Sophomore Media Studies student Kayla Sharpe is an enthusiastic supporter of her professor. As she says: "I first met Dr. Neff in her Freshman Seminar, Digital Undergrounds, and was immediately struck by her dedication to encouraging undergraduate students to pursue research in the areas that sparked their interest. Since then she has continued to encourage me in my academic, extracurricular, and professional pursuits and I am proud to have had the opportunity to present her with this award as a member of the William and Mary Chapter of the NAACP."
Dr. Neff, who has taught a wide range of courses in her two years at William and Mary, looks at culture from a media perspective, referring to herself a ‘media anthropologist'. In her teaching and research she uses a range of self-expressive activities as avenues to understanding cultures and literatures, using such performances as dance, music and film making as ways of entering into a dialog with the ‘other'. Dr. Neff has worked with blues artists in the Mississippi delta, and with women dancers and singers in Senegal, West Africa, and she sees many parallels between the American South and the larger global south. She places her work at the intersection of politics and aesthetics.
She is also dedicated to non-traditional students and students of color. She feels that it is vitally important to recognize the contributions brought to the academy by non-traditional students.
"These students need bridges to connect the skills and values they already have – and they are smart and accomplished people – with the expectations and standards of academic life. Without some guidance to show them that what excites them is also of value to the wider world – and especially to the academic world – they run the risk of feeling inadequate or unwanted when in fact they have talents and energy which we can all benefit from, and which deserve recognition and encouragement in themselves." We here at the Anthropology Department join the NAACP in recognizing the importance of this philosophy and practice here at William and Mary, and extend our congratulations to Dr. Neff on this important award.