Published November 14, 2022
Donte McFadden joined UB in September as director of the Distinguished Visiting Scholars Program (DVS) in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Prior to joining UB, McFadden served as senior associate director for undergraduate research and high impact practices for the Educational Opportunity Program at Marquette University. In this role, he served as director of the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program. He held other leadership roles with Marquette’s EOP, including serving as its interim director and associate director of administration, curriculum and evaluation.
McFadden is a three-time alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he received his PhD in English, with an emphasis in film studies; a master’s degree in English; and a BFA/BA in film/film studies. He is co-founder of Black Lens, a showcase for African American filmmakers that is part of the Milwaukee Film Festival.
He recently spoke with UBNow about his new position at the university and his impressions of UB.
I saw the Distinguished Visiting Scholars Program as an exciting new venture that the university was highly enthusiastic about. I wanted to be part of shaping it into something that tenured faculty from historically underrepresented populations would find desirable to take part in and pursue passionate scholarly work away from their home institution.
This is a position that culminates my professional and creative endeavors over the past two decades. I spent a decade and a half working for the McNair scholars program, which serves students from economically disadvantaged families, many of whom happen to come from historically underrepresented demographics.
I’ve helped immerse students into the graduate school experiences through research and learning about the graduate school application process, as it was my goal to create a holistically fulfilling experience for the students.
I have also spent time as a film festival programmer through the Milwaukee Film organization. I selected films for the Black Lens program, which is designed to showcase the work of Black filmmakers throughout North America. Through programming and engagement with the work of visiting scholars, I am confident that I can merge both of my skills sets together and open avenues for other campus entities to collaborate and share cutting-edge scholarship that attracts audiences outside of the academy.
UB has been quite welcoming. Many people have expressed their enthusiasm about me being in this new role, and it gives me a lot of confidence to move forward with my goals for DVS. The leadership within the College of Arts and Sciences has been very supportive. I look forward to continuing to meet with faculty, staff and students across campus.
When scholars are selected to take part in DVS, they will enter a welcoming environment that will fully support their scholarship and efforts to mentor undergraduate and graduate students. They will be among a cohort of scholars that utilize community engagement and efforts toward transformative justice as a key component of their public scholarship.
What makes UB an ideal place for the DVS Program is that there is a vibrant level of scholarly activity among faculty and students. There is strong support on this campus for scholars to present their research, to guide students through discovering their own scholarly identity, and to invite colleagues from other institutions within their networks to share their works in progress.
I regularly meet with colleagues at the University Club on the North Campus. I find it to be a good space for productive and engaging conversation. I’ve attended talks at the (Charles B.) Sears Law Library and the seminar room in the Honors College, and I enjoyed the energy among the students and faculty in those spaces.
Buffalo is a great, unique place for scholars because there is fertile ground for them to share their work with colleagues and supplement their scholarship with action beyond the campus. The university itself has a vibrant scholarly community, but it is the connections to the communities, organizations and initiatives in the Buffalo-Niagara region that potential DVS scholars would find most substantive.
For instance, I attended the Buffalo Humanities Festival. It was wonderful to see how spaces such as Torn Space Theater and Silo City were utilized. I also attended a presentation given by DVS alumnus Oscar Gil-Garcia at CEPA Gallery, part of an exhibit in which he collaborated with his brother. I would love to have DVS programming incorporate settings within and beyond the UB campus that are inviting to the scholars and patrons alike.
It is a unique opportunity for a near-tenured or tenured scholar to launch a new project where they receive support from a committed staff and a community of scholars to guide their work toward public scholarship and community engagement. The goal of the program is to help the scholar move beyond the university space to demonstrate how their scholarship has functional value to communities ranging from grassroots and non-profit to the corporate, government and K-12 education sectors.
I hope that potential applicants see this program as a catalyst to a project that can have a profound influence on the American public, and that the Buffalo-Niagara region provides them with that initial scholarly and community engagement. As it pertains to students, potential scholars can see DVS as a program that rewards their invisible labor in the way they invest in the success and proficiency of students beyond the classroom. Such labor is important to improving the climate for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging across the campus. DVS scholars are critical agents in helping accomplish this goal.
Creating a memorable experience for a new cohort in which they can either begin or complete scholarship that has the potential to be transformative. A part of that excitement is the outreach to various departments, programs, centers and offices across UB to share with the DVS scholars what they do and how they contribute to making this a vibrant and welcoming place.
Scholars can gain a strong sense of community in which they can exchange their ideas and their works-in-progress with one another. They will also find creative ways to mentor students within and outside the campus space that can assist them in pursuing undergraduate research, applying for college, publishing in an academic journal, or pursuing the academic job market. What I would love for DVS scholars to take away from this experience is that they were able to pour into others as much as others have poured into them.