by Julie Lineback

As senior year was winding down, graduate school was one of the furthest things from University of West Georgia student Isiah Aranda’s mind.

Isiah Aranda He was trying to learn how to walk again.

“I was in a really bad car accident my senior year that shattered my femur into 35 pieces and broke my pelvis,” he recalled. “The subsequent surgery caused bone marrow to enter my lungs, which then failed.”

After spending time in the intensive care unit at Grady Hospital, Aranda was able to complete his senior year remotely with support from UWG faculty while immobilized at home.

“Dr. Felix Tweraser [professor of German] and Dr. Julia Brock [assistant professor of history] went above and beyond in assisting me during the time I could not be at the university because of my accident,” Aranda shared. “They are incredible professors as well as incredible people.”

Part of the process of completing his senior year at home was registering with UWG Accessibility Services through the Counseling Center. Aranda remembered struggling to ask for assistance and the counselors helping him immensely.

“I was not prepared for the emotional element that came with not having the same mobility I used to,” he said. “It made me sad, mad and - at times - thoroughly depressed. The counselors made me feel OK. It was OK to cry, and it was OK to ask for help.”

Aranda said the most important thing the counselors taught him was about leveling the playing field, which made him feel better about the whole process.

“Thanks to them, the faculty and my family, I managed to graduate cum laude and walk across the stage,” he said.

Because of the difficult convalescence, Aranda missed application deadlines for graduate programs as well as scholarships. He and his family were pleasantly surprised when they learned UWG has a rolling deadline for graduate school, and Aranda said the opportunity was too incredible not to try. He ultimately was accepted to the history graduate program.

“It is amazing,” he said. “The most jarring event in my life did not even slow me down in hindsight.”

Although Aranda received his bachelor’s degree in anthropology, he felt he was lacking in knowledge pertaining to the written record.

“I’ve always been passionate about combating inequality and pressing for real inclusion,” said Aranda, who is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. “I decided to pursue history when I realized I needed to understand more about history itself in order to understand why hierarchies exist and persist.”

Aranda’s research takes his fervor for diversity and combines it with his fascination with religions. His “deep longing” to understand why people subscribe to certain belief systems has led him to base his thesis on the topic.

“I am studying how cultural expression has been impacted by oppression over time for Africans and African-Americans,” he explained. “Over time, when faced with adversity, millions turn to a deity or deities. I think the power of faith oftentimes is stronger than whatever adversity we may face. I think this makes a powerful statement regarding the power of the human will to endure.”

UWG’s College of Arts and Humanities recently recognized Aranda’s dedication to inclusiveness by naming him a recipient of its new Graduate Studies Fellowship for Underrepresented Minority Students.

He said he was honored to be a member of the inaugural class of recipients.

“In a time when native land is still under attack, opportunities like this are more valuable than ever,” he shared. “The communities I come from have been historically disenfranchised, not only by society but also by the historical record. This award allows me an opportunity to push forward in my education so that I can work toward reclaiming the past of my people.”

Posted on March 23, 2018