JoVontae Butts

JoVontae Butts

"Achieve the greatest refinement possible."

College: Arts and Sciences
Degree Program: Philosophy
Degree: Doctorate

Award: McKnight Doctoral Fellowship (2023)

Why FSU?

I chose to continue my studies at the Department of Philosophy at FSU for many reasons, but one was because it reminded me a lot of my alma mater, Michigan State University - the campus, size, and standing. I hoped to experience a southern US city that was familiar yet new, small but large, and had deep intersections with the African diaspora. I felt that getting away from my home, Michigan, would help me see beyond my usual point of reference and exercise my sociological imagination.

Motivation to pursue a graduate degree

After finishing my undergraduate degree, I found a job at a research institute that I felt aligned with my personal views and goals. With a bachelor's degree, I was the least credentialed at the firm and was often handed tasks that I did not feel used my full potential - tasks like programming surveys and mailing checks to survey respondents. Working at this job also exposed me to the endless possibilities in research, giving me my first sense of how little I actually know. This inspired me to continue learning and expanding my potential and expertise so that I could be a sharper tool for the world.

Importance and/or impact of research and work

I perceive that a large portion of electoral scholarship focuses on mobilization, campaigning, and oppression, but very little on the oppressed. With my research, I aim to bring the narratives and experiences of the oppressed to the forefront, while highlighting successful strategies to restore and preserve voting rights. I hope that this research will be of interest to scholars and the general public alike.

Career aspirations

My career aspirations are to land a tenure-track position at an R1 university. The scholarship that I produce would ideally be of use and interest for many. I aspire to engage with scholars who also want to make their work interesting and accessible to the public. I also aim to produce research that can be readily applied, such as strategies to spread information and defend rights.

Advice for anyone considering graduate school

My advice to anyone considering graduate school is to speak with anyone who can tell you about the academy in a general sense!  Academia is its own world with its own values, procedures, and reward systems. These things might not be immediately apparent and are key to one's career trajectory. A plan and clarity on how to accomplish what is valued in academia would help new students make the most of their time and effort.

Accomplishments during graduate career

I have presented alongside my mentor, completed one solo presentation, and recently received a revise and resubmit on a publication that I'm included in. I am also proud to have been awarded the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship this year.