Born in Long Island, New York, Scott Poulson-Bryant, Assistant Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies, grew up in a family of readers and aesthetes. With Manhattan only being fifteen minutes away, his mother would take him and his sister to see black expression in all forms: cinema, music, poetry, art, everything. The beauty of the culture put him in a daze and since then, Poulson-Bryant knew he was born to write.
At age 17, Poulson-Bryant fell in love with Brown University. Like any college kid, Poulson-Bryant occupied himself with an excellent writing program, campus journalism, and zesty parties. However, his penchant for socializing and fun outgrew his dedication to class and attendance. By junior year, Brown gave Poulson-Bryant an ultimatum: take a leap year and reexamine his priorities. His parents were extremely concerned about his future without a finished education, but Poulson-Bryant held a different perspective. Poulson-Bryant decided to drop out and become a fact-checker for the local newspaper. Little did he know, his leap of faith would launch him into a dynamic career in journalism.
“Before, I had written for Brown’s Daily Herald and various campus magazines. I took writing classes too. But being in the real world, it was a kick in the pants--in a good way. This writing thing could happen, right? I was good at it, but it also taught me skills about how to be a writer and what being a writer meant.”
Poulson-Bryant went on to write cultural pieces for periodicals such as The Village Voice, New York Times, Rolling Stone, the Spin Magazine, and Vibe. A writer at heart, Poulson-Bryant’s gift evolved into other spheres of media, selling a screenplay in Los Angeles and writing books. One day, Poulson-Bryant looked back and realized that his leap year turned into sixteen. Although Poulson-Bryant was an accomplished journalist, he never received his bachelor’s degree. His passion for writing had been followed through, but his hunger for knowledge was insatiable.
In 2006, Poulson-Bryant wrote a letter to the dean of Brown University, explaining his peculiar circumstances. The dean responded that all he had to do was to complete a year full of credits. Poulson-Bryant returned to Providence to pick up where he left off--this time, as a forty-year old undergrad.
Nevertheless, the spirit of Brown remained timeless. Poulson-Bryant had written about youth culture plenty of times in his career, but being among 20 year olds as his peers unveiled a whole other understanding of the college experience and its youth. The jaded perspective he had previously gained from adulthood on the world around him and its endless possibilities dissolved.
Coincidentally, Poulson-Bryant ran into a former graduate student he knew when he was an undergrad in the 90s. This graduate student, Tricia Rose, had become a full-time professor and chair of the Africana Studies Department at Brown University. Dr. Rose offered Poulson-Bryant a position to teach Popular Culture in Africa. He was reluctant to go for the position as he never imagined academia in his future, but figured he should give it a try. Teaching classes at prestigious universities would eventually lead him to discover an open position at the University of Michigan.
Today, Scott Poulson-Bryant is an Assistant Professor of African American Studies at the Department of AfroAmerican and African Studies (DAAS). Poulson-Bryant earned his B.A. in American Civilization from Brown University, his M.A. degree in English and Ph.D. in American Studies from Harvard. His current curriculum centers on race, gender, and culture through the lens of popular culture and media.
“I think my crazy trajectory towards being a professor makes me an interesting role model for students who may be trying to figure out what college means for them. I'd like to think that I could be a conduit for helping students think through those sorts of career choices, how they can sort of strategize while in college, and how to attain that sort of place they want to in this world.”