“I know what empowerment can do to you. I know how empowerment can change your life.” – Prof. John H. Stanfield II
Prof. John H. Stanfield II is Director of The Institute of Advanced Study of African Renaissance Policies Ideas and President of Americans Visiting Africa. Stanfield graduated from Fresno State with a bachelor’s of sociology in 1973, but he did more than that. He earned the University’s Outstanding Graduate Award which is given to students that achieve extraordinary academic and extra-curricular activity performance. He was the first African-American student to receive it.
“If it wasn’t for the College of Social Sciences, I would not be sitting here,” Stanfield said. He recognizes the opportunities that were afforded to him during his time at Fresno State made a significant impact on him and the career path he ultimately chose to take. Stanfield has gone on to become a renowned sociologist, professor and humanitarian working to improve race relations and development.
He is thankful for professors who believed in his potential and pushed him to do better because they knew he was capable of it. He says studying at Fresno State empowered him and made him aware of his intellect.
“It was a blessing to be here at a time when there were such caring professors, who didn’t see me as a black person, but as a human being that deserved to be given the opportunity,” he said. As an undergraduate student, he was invited to present his paper at a conference in Phoenix, AZ. The Sociology Department chair gathered funds from the University and sent Stanfield on his first plane ride and conference. He recounted this as a life-changing experience.
Stanfield took the opportunities he earned and has given them back to students and the world tenfold. In the nineties, Stanfield received an almost two million dollar grant while he was a professor at UC Davis. Stanfield wanted to give back to the working class community where he grew up, which he described as poor and predominantly black. He, along with colleagues and students, developed the Environmental Science Academy- an urban agriculture project to help the community’s youth develop an interest in the social justice side of science at Grant Union High School in Sacramento, California. The goal of the Academy is to teach high school students ways to create healthy and sustainable communities.
Stanfield now travels to Ethiopia and is using his skills as a comparative historical political sociologist to help with democratic development. “It gave me the opportunity to make a difference, to coach faculty interested in getting a Ph.D., to provide a venue for academics and academic policymakers to engage in processes to explore societal issues like unemployment or HIV/AIDS, or education and issues for women,” he said.
Dr. Stanfield takes great pride in being a role model for students. He has several who he says have gone on to become phenomenal professionals many of whom have furthered his ideas. Ideas that he says, were formed right here at Fresno State.