Graduate work was one of the last things Katrina Keefer expected to do with her life. But when Trent professor Dr. David Sheinin encouraged her to apply to the University’s then-fledgling History M.A. program, she ended up becoming its first graduate in 2009. Along the way she “fell in love” with her research into the work of civil rights leader W.E. B. Du Bois. She was so gripped by her subject that she undertook to submit and revise her thesis chapters in dauntingly short order, an accomplishment that still stands her in good stead.
“As a grad student I learned I was capable of working at a level I didn’t realize I could work at,” recalls Dr. Keefer, now an adjunct professor at Trent. “The idea that I can do more started then.”
Today, the idea of “doing more” is something of Prof. Keefer’s hallmark. In the past year alone she’s applied for multiple grants, launched into work on a book — her third — while still writing articles, contributing chapters, and teaching. She took students on a research trip to Sierra Leone (and plans to travel with another student group in early 2020). As well, her book exploring how Du Bois used classical metaphors and references as, in part, a response to the white elite of his day, is under consideration by the University of Alabama Press.
As a West African scholar of note, Prof. Keefer is also called upon as an expert by media. She’s been interviewed by CBC and Public Radio International regarding research she’s done aimed at gaining a better understanding of individuals whose histories were all but obliterated by the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Looking back to her M.A. student days, Prof. Keefer recalls how inspired she was by Dr. Tim Stapleton, the University’s then-Africanist historian. His passion for southern African history “blew her away,” and since that time they’ve worked together professionally, doing archival research in Sierra Leone. Prof. Stapleton’s passion for his subject matter is something she hopes to convey to her own students.
“I want to share both my passion for the topic and my ways of getting at it, ways that may not be predictable or expected,” she says. “The other thing I try and share with my students is just the fact that I love Trent. It’s a wonderful community, and a great second home.”