Soon-to-be Claflin graduate Jasmine Benjamin said the last four years have shaped her desire to become a leading political scholar. They have also provided Benjamin with the confidence to challenge herself academically. It’s an ability that will serve well as she begins pursuit of a doctorate in American politics on a full scholarship from the University of Chicago this fall.
The bright outlook Benjamin faces now is a stark contrast to what her family faced in 2005. With Hurricane Katrina fixing to bear down its catastrophic reign upon her native New Orleans, Benjamin’s family left their home in the city’s Lower Ninth Ward - which faced arguably the worst devastation resulting from the storm. They relocated briefly to Houston, Texas and later to Dublin, Georgia after Katrina destroyed their home. Her father, Gerald, moved back to work in New Orleans and eventually the entire family returned there in 2009.
Her senior year at East Laurens High School in Georgia, one of her teachers, LaJune Zanders, introduced Benjamin to Claflin as a collegiate destination. After receiving a full scholarship, Benjamin decided to attend Claflin.
“My experience at Claflin University has been very positive,” said Benjamin. “The professors here have been highly influential and challenged me to think critically about what I learned.”
Benjamin, who has a 3.8 grade point average, has made the most of her Claflin experience.
She was selected as a UNCF/Mellon Fellow which allowed her to conduct summer research at Emory University. Benjamin then participated in the Leadership Alliance program at Princeton University, where she began work on her senior thesis. The thesis centers on implicit racial appeals among African-American Republicans in Congress. Ironically, she was an intern for U.S. Congressman James E. Clyburn, a position that allowed her to rub elbows with some of the Beltway’s power players in the U.S. House of Representatives.
A member of the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College, Benjamin was also the sophomore class senator for the Student Government Association and a member of the Gamma Chi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
She said she was a good student upon arriving at Claflin but noted mentors like Dr. Christopher Curtis, chair of the Department of History and Sociology, allowed her to fully realize her potential.
“Because of their commitment, my classroom experience went far beyond taking notes. My professors were always willing to discuss material and help me. They taught me how to understand concepts and synthesize information. I was able to be fully engaged,” said Benjamin.
“Jasmine is a remarkable student who always went the extra mile to fully grasp what was presented in class,” said Curtis. “It has been an absolute joy to teach her and I look forward to seeing her future success as a political scholar.”
Ultimately, Benjamin wants to be a leading national scholar focused on the relationship between politics and race.
“I would say that some things still need to be discussed regarding race and politics. There is a notion that we are in this post-racial era, which I believe is incorrect. Groups still rely on stereotypes in delivering their political messages. I hope to discuss the implications of this phenomenon on the national stage one day,” she said.