Faculty Spotlight Series – Professor Deyonne Bryant

Name: Deyonne Bryant
Position: Associate Professor of English and Department Chair
Years at Wheaton: 20
Hometown: Oakdale, LA
Education: PhD, MA, University of Houston, Houston, TX; MEd, BSc, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, LA

What one thing do you miss most from campus?
I miss sitting around the seminar table with the students in my fiction workshops. I also miss walking along the pond to Balfour or crossing Chapel Field (Should I admit I walk on the grass?) and occasionally bumping into students I’ve taught in their early years at Wheaton.

What are you currently watching on TV or reading?
I’m currently reading, and savoring, Freshwater, a novel written by Akwaeke Emezi. The narrative is a masterful reimagining of West African mythology in a contemporary story about women and families, mental illness in children, marriage between Igbo and Tamil characters, and so much more. I’m going to reread the novel when I’m done. I’m also going to reread Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad—as a writer this time.

What is your favorite thing about working at Wheaton?
The students I’ve taught, advised, and mentored are worth the long commute to and from campus. And I enjoy going downstairs for coffee and chocolates and laughter with my buddies in the languages, Alberto, Fran, Montse, Domingo, and Tessa.

What is your favorite event to attend at Wheaton College?
I love Commencement. The symbolic gesture of the faculty sitting together behind the students we’ve taught makes everything right.

What living person do you most admire?
She recently died of Alzheimer’s Disease, but I still admire the lovely and elegant B. Smith. She embodied a type of African American womanhood that was both familiar and pioneering to me. I met her once at her restaurant in Manhattan. I wish she were still alive and healthy—all of her goodness gone forever.

Do you have pets? What are they? I don’t currently have a pet but I’ve always had cats.

What is your most cherished possession?
A bracelet my grandmother bought for me at a Navajo (I think) reservation one summer when she took a Greyhound bus from our hometown in Louisiana to Los Angeles to visit my aunt. I’ve had the bracelet since I was 11 or 12. I used the bracelet to introduce a lesson on objects and symbols in my Wheaton summer class recently, and immediately returned it to its special place. Actually, I have a small shrine of objects gifted to me by family members. I’m sentimental about my family, I guess.

What is your motto?
Get up and try again. My great-grandfather gave me these magic words when I was very young and always falling & scraping my knees.

If you weren’t teaching your current discipline what would you teach?
Microbiology, which I discovered late as an undergraduate. I LOVED that class.

What is something surprising about you that most people don’t know?
I love fabrics, know how to sew, and once had my heart set on becoming an apprentice to the late fashion designer, Willi Smith. I think I have an article of WilliWear put away somewhere, among special possessions. So I guess most people don’t know I’m sentimental about certain things.