I am honored and humbled by the special opportunity I was afforded as a non-traditional undergraduate student to earn my Bachelor's degree from within the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS) founded by the late scholar-activist, Dr. Manning Marable. The depth, rigor and ever-relevant material contained in the Institute’s interdisciplinary curriculum, the intellectual heft expressed by the heterogeneous faculty (many leading scholars and pioneers in their respective fields), and the sophistication of my peers, who continually engaged and pushed the limits of my limited perspective in our intimate seminars, created a didactic atmosphere that was holistic and transformative. I can without equivocation say this first-rate liberal arts education was the most enlightening and substantive experience of my life thus far and will undoubtedly influence all of my future endeavors. Moreover, I believe it is true and not trite to say there is no greater gift than an education, especially one rooted in dissecting an often-gerrymandered history, especially one rooted in fostering both ethos and critical thinking, especially one rooted in compelling and ultimately requiring of its graduates to carry the tools and knowledge accrued beyond the confines of the classroom in order spread egalitarian ideals, forge coalitions, courageously challenge corrupt power structures and work to build a more just and equitable society. This is the education and great gift IRAAS provided me.