Badass Babes of Kenyon: Toneisha Stubbs

Author’s note: This article is part one of four in a series on women at Kenyon who the author personally finds to be downright inspiring. This series is by no means comprehensive since of course, all babes of Kenyon are badass.


Name: Toneisha Stubbs

Class: 2018

Major: Neuroscience

Minor: Chemistry

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Interests: Junk food, working with other students, music, sleep

Groups involved with on campus: Black Student Union, Sisterhood, Wiggin Street Elementary volunteers

Role model: Toneisha’s mom, because she’s never let anything stop her and has always managed to keep her head high

Why Toneisha is badass: Toneisha is, without a doubt, one of the most hardworking people I’ve met at Kenyon. In addition to being a woman in STEM, she has held at least two jobs at any given point over the past three and a half years. This year, she won the one of two Franklin Miller Awards for her contributions to the academic environment at Kenyon, despite the fact that, as a black woman, she has had to overcome many barriers that #KenyonSoWhite has placed in her path, knowingly or not. She’s my CA, so maybe I’m a little biased, but in this year alone I’ve learned more from her—about surviving college and about life in general—than I have anywhere else. In this interview, I sat with her in the library over a package of gummy bears to learn about the best and worst of Kenyon over her time here, and how she stays motivated to succeed when people are against her.

Sarah: Thank you so much for doing this interview with me on such short notice!

Toneisha: You’re welcome. Thank you for thinking of me


S: I know it’s Friday, but it’s that time in the semester when we’re all hella busy and somewhat dead. Spring break is so close, yet still so far. What big things do you have left to do before the break?

T: Oh, Jesus. I’m still troubleshooting my research experiment, and so I need to like, make sure that I can… make it work. Before break.


S: What’s your research experiment on?

T: I’m looking at the D2 receptors and the striatum of ATP on mice, which is a model that we have for autism because they display similar behaviors, just in mouse form. And so I’m trying to see if there are differences in the number of D2 receptors that they have in their brains, versus just the normal, wild-type mouse. Right now I’m having trouble detecting the actual protein, so…


S: Cool, I definitely know what all of that means. [I didn’t, but I looked it up. The dopamine receptor D2 is responsible for the reception of antipsychotic drugs, and the striatum is the part of the brain that deals with motor and reward systems. Science!] Is your experiment a big senior thing or just a normal neuroscience thing?

T: It’s for my independent research, so I’ve been working in the lab that I’m in since the end of my first year. For some odd reason, this year, I decided to start a new project instead of continuing with the one that I’d been doing.


S: So you had comps last semester then? How were those?

T: They were rough. We finished before Thanksgiving break, so everything was pretty frontloaded. It was stressful, but that moment that you click submit, it’s like, Thank God. After that I just had to hope I passed, which I did, so that was good.


S: Would you change anything about how you prepared?

T: I don’t know. In the end, it all worked out, but I probably would have worked on it a little more consistently. I think I worked on it for a few weeks and then kind of just like, pushed it back and switched gears and didn’t start working on it again. I could have probably turned in a better final product if I had worked on it more consistently.


S: Well, I’m sure you did great.

T: Thank you! I passed, I mean…


S: That’s what matters.

T: Right!


S: What about your Kenyon experience in general? Any groups you would have gotten involved with sooner, or classes you wish you had or hadn’t taken?

T: I’ve been involved with the BSU since I got here, but just as a member. I wish I would have gotten more involved with the exec board or helped out a little more. I always got so consumed in my schoolwork that I was like, “I can’t do those things, and I can’t  be on the exec board for these things.” But I would’ve loved to have been able to do that, to actually feel like I had more of an impact on that group’s presence on campus, rather than just attending meetings and listening.


S: What advice do you have for people like me, who are just now barely getting into the swing of this college stuff?

T: Take it one day at a time. We can get so consumed with being like, “At the end of the semester this is what I want my GPA to be,” or “At the end of the semester I want this and that and this and...” Take it one day at a time, like “By the end of the day, I want to have done this.” Just make smaller goals and take pride in reaching those smaller goals and those accomplishments. And this doesn’t have to be something you write down, but just as you go to bed, “By this time tomorrow, this is what I want to do.” And sometimes you’re going to fall, but don’t count yourself out, ever, no matter how many times you fall. Just keep getting back up.


S: That sounds like a really good, really hard practice.

T: Yeah, one I’m still working on.


S: What about people whose identities—racial, sexual, gender, whatever—have caused others to doubt their academic abilities? I know someone whose advisor asked her if she was sure she wanted to major in economics because there aren’t many girls in that field. How have you combated people expecting less of you because of your race and gender?

T: I think for me, a lot of those expectations or that instant belief that someone has because of my identity has led me to… Not prove them wrong, but you sort of start to internalize those expectations even if you don’t really realize it. You go into something knowing that you’re just as prepared as everyone else, but you end up thinking you’re not ready, or you have to work three times as hard as these other people just to get half of what they’re getting. And so, I try to combat that internalization by proving myself wrong. Whenever I start to doubt myself because of something someone else said I’m like, “You have to prove to yourself that you can do this.” Every time I can prove myself wrong, that’s all that matters… and then at the same time, it’s like “Fuck everyone else because you thought I couldn’t do this but I did.”


S: I like that, proving it to yourself first before you prove it to other people.

T: Yeah. You have to know you can do it. Everyone else is gonna have their fucked up opinion, and there’s really not much that we can do about that. But when they look at us, have them be like “Fuck, what I thought wasn’t really true.” Sorry, I’m cussing.


S: It’s okay! What sort of things do you think the Kenyon administration can do in order to make marginalized people’s experiences at Kenyon better?

T: One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot this year, especially as I leave, is how many times I’ve seen myself on this campus. How many times have I been able to have conversations with students, professors, administrators who identify with some of my identities, or even all of them? It hasn’t been many. I think representation is so important, and it’s something that Kenyon lacks on every level. Somehow, we have to change that, we have to make sure that every group in our student body is seeing themselves on this campus in some way, shape, or form.


S: Why Kenyon, then? Why come to a school that is so shit at diversity and inclusion?

T: So, Kenyon has a three-week summer program for high school students, currently called the Camp 4 program. That’s how I found out about Kenyon—one of my teachers from my high school was like, “Oh, I think this would be great for you.” I absolutely loved the program. The classes are taught by alumni if you’re a rising junior and professors if you’re a rising senior. I had Professor McNair and Professor McFarlane. And so I was, in a way, because they’re both black males, able to see myself in them, and then most of the other students in the program were also students of color, so we all ended up getting this warped perception of what it would be like to be here. Then, your senior year of high school they invite you to come back during the Cultural Connections visit days, and so you get another warped view of diversity.


S: That’s such bullshit!

T: Yeah. So I got here for orientation as a freshman, and I was like… oh. But, on the other hand, financial aid helped a lot in choosing to come here, and then because I had taken part in that program I knew I would have a support system here already. So I thought, no matter how hard the transition is, I knew five other students from the program who were coming in, as well as already knowing two professors, and one of my TAs in the program was still here. I felt like I would have all these people to fall back on.


S: Are you still friends with those people? T: Yeah. They’re my closest friend group.


S: That’s great. So we don’t end on a bad note, what’s been the best thing about your time here?

T: I think I’ve grown a lot in a way that I really can’t see myself being able to do somewhere else. I’ve been completely taken out of my comfort zone and have had amazing opportunities. I came in thinking I knew what I wanted to do and have had amazing experiences here that have changed me, like, “No, this is actually what you want to do. This is actually what you’re passionate about.” And I’ve had those experiences because of the amazing support system that I’ve been able to build around myself, with mostly the professors in STEM. They’ve continually pushed me to take these opportunities, and now I’m not going in a direction that I was going in coming into Kenyon, but I know myself better. This is really what I’m passionate about and really what I want to do, and I can’t really imagine having those opportunities somewhere else, building the support system I’ve had anywhere else.

Image Credit: Author’s Own, Maggie Bradley, Toneisha Stubbs