Monday, February 6, 2012
Some Draperites may live way downtown, but Devin Moss is undoubtedly the program’s southernmost full-time student. He currently works at the University of South Carolina as the campus LGBT Programs Coordinator while taking NYU classes remotely.
Columbia, South Carolina, where Moss lives now, is not geographically very far from Memphis, Tennessee--his childhood home and stomping grounds as an undergrad at the University of Memphis, where he earned a B.A. in English. Moss feels comfortable in Columbia, and notes that it “is very charming and has that 'authentic Southern’ feel,” though he is “almost too busy to enjoy it.”
Little wonder that Moss’ downtime is rare. Devin supplements his job and studies with artistic pursuits in documentary filmmaking. He currently has two projects in production. His short “Too-Ism: The Discrimination from Within the Queer Male Community” is viewable here.
Devin Moss Answers the Draper Dozen
1. When did you start at Draper?
2. Are you a full or part-time student?
3. Where are you from?
4. What are your primary research interests?
General: The intersection of race/ethnicity, sexuality, and gender within educational environments. Specifically: Black male masculinity within educational environments
[Ed] What led you to examine black male masculinity within educational environments? For example, were you involved in any LGBT programs in high-school or as an undergraduate?
As a queer Black person myself, I experienced many things that lead me to focus on this topic in my research. The institution I attended in Mississippi was a Historically Black College/University (HBCU), and it was there that my sexuality became salient for me. I was getting comfortable being myself. I was very active on campus. I also wanted to be a Residential Assistant, but I was told I could not be one because I was gay and that would be a bad image for other students. I later wanted to become become a member of the campus chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc, but I was rejected because I was gay and out. Other members of the fraternity were gay, but the difference was that I was out. Later, I was verbally harassed by another student at the school. I wanted to do something about my experience so that others do not have to experience what I did. The homophobia that I have experienced within my environments is what has guided me to do the work that I do. If a fraternity is supposed to be about brotherhood, then why does my sexuality dictate my worth for the fraternity? That situation, along with others, has made me question and challenge Black brotherhood in terms of what is Black male masculinity. Does it have a sexuality/orientation? Does it have a worth? Does it have to be a competition? Has Black masculinity dwindled down to exist only in a few inches between the legs? Lots of questions drive this research interest.
Why, specifically, have you chosen to examine the issues of race/ethnicity, sexuality and gender within educational environments as opposed to, say, in the work environment or in MLB?
My world revolves around education. I will retire from education someday. It's just something about the ability to help individuals achieve goals through education that has drawn me to higher education. I would someday love to become the Dean of Students/VP of Student Affairs at an HBCU.
5. Why did you choose to pursue an interdisciplinary degree at Draper?
The interdisciplinary approach best fit my needs. There was not a program that allowed me to look at my research interests collectively. Most programs in education do not cover identity in-depth, and most gender/sexuality studies programs do not cover education. This was the best fit for my interests as well as career goals.
6. What do you plan to do after Draper?
I am currently working at the Coordinator of LGBT Programs & Services at the University of South Carolina. I came to NYU seeking an opportunity like this, and I hope to serve the LGBT community throughout my career.
7. Do you have any special activities or projects outside of your academic work?
While at NYU, I gained an interest in documentary production through the Center for Multicultural Education & Programs’ –ISM Project. Once my thesis is over and I am a little more established here [in Columbia, SC], I plan to continue to create self-produced short films about various social issues.
8. How exactly do you proceed with your Draper studies and keep up with class syllabi when, by geographical necessity, you miss lectures, etc.?
This past fall, I had two courses. When the job opportunity for LGBT Programs Coordinator at the University of South Carolina became an option for me, I reached out to my professors to see if, by chance, I could do something to remain in their classes but also take the job in South Carolina. One professor instantly said I could not miss his class, which I respected. My other professor said that she was happy for me and that we could arrange something where I did class via Skype. I Skyped into a few classes and even gave my final presentation via Skype. I also had an extra weekly assignment to supplement my absence in many of the classes. It was a hassle attending class while working full-time, but I survived it!
How does living in South Carolina while maintaining studies with a New York-based program compare with living and studying in one locale?
When I got to NYU, I was instantly overwhelmed by my workload. I have another master’s degree and that one was not as intense. NYU is intense. NYC is intense. South Carolina is charmingly laid back in terms of pace. I am able to step into both of these worlds, which does challenge me sometimes, but I am thankful for being here. I believe if I were in NYC writing my thesis I would have many distractions; the libraries would always be too busy for me to focus, and the noise would never lose me. Though I am very busy now, I am able to get away from people and noise in order to focus a lot more here.
9. Is there any one place (museum, library, shop, park, etc.) in New York that you particularly miss? Why?
I spent a lot of time in Harlem. It was so inspiring to walk around the very same streets as many of my idols. Big names walked these streets. However, even today, the culture in Harlem was very inspiring. I love Harlem in its entirety--special acknowledgement of Isaac Newton Middle School!
Do you have any new favorite places that you frequent in your new home in South Carolina?
I am a fan of the grocery store, Publix! I love that store. I do plan to visit the mountains and beaches sometime in the future. They may become my next favorite!
10. Coffee or tea?
11. Are you a fan and/or user of social media? Why or why not?
I do use Facebook, too much! It just gives me a sense of connectedness with the right amount of distance.
12. What was the last book you read for fun (not for class or research)?
We Real Cool by bell hooks
13. If you were not in academia, what would you be doing?
I would be doing some type of humanitarian work I believe. I love children and want to ensure that they have a great foundation for their futures. I believe I would be doing something in that field.
(Interview and profile by Lauren Roberts)