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English Ph.D. Student Wins “Scholars for the Dream” Award

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Only 20 students from around the country are chosen each year to receive the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) Scholars for the Dream Travel Award, but Sammantha McCalla ‘99CBA, ‘01MBA is the second St. John’s University student to earn this recognition. The award, which Sheeba Varkey ‘03C, ‘07Ed won in 2016, provides $1,000 in travel funds for the CCCC Annual Convention.

Sammantha McCalla '99CBA, '01MBAThe 2018 convention will be held in Kansas City, Missouri in March. McCalla will be announced as a recipient of the award and invited to a reception for all award winners. She will also receive a one-year membership in CCCC and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

The Scholars for the Dream Award encourages scholarship by historically underrepresented groups including Black, Latinx, Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander scholars. Criteria for selection includes originality of research, significance of pedagogical or theoretical contributions to the field, and potential for continued inquiry.

McCalla will be joining fellow English doctoral student Carolyn Salazar Nunez ‘11Ed, ‘13G and SJU alumna Katelynn DeLuca ‘17PhD for a panel presentation on global literature and translingualism at the convention. McCalla’s presentation focuses on teaching students with vernacular literature. She is currently working on her dissertation research, which examines ethnography and Caribbean literature, particularly the effect of colonialized education on mothers of school age children.

McCalla, who serves as Associate Director of Donor Relations, came to St. John’s as an undergraduate after an active duty year of military service in the United States Army. She met her husband, Sean McCalla ‘01CPS, at St. John’s, and they have four children together. In 2016, Sean required a kidney transplant, and she was a match. Juggling the kidney donation and raising her children, one of whom has special needs, along with a full-time job and a Ph.D. program has been challenging for McCalla, but she credits the support of the faculty in the English department as well as her personal faith, in helping her remain enrolled.

Having received her M.B.A. from St. John’s, McCalla taught Discover New York through a business lens for many years, and now teaches First-Year Writing and Literature in a Global Context. She also brings her understanding of socioeconomic conditions to her research in Caribbean literature. “I could not have seen that overlap from the beginning,” she said.

“Sam joins an illustrious group of scholars, including two St. John's faculty members, who are changing how Composition, Writing Studies, and Rhetoric operate in higher education,” said Assistant Professor Raj Chetty, Ph.D., who serves on McCalla’s dissertation committee. “In her teaching and her scholarship, she makes it clear that the knowledge and language abilities that Black and Caribbean students bring to the classroom are not only meaningful and important, but actually produce changes in our understanding of how knowledge and language are produced.”

Said Assistant Professor Shanté Paradigm Smalls, Ph.D., who also serves on McCalla’s committee: “Sammantha McCalla is a serious and innovative scholar. Her dissertation-in-progress will be a game-changer in the fields of Caribbean Studies, Education, Black Studies, and Rhetoric. I'm not surprised she won this prestigious award and look forward to more success from her!”