Ramona Bell promoted to full professor last fall

Last semester, Ramona jj Bell, P.h.D., was promoted from associate professor to full professor at Cal Poly Humboldt. She is the Critical Race and Gender Studies department chair and a professor dedicated to educating students about many aspects of Black culture.

When asked what her biggest lesson from teaching more than a decade at CPH was, she said “Teaching African American culture. Teaching ethnic studies. Teaching about power and privilege. Teaching about the resistance. … The content of what I teach has consequences for our lives: How we move in the world. Our agency. To be self determined. To be self-defined people in the world, it takes some work. And, of course that can be done anywhere really, but behind the Redwood curtain, it’s a different culture here.” Bell started teaching at CPH in 2011 as an assistant professor. In 2017 she was promoted to associate professor.

Bell describes becoming a full professor as an intense process. “It’s basically your life’s work,” Bell said.” To me it was a confirmation of doing what I love.”

Out of 235 tenured or tenure track professors, Bell is one of eight Black faculty at CPH according to CPH’s Fast Facts Fall 2022 , which reports demographic data. Of those eight, three are Black women.

“We need more, we need to work on mentoring women of color, recruiting them and retaining them,” Bell said. “I think the university could do more of a concerted effort of getting more Black folk over here.”

Bell notes that the history of Black people in Humboldt is different than in other parts of California, she asks herself how she can be a part of the broader community here.

“Being a scholar activist is really important anywhere, but its very important in a particularly White dominated space in Northern California,” Bell said.

For example, she receives calls from parents of K-12 students in Arcata who ask for help dealing with the racism their children face at school.

Bell says one of her favorite classes to teach is African American cultural History. She says that she often uses films made by Black play writers to engage in dialogue about African American culture with her students.

“Bell Hooks says that pop culture is where the learning is, and I say pop culture is also where the teaching is,” said Bell.

Bell is currently the faculty advisor for the CRGS club, and has been the advisor for multiple other student clubs, including the Black Student Union and African Student Union. She has also been a part of the Campus Dialogue on Race since 2012.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee, then a master’s degree in English at Tennessee Technological University. After moving to the Bahamas for five years, she earned a doctorate in American cultural studies from Bowling Green University in Ohio.

Jaguar Smith, a CRGS major, has taken classes with Bell and is working with her to plan this year’s Hip Hop Conference. She describes Bell as the type of professor who supports students digging deeper into Black culture. “She does a wonderful job at giving us a good example of what we can aspire to be as young students trying to figure out our path,” Smith said. “Especially for this small community, and especially for other Black students.”

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