computer. And I was so fascinated by what we could do, what we could print off, what we could kind of explore, and I was like wow, maybe computer science would be kind of the role for me. So I thought about different schools and I wanted to stay in Florida. Tuition was better and living with parents was even better.
And Florida State University was right down the street from where we lived, so it was kind of a natural option, between that and Tallahassee Community College. And it turns out that I went to the computer science department and I really liked it. I loved what the courses were going to be, what I was going to be able to touch on and major in. And so I ended up computer science as to where I went at Florida State.
Carmen: That’s awesome. So you got your bachelor’s at Florida State and then you attended the University of Central Florida and received your master’s in computer science as well?
Beverly: Right, exactly. Exactly.
Carmen: How did you make that determination for your master’s? And coming out of undergrad, what did you envision your trajectory as?
Beverly: That’s a really good question because I came out and I had programming courses, so developing software, whether that was going to be for a government job, or an industry job, or a small business job. And so I was actually…wasn’t really sure, so I was taking internships. And I’d done a little bit of work for the state doing some software development. But part of me really felt like I wanted to explore more, and really maybe go on the research side of things.
00:05:58 And so I decided I would go and to seek master’s programs. Going to University of Central Florida, I really liked their program. I had other family members who were in the area locally, so it kind of made it an easy transition, and I was able to get funding to go to school, so that made a big difference.
Carmen: Yes, understandably.
Beverly: Right. So with all those in mind, I decided I would continue on into a master’s program because I really wanted to explore doing research.
Carmen: Great. So once you went to University of Central Florida and you got your master’s there, and you started looking for Ph.D. programs as your next logical step, what were you looking for in a Ph.D. program, and how did William & Mary get on your radar?
Beverly: So this is going to be an interesting journey of how I got to William & Mary because I finished in 1990 in my master’s program.
00:07:01 And so I also got married the year before. So I was married to a military officer, and he had just gotten stationed, Desert Storm, so he was overseas. So it was kind of an opportunity for me, well, maybe I can go further while we’re kind of in this state, while he’s gone serving the country. And he was kind of encouraging that. So I wanted to do biomedical research, so I ended up applying to the University of South Florida. I was in their biomedical engineering program for a year. And I was able to get funding through the McKnight doctoral program. So that is actually the route I went through.
00:07:57 I was a radiology research assistant for a year while I was at University of South Florida looking at breast cancer research. And so that’s what I was going to focus on. So after a year, and he returned back, he got stationed in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, so I had to take off. So I left after a year, and I was in Florida for a while—I’m sorry—Arizona for a while. We were working for a company there and he was stationed there. And in 1994 he got stationed in Virginia, Fort Lee. Yes, exactly. So I was working for a company, the same company I was working for in Arizona, luckily. And the decision came around again, and it’s like, well, I really want to do a Ph.D. program.
00:08:55 And so we explored different programs and I ended up making a visit to William & Mary, which was…it was totally unexpected, but I loved the interaction that I had there. The staff was great, the office manager was great. The faculty chairman was Dr. Steve Park at the time. And I told him what I was interested in, and what I’d kind of done, and I wanted to do research. And they basically just laid out a great program for me, and also encouraged me, you know, we’ll be able to help you apply for some funding, because I couldn’t do the McKnight since it was Florida based. So after all of that I just decided to come to William & Mary. So that’s four years, actually, after completing…was it four years? No-no-no. 1990…yeah, exactly. Wow.
Carmen: And some trips all over the place.
Beverly: Trips all over.
Beverly: Yeah, and made it here. So that’s how I ended up choosing William & Mary. Well, there were a lot of things to offer as a result.
Carmen: Yeah. No, that’s great. And we can go into more of that also.
Beverly: Yeah, sure.
Carmen: But I want to know what your very first memories of William & Mary were. You mentioned kind of your interactions with the department. But what did it look like, smell like, feel like?
Beverly: So when I first get to Williamsburg, and you’re in this historic place, so that in itself had a lot of mixed feelings, right? Because you know the history of slavery, what Williamsburg mean, what Yorktown mean, what’s Jamestown, and so you’re kind of in this space where, you know, it was a different experience for your ancestors.
00:10:51 So here I have the opportunity to go to school and kind of really make an impact in the school and this history, so it was kind of overwhelming. And then I get on the campus and it’s beautiful, right? And it’s historic, it’s all of that. And so you try to figure out will I really fit in here as well, you know. So it was a lot of mixed feelings at the time, and it was a lot of mixed feelings even when I started.
Beverly: You know. So it was just a mix of wow, historic, oh gosh, this is new, what is this going to mean for me, basically.
Carmen: Absolutely. And how about the first weeks or months, or really even that first year being at William & Mary, what were the feelings you had about that? And did that change over the course of the time you were there?
Beverly: So my feelings about the university—actually, it took a while for me to kind of really get into who and what they were because I was driving from the Fort Lee area, right?
Beverly: So I was driving, what, maybe it was an hour, hour and a half, couple hours, something like that, so I was a commuter student for the first year. So I basically came in to take classes, you know, and then often I’d leave. So kind of the whole sense of the university and who and what Williamsburg was really didn’t…you didn’t get a feel for it for about a year. And it kind of dawned on me in time in terms of okay, because a lot of my focus was the department, right? So I was getting to know the staff, getting to know the students. I kind of had a…I built a camaraderie. But, you know, there were no other African American females. There was another African American male, but that was about it.
00:12:58 So it was kind of getting used to kind of being just myself in this space. It’s not one that I’m not used to, but it was kind of getting back into that space, and who am I, and how do I fit in, and really trying to understand who and what William & Mary is, because, you know, I’d heard a lot of things about the university, and not all of them were relatively good in terms of its kind of number of African Americans there, their history of not being the most welcoming university. And so a lot of what I had to do was balance my experience with what I heard and try and reconcile do these two things actually mirror, do they make sense, is this different. So a lot of that was the first year as well.
Carmen: Yeah, that makes complete sense.
Carmen: Just being a Ph.D. student and then also trying to reconcile these…your own narrative there, yeah, and then the narrative of William & Mary, for sure.
Beverly: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Carmen: Wow. So I want to hear more specifically—well, to be honest, I want to hear more about William & Mary and I want to hear more about your time in the department. So maybe we can start with the department, what your experience there was like, and then also any notable professors you had and why they were so important to you.
Beverly: So my experience at the department was actually really good. Out of all the backdrop of everything that I said about the narrative about who or what it was, being in the department was just kind of like a family kind of space, you know.
00:15:00 Our office manager, Vanessa [Godwin], she took care of all of us. And I feel like she did a really good job of really kind of taking care of me and making sure I always felt comfortable. My dissertation chair, Steve Park, was really good. And he was welcoming. He told my husband at the time, he was like, we’ll take care of her. You know, she’ll make it through this program and don’t worry. So kind of moving in with them kind of laying that course for me, it was really good. I had good interaction with the faculty. Some of the faculty who were there at the time and who are still there, actually, Dr. Mao, Weizhen Mao, is still there. Dr. Virginia Torczon, although she’s the dean now, she was there.
00:15:57 Dr. Evgenia Smirni, she is also there. And so they were who I looked up to because they were other women in the department, and they made themselves available to you, because they weren’t just your instructors, but they were women who you could look and see and kind of pattern, you know, your course of study through. So I would say they were probably the community for me, I think.
Carmen: Sure. And you brought it up a little bit before when you were choosing your computer science track initially, but going to…getting your education in the 1990s when there’s such a digital, like communications technology revolution, what did that look like as a student? Were you expected to be on the forefront of every new thing? What was that like? And also being a woman in a relatively new field and a male dominated field.
Beverly: Sure. Well, it’s interesting because I was going the route that actually most students were not because my chair and my co-chair at the time were actually very closely aligned with NASA, right? And so they had had kind of a really good career working with NASA. They were kind of co-researchers there. And so my field was going to be a lot more relatable to the aerospace side, right? And so in that perspective it wasn’t so much kind of looking at what’s the latest, greatest technology and jumping into that perspective, it is where are we pushing technology from the aerospace side into an area of where it can be the most helpful to people.
00:17:52 And so that is something that I wanted to do. So when I did my work in spectral analysis, spectral classification, it was applied to how can we use this remote sensing imagery, this satellite imagery that’s been used in all these applications to help the agricultural field. So how do we use it to take pictures of agricultural fields, to collect data, to help farmers do their job better, right?
So for me it was kind of breaking open that space of where are we pushing technology towards helping people, helping humanity, that type of thing. So that’s kind of what it meant for me. And it was a good space and direction for me because I had always been in that space of what is technology going to do to help. It’s one of the reasons why I went into the biomedical field. So when I got introduced to the possibilities of doing this research with Dr. Park and Dr. [Ramen] at the time, it was really perfect for me.
00:19:02 And also with my older brother, who had spent many years as an agriculturalist, it was interesting to have a perspective of working in this field as a technologist when he had worked many years on the ground working with farmers. He worked for the Farmers Bureau. So we used to have interesting conversations about what he did on the ground as opposed to all this technology and imagery and all the stuff I was doing to help really in similar ways.
Carmen: That’s like your ideal line of communication, right, between those fields, it totally is.
Carmen: Seeing how the innovative thinking and putting that into practice is impacting individuals on the ground.
Beverly: Yes. Yes, yes. And being able to complete this research at William & Mary that had this type of impact kind of led into me continuing to do this for the next 20 years.
00:20:00 So I’ve always looked for projects that had kind of an impact in terms of some science, medicine, humanitarian causes, all of that, so yeah.
Carmen: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I was doing research and just reading over what you had sent me and shared with me. I definitely, even as you were just saying, looking at something that exists and seeing how it can be used toward humanitarian aid—
Carmen: —toward new areas and fields. I can just see how that is a line that has gone straight through your life and career. And I can’t wait to get to that point, but before we do—
Beverly: Okay. No problem.
Carmen: —just a couple more things from your time at William & Mary before we look at your professional trajectory.
Beverly: Sure. Sure, sure.
Carmen: So there were a couple of notable individuals working either on campus or around campus when you were attending. Now you mentioned your first year was mostly commuter—
Beverly: Right, exactly.
Carmen: —so it might have impacted whether or not you were able to see these individuals. Also being a grad student I think made this a different experience. But Dean Carroll Hardy. She did end up retiring, I think, maybe even that first or second year you were there. But I’m not sure if you had any interactions with her.
Beverly: I didn’t have any interactions. No, I didn’t. Oh, gosh.
Carmen: No. And then Sam Sadler, Dean of Students, was around. But I’m not sure, again, how much interaction he had with graduate students versus undergraduate students.
Beverly: No, didn’t have any.
Carmen: And then Bob Noonan, who was professor of computer science. I just read that he had just passed, and I was wondering if you had any memories.
Beverly: Yes. I was actually going to mention him as well because Dr. Noonan was there. I took his courses, of course. And when I came back last year for, I believe it was homecoming, when you started the 50th anniversary.
Beverly: And so it was good to actually see him. He was there. His wife Debbie Noonan was there. And I have pictures of him that I took during the computer science diploma ceremony.
00:22:01 So he was there, and I’m so sad of his passing and all he’s gone through. But it was so great for me to see him because he was part of my experience there, you know. And to know that he still has had this impact at the school and at the university means a lot. And I feel just privileged I know him, I knew him.
Carmen: Yeah, absolutely. I was surprised to read, when I was reading into his time at William & Mary, that he kind of was part of the push to create the computer science program in the first place.
Beverly: He was it. He was…I would consider him one of the founding fathers, I think. So it’s significant him being there and it’s significant of him passing away, yeah.
Carmen: Yeah, absolutely. So switching gears a little bit, I would love to hear some of your favorite memories from your time at William & Mary, anything. Favorite memory.
Beverly: So the nerd that I am, right—and I’ve been thinking about this because part of my favorite memories are about kind of all of the things that I had a chance to experience that only a little girl, I think, would dream of kind of from where I came from. So I was granted a fellowship through the NASA Graduate Student Researchers program. That was huge for me, right? So this is a major award for three years. My tuition, everything covered, right, plus money for travel. So I had a chance to travel there, you know. My dissertation chairman still did research there. My co-chair was there even more, so I got to go there often.
00:23:56 I was able to do presentations there. And so it was kind of like this dream thing. So when I think about Katherine Johnson, I was like wow, I was in the same space as her. I don’t even think…and I didn’t really even know her story at the time.
Beverly: So it’s a fond memory because I had a chance to do this. And I had a chance to represent the department and the school at the time as well because those programs were actually not that old when I started. Then I received a fellowship of the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. So it was just…the opportunity to just do work and be present and represent, and go to all these cool places that…yeah.
Beverly: Yeah, I just really love it. It means a lot. It means a lot. One of my other memories—again nerdy—is the fact that when Dr. Park opened up, when we were able to, as graduate students, work at the computational science classroom. So we had our own little offices. We had our offices as grad students. Oh, my god. [Laughs.]
Carmen: It’s a sacred space.
Beverly: It was, it was. And it was a new home and you felt kind of like an adult, right, because most times as a grad student you kind of shoved in some room with 50 others and—
Carmen: That was my experience.
Beverly: Right, exactly, you know, and you’re not like different people, you’re like grad students. That’s your category. But when we moved over we had our own offices and our own space, and you could look out the window, and you felt like a researcher.
Beverly: Like I’m a researcher. And I think there’s something about it that I just…it marked a really important time.
Carmen: Sure. That would have been so validating and affirming—
Beverly: Yeah, it was. It was a validating thing, absolutely. And by this time I was spending more time in Williamsburg as well, so it really had a lot more impact.
Carmen: Sure. And what about beyond the campus, since you were spending more time in Williamsburg? Were there any places that became special to you or that you enjoyed going? Any restaurants you liked eating at in particular? Anything of note?
Beverly: Not actually. I really, you know, I commuted in for a long time and I left. And my last year I actually moved to Williamsburg and stayed for a year. And by that time I was finishing my dissertation. Some personal things were going on my life. I was going through a divorce. My professor, Dr. Park, his wife was going through cancer.
00:26:58 So it was kind of a time where I didn’t really have a lot of fun time, I’ll say. It was a transition.
Carmen: Yeah, you were in the thick of it.
Beverly: Yeah, very much so. Very much so, yeah.
Carmen: Thanks for sharing that.
Beverly: Yeah, sure.
Carmen: So switching directions again—I always put these after one another. I don’t know why I do that. I want to hear about any difficult experiences you had on campus or off campus during your time at William & Mary and how those affected you.
Beverly: Sure. And that leads into it because at the time when Dr. Park’s wife was going through cancer, and that was affecting all of us, right, because he’s going through a lot, but he’s continuing to be our dissertation chair, and be there for us, and direct us. But I know that it was so hard for him.
00:27:56 And I was going through a divorce also. So it was just kind of…it was a really, really tough time. And then she passed, and she passed a few months before I was supposed to defend. And that’s a hard memory, that really is.
There’s one other memory that I actually have, and I had to think a lot about the circumstances of this. This occurred maybe a few years into me being a student, maybe…it could have been the second or third year. And it had to do with Dr. Park. He was teaching, adjunct teaching at Norfolk State. And he had a situation that occurred with students where something he said to them in directing them in class that they took the wrong way.
00:29:04 And as someone who knows him, I mean, a man of great heart, okay? But I can’t remember what he said, but somehow it was misinterpreted by the students. He might have said you guys, all of you…it was something that he said to us all the time. And so the students that took offense, I can’t remember whether they had filed a formal complaint, but some complaints had been made. And he and I had this difficult conversation about what he said.
00:29:52 And, you know, and I had to explain to him about the context of the word. And it’s a word that kind of, for African Americans, you know, doesn’t always have a good connotation to it, you know. And so I can’t remember what actually, kind of how it was resolved. I think I might have been asked to write kind of…what do you call it?
Carmen: Like a character…?
Beverly: Yeah, thank you. Yeah, for him, like a character reference. I can’t remember whether I had to do it or not. But it was a really, really tough time. It was really hard because I’m juggling between I’m the character reference for my professor who’s white over the other African American students who have a legitimate grievance, you know.
00:30:56 And how am I going to resolve this? What is this going to look like? Oh my god, how did we get there? How did we get here, you know, in this program? So it was unpleasant, but it allowed he and I to have more conversations about my experience, I think, and I think he had a better understanding of my experience as an African American student.
Carmen: Sure. Do you remember what his…sort of how he responded or received what you were telling him?
Beverly: Oh, completely. Yeah, yeah. He understood. He understood. I understand the context from where he was coming from. But he understood mine. So I think we had a mutual understanding, yeah. Sometimes it takes that, you know, for this to happen. It’s a good…it’s a bad memory, but it’s also a good memory because I think that I was in a department at a right time to be able to give him the right kind of feedback.
Beverly: Because I don’t know who else would have been able to give him that feedback, so yeah.
Carmen: Absolutely. So more broadly—and it speaks to this—but more broadly, what was the experience of being an African American woman on William & Mary’s campus in the 1990s, if you can speak to that?
Beverly: Well, what’s the experience like all over, right? So it was another space of being kind of the one and few, you know, and you feeling like here you are in the space, and it’s often a feeling of like you’re representing your whole race as you’re walking around, which can be kind of tiring.
Beverly: With people also not sure of who you are and how did you get here, right? So also during that time is where a lot of opportunities were being made for African Americans in spaces, and so there was the issue of what’s happening with affirmative action, and how much is that at play into the enrollment numbers, and the recruiting, and so you get questions of, you know, you have to prove why you deserve to be there, basically. So you spend a lot of time proving. So you kind of walked around with your resume on your back a lot, you know?
But as hard as that was—and I’d kind of gotten used to it because, I mean, I graduated in ’82, so I had been in spaces when I was in Florida State in computer science where I was kind of the only African American in that program.
00:34:07 So you’re kind of used to being in that space to where you’re sort of in the spotlight, and you don’t have others around. William & Mary was no different. It was no different. I think I could better handle it because I was older and I’d had an opportunity to know who I was and be confident of who I was. I could see that being a different experience for undergraduates. I can definitely see that. And I really wish I had had the opportunity to interact with more women who were part of the school at the time.
Carmen: But definitely by the graduate years I think you are so typically insular to your department that really you’re not getting out on the campus all that much to interact with the campus at large.
Beverly: Yeah, yeah. Mm-hmm.
Carmen: So I always ask this question because so often I hear that individuals’ experience at William & Mary was…it’s been defined as being in a bubble, or isolated, or set apart, like occurring in a vacuum, almost. And I wonder, because college campuses are like little microcosms of society.
Beverly: They are. They are.
Carmen: So I always ask how students saw nationwide, worldwide sociopolitical issues or the climate play out on campus, so things going on in the world during the time you were at William & Mary, like the AIDS crisis, or the Oklahoma City bombings, or the Chicago heat wave, the Clinton administration, O.J. Simpson trial, Y2K.
Carmen: Right there at the end Y2K. Especially given your background working with computers and all of that.
Beverly: I know, I know.
Carmen: Did you see that play out on campus, or did you have conversations even within your department of these different things going on?
Beverly: So I agree with you about being on campus was like being in a bubble. And being a graduate student and Ph.D., it’s even more, right? Your world exists here, and you don’t actually have time for another. But you did have a chance to have conversations about what’s kind of going on. And Dr. Park was very political savvy and watched the news, so we always had conversations about what was going on in the world, which was kind of really funny at the time. But it was a bubble. And for the most part everything that was going on outside for me didn’t really exist inside in terms of event-wise.
00:36:55 But for me, my bubble was still the typical experience of being the only African American in the space, right, or very few, and so that dynamic was actually larger than any other that was going on. Because for me it was managing being the only one and expectations and what that means. So I think that that was the bubble or the space in which I lived in.
Carmen: Still a political space, still all of that, but yeah, a different lens through which...
Carmen: Yeah, absolutely.
Beverly: It’s still political, but it was a cultural experience that I had lived outside of the university. I was still living it in the space. I was still living it, yeah.
Carmen: Yeah. And I hear…I’ve heard similar things even from students who graduated last year. I think that’s one of maybe the really useful parts of collecting these interviews, is seeing how that has persisted, and what that means, and how William & Mary changes to become a more accommodating or safe space for individuals.
Carmen: Well, that is one of my questions, actually, if you have seen any changes at William & Mary over time or have seen them from even afar over time, and what you think about those changes.
Beverly: So I like the fact that there are more women that seem to be on campus now. The numbers are up. The numbers of African American students are really up, which, I really love that. I was really happy for a while the amount of students that they were admitting, African American, in the computer science department. Even at the master’s level it looked like they were doing well.
00:38:53 So I think that William & Mary is making strides to become more diverse. They’re making strides, I’ll say that. However, they do have a long way to go, especially in the case of myself, because I didn’t realize until last year, when, at my company I had been one of the nominees at the Black Engineer of the Year conference and I did—here’s my little pin—for our technology leader, I did get an award. Because I send information back to the computer science department all the time just so that they know what’s going on. And so I sent this information to the department, and they did a write-up and everything, and so I said, well, how are you doing with African Americans in the department, and how are things changing?
00:39:59 And at that point I realized I was like the first female, African American female to get a Ph.D., and the only one. So I was like oh my god, so in terms of the department things actually kind of backtracked a little bit. They didn’t make as many strides there. And so that was kind of shocking to me. So when I look back over the 20 years I’ve been gone I see where the college has really kind of grown in terms of numbers, and emphasis on growing numbers, but they still have some ways to go in some of these places, especially with the department, so I was really shocked by that.
Carmen: I mean, both pieces of that really like astounding information, right, that you were the first, in 1999, the first.
Beverly: Yes, yes.
Carmen: And that’s majorly significant. But also yes, to think that you graduated 20 years ago and there hasn’t since been…yeah.
Beverly: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Carmen: Well, it sounds like you’ve definitely brought attention to it, to your department, at the very least.
Beverly: Yeah. And of course they were aware of it. And I think that…it appeared to me that they’re taking strides to keep their population as diverse. And I know that technology departments are being challenged in this area all over, to try and keep their diverse group of students up. So the challenges that William & Mary are having are not any different than others that I’ve heard. I don’t know whether the political climate, though, is adding to challenges with this.
00:41:58 Because William & Mary can be a tough place for African American students to come. It can be harder with the climate that’s going on around it. And so there may be a choice from some to where, oh, maybe not, you know. In this space and time I want to be in a more supportive environment. And I can understand that, for sure. I really can. And I think that for William & Mary that’s going to be a challenge if they understand that they live in this context of history, with this political environment around us. They’re going to have to actually do more than they’re doing now, even more. Wow.
Carmen: Yeah. No, I think we have not even begun to see the impacts of the current political climate on—even if you just take a college campus on admission rates, on application rates.
Carmen: On where individuals are choosing to go because of feeling supported or not feeling supported.
Beverly: And feeling not supported not just on the campus, just in general as a human. A student will probably be like let me just go to another university where I know that they have space, they have organizations, they have kind of a space that I know that I’ll be taken care of. I can understand that.
Carmen: And a space that’s already carved out, maybe, because—
Beverly: It’s already carved out. There’s already history there, you know. Exactly.
Carmen: You mentioned the weight of being the person to carry kind of the mantle for…
Carmen: Yeah, completely understandable to not want to have to do that in addition to going and being a student and getting your degree.
Beverly: It can be tiring. It really can. It can be tiring.
Carmen: Well, on just the topic of space and identity I wanted to ask one more question before we transition to your time post William & Mary. And it’s pretty broad, but are there any areas of your life specifically, or your identity, or who you are as a person that you felt particularly supported in, or alternately, not supported in at all when you were at William & Mary?
Beverly: As contrary as this sounds, I feel like, I really do feel like my identity as a woman was supported in the department, okay? I really did. And as a female. And part of it may be that my professor and the office manager realized that I was away from my husband, who was being stationed different places, so I sort of…I wasn’t a child, but also I had a whole lot of other real life things that were going on that could affect really how well I do this program and that might affect whether I actually finish this program.
00:45:15 So I feel like in that, because of that I think that they took more care in making sure that I was okay. I can’t say that that happens everywhere. I can’t even say that that happens with all students. But I feel like that happened with me. So it’s all these contrary things that are going on, right? Me feeling unique in the department, feeling kind of pressure on different sides, but also feeling like there were advocates that were going to make sure that I made it. So yeah. Isn’t that kind of a whole bunch of… [Laughs.]
Carmen: But it speaks to identity, right?
Carmen: Like it speaks to it, where nobody’s one thing. And it definitely speaks to the intersection of your experience at William & Mary, and being supported in some ways, but simultaneously not in others. Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s helpful to hear for—
Beverly: Because I really do feel that in my department, for obvious reasons, it was important that I graduate. It was. It was important that they could get through this hump and say that we are bringing African Americans through the pipeline, as slow as it may be. So I feel like there was maybe some importance there.
Beverly: To make sure, you know, that I was able to do so. Yeah.
Carmen: I mean—and we’ll get into—I keep wanting jump ahead. We’ll get into this in a minute. But it definitely, I guess that kind of…something that you do with Career Girls, right, like this idea of identifying individuals who have made it and have accomplished such things, and demonstrating that that can be done, because if no one has done it yet, even in a specific space like William & Mary, then who’s to say it can be done, unless somebody has gone before. So being the first is so significant in that way, so yeah.
Beverly: Especially when I…I don’t know how I didn’t realize that I was the first in that context. I knew that this was a unique experience, but I don’t think really kind of how great this was didn’t hit me for actually a while.
Carmen: That’s wild.
Beverly: Yeah. It’s probably good, right? [Laughs.]
Carmen: No, it’s super significant. Yeah, I mean, it’s just an astounding story. But as you mentioned, it also is interesting to look back and see how it hasn’t happened since then, and hope for what’s to come.
Beverly: I have hope, yeah.
Carmen: So if we could not transition to your time post William & Mary, your career trajectory, what were you looking at? How were you feeling, about to graduate from William & Mary with your Ph.D., what were your sights set on? And can you walk me through kind of your career trajectory coming out?
Beverly: So first of all, the month before I finished I got divorced, which was a major thing, right? But I also had finished this dissertation and gotten all that through. And so I was moving onto the space of like a real job, real money, okay? Full-time work. So I actually felt really good because it was new beginnings all around, right? I was single again. I was going to be able to start a new job. So it was really exciting. It really was
00:49:03 Also, too, kind of interviewing right before I kind of graduated, because I had gotten a job before then, and just kind of understanding, okay, what my degree is, and what it buys me, and how I can actually go into places and get like this salary which was like, you know, something I had not really had for a long time, and the possibilities of it, and all the places that I could work. So it was really exciting. I ended up getting a job at Sandia National Laboratories. Are we moving to that space?
Beverly: Is that what you’re asking? Okay.
Carmen: Well, no, I mean, just walk me through however you…
Beverly: Oh, okay, sure. So I interviewed several companies. I ended up getting a job at Sandia National Laboratories, which was like great because this is going to be…
00:50:04 So this is what makes my dissertation so great, because it was a direct result of the research and the dissertation. So it’s like I’m qualified for this job because I did this research in this area. So I felt really great. I did a presentation there on my dissertation research and it was well received, all of that, and so now I’m going to be a scientist at this great laboratory.
So that part was really great. I really felt good. I was really happy. And it’s like William & Mary kind of prepared me for this, right? There’s no doubt about that. If I had not done the work that I had done, if I had not done the research I had done, if I had not taken the courses that I had taken I could not have gotten this job. So yeah. So William & Mary computer science rocks. [Laughs.]
Carmen: That’s awesome. No, that’s, I mean, that’s one of my questions for you, how your William & Mary education plays out.
Beverly: It did. It did. Absolutely it did. It did.
Carmen: And so you were at this particular job for a couple years before transitioning?
Beverly: Right. So I was there for a year and a few months, actually. I did not stay at Sandia as long as I thought. And part of the reason actually had to do with a family situation, because my mother was becoming…was having more health challenges at the time and so was spending a lot of time flying back from Albuquerque to Florida. And so that was kind of…it’s not like a straight shot flight, so it’s a kind of a all day thing. And so after a while I felt like I probably need to just go back to the East Coast, I think that’s just going to be better.
00:51:55 And so I ended up looking for jobs, but I ended up finding a job in this area, which is a two hour flight to Florida, so it kind of worked out perfectly, and I ended up back where, you know, back in Virginia again, which is kind of nice.
Carmen: And that’s the location you’ve worked since, right? So you’re looking at what, about 20 years of…?
Beverly: Yes, exactly. So I moved back here in 2001, March 2001, yes, so it’s been 17 and a half years, something like that. Yeah, it’s amazing. At the same company.
Carmen: So I want to talk about that a little bit. So the company is Leidos [LAY-dos]?
Beverly: So it’s Leidos [LIE-dos], but the original name of the company is Science Applications International Corporation, and that’s one reason why—
Carmen: The switch?
Beverly: SAIC, yes. And so I read a lot about the company, and I came in and got an interview, and things looked really great.
00:52:58 And it’s interesting, when I interviewed, because I interviewed for this job doing remote, as a remote sensing scientist and all of this stuff, and it’s going to be really great. When I got here they actually needed a group of us to do biomedical research. Can you believe that? So I’m like wow, so I get a chance to kind of go back to where I was trying to get to when I was at South Florida. So Science Applications International. They changed their name in 2013 because the company split, and so part of the company retained the SAIC and then research, development, intelligence community, defense part—
Carmen: Became Leidos.
Beverly: Right, exactly.
Carmen: Wow, so you’re currently serving as senior scientist.
Carmen: But you worked for, like you said, 17 years. So can you talk about some of the most impactful or meaningful projects you’ve worked on, how you’ve seen your job and your role there change and transition over the past couple decades?
Beverly: Okay. So in 17 and a half years I swear I could write a book on what your career can be like as a computer scientist, how great William & Mary graduate students are, and how great it is to be a female, okay? I could talk about all of these things. Because for me, I started off 17 and a half years ago doing biomedical research on this team. We were developing this technology to help pathologists read biopsy slides better.
00:55:03 So it was called segmentation of tissue, tissue slides, right, histopathology. So I did that for…I was on that project for a couple of years. We did great research. I became the team leader because the men were fighting all the time, so… [Laughs.] I bubbled up to the top as the team leader because myself and the person on the other team we worked with were the only ones that got along with each other. So it was the first lesson on leadership really quick, okay? So I learned to be a leader. I did that research for a while. I was then given an opportunity to—but I’m like I want to go back to remote sensing stuff. It’s like no, I got another opportunity to be a PI lead to do a breast cancer project, okay?
00:56:01 So I’m the lead on that, and that was almost about five years. So working with other organizations outside of SAIC, doing great stuff in digital mammography research, microwave DNA gene analysis, all of that. So now I’m leading projects, doing research, kind of building up this resume of credentials. Then I was moved on to become a technology center leader also in the applied science division, so I did that for a while. So then, after that, I moved back into more remote sensing stuff. And then I actually went back to school. [Laughs.]
Carmen: Right, yes, that’s right, you did.
Beverly: I did. Do you want me to talk about that?
Carmen: Yeah, I want to hear more about this because I think it’s also such an interesting kind of path that you’ve taken in your more recent educational experience, so please talk about it.
Beverly: So while I’m going through this whole science career, as a female I’m also becoming more aware of what is happening to females around the world, right? So I started supporting a lot of organizations that support women in conflict countries. So I had sisters through Women for Women International, and I was reading about their stories, and I was sending money, and I was going to volunteer, and I was doing all these things while building my science career.
And so around 2009, 2010 I kind of hit this space where what really am I doing, what more can I do with my career, and what am I doing for the lives of all these women that I have been reading about and supporting?
00:57:59 So I went to Africa, stayed in Zimbabwe in a village for a month, which, people are like, what? Your first time, right? So I met these amazing people, these amazing women, these amazing kids. So I came back and I said okay, I’ve got to do international development. And so people are like what? You have a great science career. Well, I do, yeah, but there’s another part of me that wants to do other things.
So I started off in international development. I was visiting countries like once or twice a year trying to get experience on the ground, going to communities. And what’s so interesting about all of that is that you take all of yourself with you, right? So as I’m on the ground looking at communities and hearing about what’s going on with erosion, mudslides in areas, areas being affected by drought, all other type of things that are going on, also in my mind I’m thinking about technology-wise.
00:59:06 Okay. Oh yeah, that’s right, we studied this here. We use satellite imagery for that. Oh wow, we should connect them with this particular device to help them get a better idea of what’s going on in their farms. So all of this is happening as well. And so I’m kind of seeing this intersection now of where my technology and what’s going on in the world can have an effect. So that’s sort of what ended up happening with me.
And at that time I was becoming more involved with Career Girls, right, so this online platform of the interviews of all these great women. And so we were focusing on women in STEM and the impact that they are having in the world. So all of these things are kind of combining together, if it makes sense.
01:00:00 So when I finished my degree I had several organizations in my company were like can you come and work on some projects that are related to deploying technology in certain cultural settings, because of the amount of time I had spent on the ground in so many places. So now I’m combining all of these things, right? Which is kind of where I wanted to be anyway, you know. So when I had an opportunity, I think it’s been about a year or so ago, to work on a project where we were going to use kind of geospatial technology to help organizations like WHO or…in Atlanta, my god…CDC. I’m sorry, drawing a blank.
01:00:59 With helping groups on the ground track nomadic tribes in places of Africa, right? And for many reasons, one, being able to track them so that they can figure out what type of mapping, what type of planning that they can do to meet them so that they can give them immunization. But you have a lot of these tribes that are being affected by conflict that’s going on in their regions, so it’s much harder to track them than it was before. But being able to kind of be in the space of saying we can add technology here and here, and this can help.
So after I started doing that type of work and I said this is why you get technology degrees, and this is why women need technology degrees, because we can see into the future of how is this really going to help society as a whole, right? So I just feel… [Laughs.]
Carmen: I’m sitting here smiling. [Laughs.] I’m inspired. I don’t know what my face looks like, but it’s so inspiring.
Beverly: You do, you do!
So, you know, through Career Girls, when we’re talking about empowerment it’s like how do you get girls excited about STEM? And you tell them how they can make a difference in their world. And once you can show them that, then I think it makes a difference. Even when…which is so amazing to me, to come back and do the diploma ceremony speech because the whole speech for me was just to talk about what have I done for 17 and a half years and what you can do with what you have. And you can do even more, right, because you’ve got even the more latest technology, right?
01:02:57 You’re grad students, you’re Ph.D. students, and these are the things that you can do. Because of all the places that I’ve been, I know where this technology is needed. So anyway. [Laughs.]
Carmen: Anyway, after all of that amazing, just how you were able to tie together and marry all these different interests you have and really what…it’s called. You sent me on the thing, it’s inno…not innovator. What am I thinking?
Carmen: Yeah, innovidual. Yes, yeah. I cannot…I was losing my train of thought, too. But yes, that’s what I was saying 30 minutes ago or whatever when I was like it’s so clear how you started so early on thinking about how these technologies, and technologies that have been used for other purposes can be applied for humanitarian purposes—
Beverly: Yes, absolutely.
Carmen: —for like the betterment of the world. That’s awesome.
Beverly: Absolutely. And I guess one of the things which I feel really proud about is that Dr. Park would be really proud if he was still alive. And that’s the one thing that I miss. I was like oh my gosh. Because it’s his job as chair, as a dissertation chair, to make sure that we make it to this point, and then after that it’s kind of on us. But I always tell people, wherever I go, I am really what he shaped me to be. And I always will be one of his students, no matter what.
Carmen: I’m sure he would be very proud.
Beverly: Yeah, yeah.
Carmen: I mean, every single piece, even the year, you know, in Southern Florida, like every single piece has somehow played out later on in your life. You’ve been able to pull all those things together, and that’s just really quite the—
Beverly: And I feel like for me I was maybe the unlikely person. And even all these schools that I went through. I mean, I made good courses. There were other, you know, straight A people, people who had better GPAs than I, but somehow, though, I was just meant to be on this track. So there’s a lot of things that determine how well you’ll do. And I feel like part of it isn’t just the degree, but it’s everything else that kind of makes up who you are. And helping kids not just learn a skill, but get in touch with who they are, makes a big difference, I think, in how far they’ll actually grow.
Carmen: Absolutely. Yeah, I was scrolling through the Career Girls website and just looking at just the wealth of just so many individuals who have been interviewed speaking of their own trajectories and their own type of work that they do, and what’s possible.
Carmen: And then I know there have been efforts, maybe successful—you can help me clarify—to create means of viewing these videos and accessing these videos when you don’t have the technological infrastructure that you have in Washington, D.C., necessarily.
Beverly: And we’re working on that now.
Carmen: What do you envision as kind of the next step there? So once the videos are able to be accessed and that spark and that confidence is instilled, are there other things in place to help move then on to the next steps into the educational routes that’ll lead upward and onward?
Beverly: So with speaking of the Career Girls site, so for every role model that’s on there there’s also curriculum that a student can actually access, basically. So whatever she’s talking about, they can access additional information to explore that on their own.
01:07:00 Which is a great thing because now we’ve excited them, but we also have to give them information which will allow them to explore more. So there’s exercises. They can watch a whole set of videos. They can get like a little certificate. There’s information for how do I research this career, what classes do I need to take in college, and where can I go from there. And all of the information that’s available for educators as well to assist. Yeah, I think it’s great, yeah, you know, so…
Carmen: Right, because it’s one thing to place a seed or spark the…but then providing the resources to be able to—
Carmen: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Beverly: Absolutely. We’ve done two years of presentations at the UN Committee on the Status of Women, so I think that it’s being well received. And many of the comments that we get from women all over the world is that, you know, when are you going to do more role models around the world?
01:08:01 And we have done the 17 women from 17 African countries. And so our cofounder at the moment is in Japan and she’s doing interviews there. We have requests from several refugee camps who have technology centers that are being placed there, and they want the content there, so there’s a lot to be done. I would love to do William & Mary women, get them on the website.
Beverly: Who do I need to talk to? [Laughs.]
Carmen: We’ll talk. Maybe we can figure out where.
Beverly: It would be great.
Carmen: Yeah, absolutely.
Beverly: It would be great. And I think that they could have a whole page of William & Mary women.
Carmen: There’s such a network there—
Carmen: —of women who’ve gone on to do awesome, incredible things.
Beverly: Been doing so many things.
Beverly: Yeah, yeah, so…
Carmen: Oh, that’s great. And do you have any, like…I mean, clearly Career Girls can do just nothing but grow, right? And like there’s so many ways to take this, and avenues for this to go, and I can just see it getting bigger and better and more impactful. But do you have any personal just hopes or goals for your impact there, or even more broadly from a humanitarian perspective that you want to speak to?
Beverly: So we are in the process of doing our pilot for the mobile learning center that we have. So we collaborated with World Possible, and we have our content on their Raspberry Pi—their RACHEL. And World Possible is a great organization because they have provided a platform for educators with information. They can have their information actually placed on the RACHEL and the RACHEL works as an Internet and as a Wi-Fi.
01:09:56 And so literally kids can access it as if they were on the Internet. And they literally take all that information, put it on the RACHEL, and you won’t even know that you’re not on the Internet. So we did a demonstration at the UN CSW this year. I’ve done some for the Girl Scouts. And they didn’t know I was actually doing the whole demonstration on this little device, and they thought all of this was on a website. So they were accessing this thing and they were like this is what we’re accessing? It’s like yeah, on their phone they’re literally going through the website, so they didn’t even realize. So I think that being able to place that into more rural settings. We’re working on a pilot project now in Rwanda to do that with schools there.
01:10:53 Because a lot of questions have been, for people it’s like, well, why does a rural girl care about careers? I mean, that’s a U.S. thing. But part of what we have is inspiration, right? So we can’t bound a girl by where she is, right? So all you need to do is show her the world that she could have and what can result from that is amazing.
So because we’re getting requests from women from other countries to do other topics, so we may start talking about, like for India the issue is talking about child marriage and how can you possibly do things to avoid being in that space. For women who have been in refugee camps, how do they get out of the camp and talking about reconciliation, have these women talk about how do you reconcile with your neighbor given all of the conflict that you’ve come through.
01:11:56 So for us I think it’s creating a bigger space now, not just for girls to talk about their careers, but to have women around the world talk about how they’ve gone through these many facets of challenges in their lives, but they’ve made it. So I’m hoping that’s where we eventually end up.
Carmen: That’s incredible. The space of being a woman around the world.
Beverly: Yes, yes, exactly. Exactly.
Carmen: That’s awesome.
Beverly: So I want to be a William & Mary graduate who speaks at the UN, right? That’s me. I want a podium to talk to the world. That’s where I’m headed. Just saying. You heard it here. [Laughs.]
Carmen: Yep, it’s here first. It’s here first. This will probably go live right about the time you’re getting on the podium at the UN.
Beverly: That is so great.
Carmen: Like right here, it happened. I saw it, I heard it.
Carmen: So yeah, I mean, that is all incredible. I mean, you saw my face. Nobody else can, but you did, so… Just inspired.
01:13:00 It’s been wonderful to talk about all of that, just your entire career trajectory. And I was hoping maybe kind of as we near the end I could bring it back around just to William & Mary. You’ve spoken so much about how you’ve seen your experience at William & Mary play out in such awesome ways. So I was just wondering if you’re still involved with William & Mary, in what ways. We met at an event last year for the bricklaying ceremony, so I didn’t know if you were still involved with any groups or committees or with William & Mary.
Beverly: So I was asked again to join the advisory board for Arts & Sciences, and so I contemplated that for a while, so we went in discussions about that again. And then I realized how crazy my schedule is.
Carmen: Sure. You’re doing a couple things, you know, just a couple.
Beverly: But I want to be more involved, though. I really do. So I’m hoping in the near future that I’ll be a part of the advisory board. That’s really a goal of mine. And I think that that would be a good space for me to kind of bring experience and to see where I can help kind of the university chart kind of their next path.
Also trying to do some more recruiting for the department. So next time when we’re bringing in interns see if we can get more interns from the department and see what we can do about recruiting-wise in general for students. So that’s kind of next on my list. I have to figure out where to put it, but yeah.
Carmen: Sure. And then I was wondering about your involvement with the Hulon Willis Association, or coming back for homecomings, or participating in even some of the events for the 50th last year.
Beverly: So I missed homecoming this year, but typically now it’s on my calendar. If they have something here I will attend. When they had the event with Katherine I was here. I was there for that. And so yeah. So I definitely want to become more involved with them. And I want to start coming back to homecoming more regularly because I know they try and do a lot during that time as well.
Carmen: Great. So while I just brought up the 50th we celebrated last year, 50 years of African Americans in residence, and we’re currently in a year commemorating 100 years of coeducation, just…
Carmen: Year after year, and it’s great, it’s wonderful, and we’ve, I think, learned a lot, and seen a lot, and tried to do a lot. But I was hoping maybe, since you were able to participate in some things, or you’ve been just kind of, you know, involved or observing some of those events, if you could reflect a little bit on what you think the impact of celebrating 50 years and 100 years is for a place like William & Mary.
Beverly: So wow, there’s so many ways to answer this because number one, the fact that they recognized that something needed to be done other than maybe having a 50th anniversary day, you know, or a program, but there appeared to be concerted effort throughout the year to raise awareness within the university, within the city, within the state, and I feel like within the country. That’s impactful for many reasons because I think the university recognizes the importance of doing so, recognizing these women and what they contributed, and also seeing that the only way they’re going to move forward is to step back and kind of take a look at who we were, what we were, what happened here, which doesn’t feel so good.
01:17:12 But it’s sort of kind of the way in which you mend and you make a start. So I think that that was very impactful, what was done. And it does—it’s interesting that the 50th African Americans coincides with the 100th because it feeds into it as well, you know? And for them to recognize women, it’s the same thing. The fact that they’re taking a concerted effort to do so has impact on women who are here, right, women who have graduated, and women who are coming, right, so that they see okay, this university recognizes women, they appreciate women, they understand their impact in the world. It’s a start. It definitely is a start. Yeah, it’s a start.
Carmen: And through kind of all of that also, do you mind reflecting just for a minute first on the value of diversity and inclusion on a college campus and just generally, and the value and contribution of women, which you have spoken a lot to in this interview. But if you wouldn’t mind just kind of reflecting a little bit more on both of those things.
Beverly: Well, so college is kind of your, one of your first microcosms of the world, right? And college is like your…is a major preparation space because part of your curriculum isn’t just what you’re going into, but part of your curriculum is liberal studies and studying sociology, and history, and all these other things. So college is this preparation space.
01:19:00 And it needs to represent what my life is going to be like when I leave the dorms. So first of all, college, I need to look out and see myself and people that don’t look like me, right? So that in itself has an impact on how I think about the world, for sure. Allowing college to be diverse also allows kind of a forum for all different ideas to be given, and the first place for someone’s ideas to be respected. It should be, okay? That doesn’t always happen. There is some concern about colleges becoming more of a space where certain voices are heard. So we do have to make changes there.
01:19:58 But you need different viewpoints. You need a space where there are different people here sharing their experience. I need to have lunch with someone from another culture, someone from another part of the world to inform my view on life. So school is its own microcosm. You need diversity. You need diversity in faculty, right, because faculty don’t just bring their skill sets, they bring their biases, their judgments, everything that goes into who they are. So you need their experiences, diverse experiences in a college environment as well. So I think for many reasons you need…yeah.
Carmen: Yeah, absolutely. And then any other reflections on the impact of a William & Mary woman?
Carmen: Or just women generally, and what we’re capable of. I mean, you spoke to it so much through Career Girls, but just any last thoughts.
Beverly: So gosh, I guess I’ll have to…I guess maybe in general about women. This is really a time where women are making a lot of strides in so many different areas. And they’re pushing a lot of boundaries. They’re breaking glass ceilings. They’re doing all of these things. But I also feel this is the most challenging time, as challenging as well because there’s so much pushback, right?
01:21:52 But I feel like more than ever we have the ability to see beyond our boundaries before. We’re making men more accountable, which is important with what goes on in the university, right? So the university has also to reflect that men are more aware and accountable about how they see women and women’s role on a university, and why women are needed, because that translates to outside as well. So I think that William & Mary is in a good place to be a leader, and I hope that they continue to do so, okay? Whether that means having more anniversaries, more forums, I think it would be a good place to have more forums to talk about issues.
01:23:03 I’m not so sure if that actually happens as much as it should be on this campus. If this just became a place to speak more and for people to speak more openly and honestly about what is going on around them I think it would actually be good. In terms of women outside of William & Mary—oh, outside of the university I love seeing how the university highlights people doing things around the world. Where is William & Mary outside of William & Mary? I think that that is impactful. I need to look at, though, more do they highlight women, how, what’s the scale with that. I don’t really know. That would be really good to see.
01:23:56 I would like to see William & Mary be a better incubator for STEM stuff, bring more kids in from the lower schools, middle schools, high schools, and allow them the opportunity to be here and kind of help them in their process of growing. You were asking me about women, right? I was like okay—
Carmen: But believe it or not my next question was what are some of your hopes for changes that you would like to see at William & Mary, so you were just…you read my mind and you just rolled right into it. We’re there.
Beverly: We’re there, yeah. And I think that that is one. They need to be a place also, and they need to open their doors more to the communities around them, okay? Because also if they want to be a more diverse space there’s a lot of diversity around them. They don’t need to pull from anywhere else around the world. Around them is a good space to pull great kids with great talents.
01:25:04 So open up the doors and provide more opportunities, have more spaces here for kids to come in and learn and grow. That would be great.
Carmen: Yeah. Awesome. Well, since you read my mind on that question…
Carmen: And we have covered, really, most of what I came with in the form of prepared questions, but I really want to open the end of this interview up to you to add any thoughts you have, anything you want recorded here. I would just like to open it up to you for final thoughts or memories or any of that.
Beverly: Gosh. No pressure.
Carmen: Yeah, sorry, that was a bit on the spot.
Carmen: Your turn.
Beverly: We had this discussion about that.
Beverly: Let me think. So I have to say this. I’m really happy that you’re doing this. I really am. For reasons I can’t put into words. Because the fact that we’re having this discussion almost 20 years since I left here, I didn’t think that I would ever have a chance to have this discussion. So this is major for the university and what they’re doing. But it’s such an affirmation for me and who and what I am. So I just want to say I’m appreciative of that. I am. I really am appreciative.
01:26:59 Secondly, we learn from the past, right? Which informs our present. It allows us to move forward. So the fact that you are allowing this type of storytelling, which I’m a big proponent of, is major, okay? The recording of it is major. I’m excited to find out how the information will be used, right? People will have access to it. And what impact it’s going to have with others who see it, which may lead to other stories that will be investigated or have its own impact on those who see it, read it, research it, whatever, which I’m sure the university has desire for all of those things to happen.
01:28:02 So I’m just happy about that. So I’m happy that this has been done, and I’m happy I’ve had a chance to kind of speak from my perspective, you know, on both sides. So it’s really an honor. It really is. And considering the fact that, you know, my sister, who passed in May, who…she saw what’s happening here when I was in elementary school, is major, too. So it’s just, you know, it’s good. [Laughs.]
Carmen: Well, I should say from my perspective the honor is all mine to get to sit down in here. Anyone shared their story with someone they may have met a couple times, or emailed, you know, for six months or whatever, but to share that into the open with your experience, knowing that it’ll go somewhere where others are able to tap into that, and access it, and connect with that, get inspired by that, see a more representative, truthful history of William & Mary when they go to look in the archives or when they go online to listen to it, it’s really meaningful. So I want to thank you so much for your participation in it. It’s really special for me, too, and it’s really important, so just thank you so much.
Beverly: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Carmen: If you don’t have anything else you want to add, you have space for that if you do, but if not, we can—
Beverly: I’m like why am I drawing a blank? I don’t know. I don’t really… You know, one of the things that this is leading me to do is I was… So NSF has been kind of following me on the survey since I graduated, right, of Ph.D.s in computer science.
01:29:57 And I’m looking at kind of the numbers now of African American women getting Ph.D.s, and there are a lot of departments where it’s becoming the first, right? So it’s an amazing time to kind of be a first. And so—and this is totally unrelated—but I was wondering why I did a Google search and my year didn’t pop up, right, as a year where African Americans got a Ph.D. So like I’m on like a thing now, right? So I’m on a quest to get CNN to do a documentary on African American women who have gotten a Ph.D. and what they’re doing. So now I’m on a quest. So it was totally unrelated to this interview—
Carmen: But super important also, and it can be added to the quest for the UN kind of podium and speaking platform. But no, I think absolutely that should be done.
Beverly: Firsts are firsts. And as tough as or challenging it was to be at William & Mary and be a first, you can make it through this program and be successful, right? Even with the challenges. That is a good thing. And other kids, African American kids, need to know that. It’s possible. It definitely is possible. So…
Carmen: That’s a testimony right there.
Carmen: Awesome. Well, thank you again so much. It’s been wonderful, and I appreciate your time, and yeah, it’s been great. Thanks again.
01:31:55 [End of recording.]
©William & Mary Libraries. Acknowledgement of William & Mary Libraries, Special Collections Research Center as a source is required.
Non-Commercial Use/Fair Use
Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries welcomes non-commercial use and access that qualifies as fair use to all unrestricted interview materials in the collection. For more information about fair use, see William & Mary Libraries guidelines here.
The researcher must cite and give proper credit to Special Collections Research Center. The preferred citation is as follows:
[Interviewee name], interview with [Interviewer name]. [Interview date], [Name of Collection], Special Collections Research Center, William & Mary Libraries.
Example: Powell, Michael K., interview by Carmen Bolt. June 12, 2017, 50th Anniversary of African Americans in Residence Oral History Project, Special Collections Research Center, William & Mary Libraries.
For commercial use of any sort, including reproduction, distribution, derivative works, public performance, and public display that goes beyond fair use, the researcher must obtain written permission from SCRC by contacting SCRC by email here. Permission will comply with any agreements made with the interviewee, interviewer, or donor of materials. This permission is valid only insofar as Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries, as owner or custodian of the material, has any rights in the matter. This permission does not remove the responsibility of the author, editor, publisher, or broadcaster to guard against infringement of any rights, including copyright that may be held by others. The researcher must cite and give proper credit to SCRC. SCRC reserves the right to refuse the right for commercial use.
For most unrestricted interviews, copyright has been assigned to Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries. When the copyright has not been assigned to Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries, copyright is retained by the interviewers/interviewees, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
SCRC works to uphold the obligations and legal commitments made to interviewees, interviewers, and donors of material. Some interviews have restrictions imposed by the interviewee, interviewer, or donor; restricted interviews are clearly marked. In such cases, it is the researcher’s responsibility to uphold the restriction appropriately and completely. Researchers may, for example, be required to obtain written permission from the interviewee or interviewer to quote from the interview. Contact SCRC with any questions about restrictions by email here.
Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual’s private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries and William & Mary assume no responsibility.
If an interview has been transcribed, researchers should quote from the transcript. If no transcript is available, reference to material in the interview should be taken from the audio recording.
For preservation purposes, use of audiotapes or videotapes will require production of listening or viewing copies. If a researcher requires the creation of a listening or viewing copy, the researcher will be responsible for the cost. For more details about audio/visual reproduction policies at the SCRC at William & Mary Libraries, contact the SCRC by email here.
If you are in need of any accessibility accommodations that require the creation of a listening or viewing copy of material, please let us know prior to your visit. You can also find information on the library’s accessibility services here.