By Michael Gawlik
Event and Communications Coordinator
When Qwantayvious Stiggers arrived at the University of Michigan, Women’s Studies was not the department he expected to call home.
“I thought I was going to major in biology, or maybe even engineering,” the sophomore from Atlanta says. “I never even thought about doing something like Women’s Studies or Gender and Health.”
By the end of his freshman year, however, Qwantayvious had done more than consider pursuing a degree in one of Women’s Studies’ undergraduate programs; he had, in fact, already declared a major in Gender and Health.
“My first Women’s Studies class changed my view on a lot of things,” he says of Perspectives in Women's Health, which he took with Dr. Joanne Motiño Bailey and GSI Sara Chadwick. “I went to an all male high school—100% black males, with a graduating class of only 45—so it was difficult to learn about different identities. But in that class, people shared their stories, and I heard about experiences different than my own.”
The opportunity to collaborate with classmates of diverse backgrounds is part of what appeals to Qwantayvious about his Gender and Health coursework. Since beginning the program, he says that he has been pushed out of his comfort zone both intellectually and socially—pushed to learn more about inequities in healthcare, to seek out and befriend people of different identities. And being pushed in these ways has made him reflect on how his education can be used to help others.
Attending medical school has long been the plan for Qwantayvious; the past two years, however, have seen him reconsider how he intends to practice medicine. Rather than becoming an orthopedic surgeon, he now plans to pursue pediatrics and work with public school students in urban areas.
“I was in the same shoes as [these students],” Qwantayvious explains. “It’s not about the money anymore. It’s about the passion for helping other people, and [the idea of] working in those communities makes me passionate. “
Qwantayvious’ interests in giving back are not limited to his goals for the future. He is also actively involved on campus, serving on the executive board of Habitat for Humanity and as a member of the Black Student Union and H.E.A.D.S. Additionally, Qwantayvious is part of Bridge Scholars PLUS, a program that fosters opportunity, wellness, and belonging for all students on campus. Qwantayvious hopes to work for Bridge’s summer program this year to help incoming students transition to life at Michigan.
“When I was in Bridge, there were a lot of black men, and there are things I want to tell [new students] to make their lives easier than mine was,” Qwantayvious says. “I want to tell them how to combat some of the racism they’ll encounter on campus, to make them more comfortable here.”
Qwantayvious’ clear commitment to improving his communities is grounded in a sense of humility. “My classes have made me [see] how I can improve on some of the things I do,” he notes. There is, he insists, always room to learn and grow—and it seems almost certain that someone as open minded and enthusiastic as Qwantayvious will spend his remaining time at Michigan doing just that.
Posted February 28, 2018