McFadden graduated with a double-major in African American Studies and Anthropology. As a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, her research focused on Gullah communities in South Carolina. She spent summer 2017 conducting research and interning at the Penn Center in St. Helena Island, South Carolina, where she gained valuable knowledge about curating historical and artistic exhibits.
Within MMUF, McFadden was privileged to have two faculty mentors. Vanessa Siddle Walker (Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of African American Studies) worked with her on her literature review, while Alicia DeNicola (associate professor of anthropology at Oxford College) assisted her with anthropological
McFadden came to Emory’s Atlanta campus from the Oxford campus, where she was an Oxford Research Scholar. While at Oxford, she was a member of the Voices of Praise Gospel Choir and Interfaith Council as well as a Peer Assistance Leader. Additionally, she participated in theory-practice service learning with the PATH Project, where she worked with children in an after-school program. On the Atlanta campus, McFadden was a member of the NAACP chapter and the Black Student Alliance. She also worked as a tutor in the Writing Center.
“I thought I was pre-med when I came to college—I was interested in black women’s health and breast cancer and things like that. So I thought I was an anthro and human bio major, but it just didn’t really fit,” McFadden says. During her sophomore year, she realized that she really wanted to research, but she didn’t feel that her research mixed very well with the practice piece she would be required to do as a doctor. She was more interested in “broader questions of access.” “I was working with [Alicia] DeNicola as an Oxford College Research Scholar,” she recalls. “She was like, ‘Have you thought about this program [MMUF]?’ At that point, I was undecided about what I wanted to do, but then I got more serious about just doing research.”
McFadden’s interest in African American Studies began at the UNCF/Mellon summer institute. “I remember being in the space,… and everybody’s project was personal to them, and I didn’t feel like mine was personal to me. When I got Mellon, I felt like I had to prove I was doing good research, and at that time I didn’t understand how anthropologists could do good research that wasn’t outward. So at the summer institute, I said, ‘This [African American studies] is something that I want to do.’ ”
In the semester after the summer institute, McFadden took Dianne Stewart’s Black Love class, which she says inspired her to major in AAS. “I became very intrigued with how interdisciplinary African American Studies is and how relevant and pertinent it was to my interests and academic and professional goals,” she recalls. “I just loved that class,” McFadden goes on, “and I’d go to my other classes and be bored. It was more so that I wanted a blending of the two: I wanted be in an anthropology class that talked about African Americans and vice versa, and it just wasn’t happening. So I just decided I was going to be an AAS minor and then changed from a minor to a major. So AAS is a nice blend of things I was already thinking about.”