Dr. Andia Augustin- Billy made history by becoming the first Black person to gain tenure in the 196-year history of Centenary College of Louisiana, the Shreveport Times reports.
“The fact that a Black woman has earned tenure at Centenary in 2021, and that the decision was based on merit, and not upon color, is certainly a cause for celebration,” Augustin-Billy said in her speech about her promotion.
Founded in 1825, Centenary is the oldest college in Louisiana and the 43rd oldest in the country.
In acknowledgment of her achievement, a celebration was held in the College’s Anderson Auditorium attended by faculty and staff.
Dr. Christopher L. Holoman, president of Centenary, lauded Augustin-Billy for her scholarship, service to the school, and recognized that the school has more work to do.
“Let us use this moment to celebrate the progress that has been made, but also to acknowledge the unforgivably slow pace of that progress in the past and the distance still to travel on this journey,” he said.
In the world of academia, tenure for Black professors is an arduous process. According to a report by The Journal of Black in Education, Black tenured professors represented less than 5 percent of all tenured professors in the country.
Augustin-Billy, who earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in French language and literature from Washington University in St. Louis, is an associate professor of French and Francophone Studies and has published scholarships on the intersection of race, class, and gender. Additionally, her research includes travel and migration in French and Francophone African and Caribbean literature, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
After earning her Ph.D. in 2015, Augustin-Billy joined the faculty of Centenary. She was then chosen for the Harry Blake Education Award from Mt. Canaan Baptist Church in Shreveport in 2018 and the prestigious Mellon Emerging Faculty Leaders Award in 2019.
Currently, she co-teaches an immersive course exploring the experiences of Black Americans in Paris in conjunction with the school’s Centenary in Paris program. Also, she teaches a yearly May module course in Haiti, where she draws upon her experiences of being raised as the daughter of missionaries.
Marissa Ramsey, a recent graduate of Centenary, recalled being a student of Augustin-Billy and mentioned that “She likes to say she demanded the blood of her students, but the reality is, she willingly offered her own as often as she demanded ours.”
Augustin-Billy said that she had planned to give honor to all the Black professors who earned tenure before her but discovered from an archivist that she was the first.
“I came from a culture where you acknowledge the people who have gone before you. When I got tenure, the next day I called the archivist and asked them, will you please tell me how many have been before me because I want to acknowledge them and thank them for paving the way, except that I didn’t know I paved my own damn way,” she said.