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Tracy Vaughn-Manley B.A. 1995) Associate Professor of African American Literature, Northwestern University

Dr. Tracy Vaughn-Manley (B.A. 1995)
Associate Professor of African American Literature, Northwestern University 

Tracy Vaughn-Manley“I would not be here if not for this institution,” says Dr. Tracy Vaughn-Manley when speaking about CSUSB and its English Department. Tracy is an associate professor of instruction in the African American Studies Department at Northwestern University, a top-ranked university.  A specialist in African American literature, Tracy has taught at Northwestern’s main campus just outside of Chicago and at its Qatar campus in the Middle East. 

Although Tracy came to CSUSB as a computer science major, she realized her true calling on the first day of a Harlem Renaissance course with English Department Professor Sandra Kamusikiri.  On that first day, Tracy recalls, “in wa­lks this black woman” who then stands at the front of the classroom and begins speaking about the Harlem Renaissance and its political context.  At that moment, “I saw someone who looked like me in that position of authority . . . I had never had a black woman teach me.  It was really powerful.”  After class, Tracy said to Professor Kamusikiri “I want to do what you do” and changed her major to English that very day.  

At Northwestern, Tracy teaches African American literature courses on such topics as Black Women Writers, Autobiography, the Legacy of Slavery, and Toni Morrison.  While at the Qatar campus, she also taught general American literature and Middle Eastern literature courses. Tracy relishes the subject matter she gets to teach:  “I love a good story; I love a smartly written poem or play.”  And she highlights literature’s potential to expand our life understanding.  “There are certain ways we analyze our world that can only come from the skills you attain through engaging with literature,” she says. 

 In 2017, Tracy was named a Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished University Professor of Instruction, one of the top teaching honors at Northwestern.  Students are inspired by the passion with which Tracy approaches her subject matter.  As she observes, “When you love something, that love, that passion just comes out of you as you are teaching.”

In addition to being an amazing teacher, Tracy is an avid maker and scholar of quilts.  She has researched how Nobel laureate Toni Morrison uses the trope of quilting in her novels.  At a special dinner, Tracy got to meet Morrison, who invited Tracy to make her a quilt.  Tracy indeed did and presented Morrison a stunning quilt at a Jazz at Lincoln Center celebration in New York.  This quilt later appeared in an article about Morrison in New York Times Magazine. Tracy graduated from CSUSB with a B.A in English (Literature Track) in 1995. She then went on to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, earning both an M.A. and a Ph.D in English.  As she describes it, the CSUSB English courses prepared her superbly for her graduate studies:  “I rose to the top based on that preparation.” 

Also at CSUSB under the mentorship of Professor Kamusikiri, Tracy won the California Pre-doctoral Fellowship, which allowed her to attend the Modern Language Association conference and to visit the graduate English program at Princeton University. 

Tracy’s advice to CSUSB English majors is straightforward but important:  Make the most of the time you have in college.  “There are not many opportunities that you have to spend four years reading and thinking, and engaging in the life of the mind,” she says.  Take courses in all different areas of English Studies “and give it a hundred percent.”