It was a distinct culture shock, coming from City College in Chicago to Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, but Dr. Ramycia McGhee said she feels like she’s found a second home.
The professor of English and literature said she was looking for a smaller town, a slower pace and a place where, like on the sitcom “Cheers,” everybody knows your name.
In two and a half years here, she has found plenty to appreciate: the drop in commuting time, for instance, from upwards of an hour to just 8 minutes. She also loves the department, which she said feels just like family: She can almost put names to her second father, big sister, little brother, cousin.
But the best part, she said, is a college full of students who also want to be a part of her family. And that’s just how she wants to relate to them.
“Think of me as your Black auntie,” she tells them. “We’re a family, too.”
McGhee misses the days, now postponed because of the pandemic, when students would drop by her office for tea and conversation. She’s stepped up emails and posting and other virtual outreach to let them know she’s still available.
As a person who did some of her own schooling online, she knows a remote education can be a challenge. So she holds online classes at regular times to keep a structure for the week. Her classes include breakout rooms so students can continue to see her and one another and keep the dialogue going. She checks on anyone who doesn’t show up, to let them know she noticed, she cares and she wants to help with whatever’s going on.
Students respond. They’ve thrown her a birthday party and come to class dressed in costume for her favorite holiday, Halloween. They've invited her to their baby showers, poetry slams and musical performances. They’ve asked her to join them in worship or to work out at a gym. And she goes, both so she can learn more about them and to support what they love.
In the process, they often learn to love what she loves, too.
One young woman thanked her for introducing her to Harlem Renaissance poets through her Introduction to Poetry course, saying she likely would never have heard of them otherwise and deeply felt their relevance.
Another student told her how much her African American Literature class made him “feel better about who I am as a Black man, way more comfortable in my skin.”
“I had no idea he was even struggling,” McGhee said. “For me, that was amazing.”
McGhee said she thinks it helps that she talks about her own life and lets her students know nobody has everything all together, all the time. She even provides them with some of the work she wrote as an undergraduate - name removed - so they can critique it honestly and see for themselves how writers can grow.
"I'm not a finished product," she said.
Before the pandemic restrictions, McGhee taught a course in African American literature for the Oak Creek Youth Correctional Center. She said she can’t wait to get back and do it again.
The young women there told her,
"Thank you for treating us like students, not inmates," she recalled. “It was the best experience.”
McGhee said she’s excited to see where both she and LBCC are in the next five to 10 years. God put her in Albany for a reason, she said, and she’s eager to see what’s next.
“This is definitely a part of my purpose and destiny,” she said. “I could not be more thrilled.”