Aya Waller-Bey
Candidate for Ph.D. in Sociology, University of Michigan--Ann Arbor
Aya M. Waller-Bey is a proud Detroiter, first-generation college student, and an alumna of Renaissance High School. She is a Ph.D. student in Sociology at the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor, where her research examines Black student identity and trauma narration in college personal statements. Aya prides herself on being a doer—seeing problems as a call to action, inside and outside the classroom. Aya is fiercely committed to racial equity and authentic storytelling. She hosts community-based programs and curates visual resources to spread awareness about civic engagement, mass incarceration, and education equity. She also leverages her blog on Medium and social media to tell her story and present counter-narratives. Aya graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, where she majored in Sociology with a Social Justice Concentration. Aya spent her four years on the Hilltop committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. She was recognized for her leadership and service as the sole recipient of the Katherine Kraft Medal, an award given each year to the graduating student who best manifested a spirit of humility, cooperation, and commitment in all phases of their college life. In 2015, she received the Gates Cambridge Scholarship to the University of Cambridge in England—a scholarship awarded to only 40 people in the US each year—and completed her Master of Philosophy in Education, earning a first-class distinction. In 2017, Aya became one of three University Innovation Fellows at Arizona State University (ASU) and worked to advance ASU’s strategic partnerships to expand access to education to underrepresented students. Aya has shared her insights on postsecondary access, racial equity, and inclusion in op-eds in the Huffington Post UK, University World News, the Hechinger Report, the 2016 White House Summit for Advancing Postsecondary Diversity and Inclusion, and as a panelist at SXSW Education. Her leadership has been highlighted in the Cambridge Alumni Magazine, the Washington Post, and the University World News. She continues her commitment to equity through her work with Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA), a national, not-for-profit that develops the academic and leadership potential of exceptional high school students from historically marginalized backgrounds. In 2020, Aya earned the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship—a prestigious fellowship aimed to increase the diversity of the national college and university professoriate. When she isn’t writing and conducting research, Aya runs, swims, attempts new vegan recipes, and makes friends and family laugh.