Amazing Students Profiles

JoyEllen Freeman

JoyEllen Freeman

JoyEllen Freeman has made sure that her education at UGA is the experience of a lifetime. As a student, she’s traveled abroad, participated in numerous studies on civil rights, developed research through the CURO program and mentored youngsters in the local community.



High School:

Milton High School

Degree objective:

A.B. in English, B.S.Ed. in English education

Other degrees:

Minor in Spanish

Expected graduation:

Spring 2013

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

When I entered the University of Georgia in the fall of 2009, I was a member of the Honors program, a recipient of the HOPE Scholarship and a recipient of a CURO apprenticeship. As a CURO apprentice (now known as a CURO Honors Scholar), I had the opportunity to select a research mentor and delve into 10-12 hours of paid, undergraduate research during my first semester of college. I chose to work with Dr. Barbara McCaskill in the English department. From there, I began my journey as a researcher for the Civil Rights Digital Library, an online, library initiative that documents the history of the Civil Rights Movement. Little did I know that my life was changed forever. So many of the achievements, awards and opportunities that I have received throughout my college career have stemmed from my research and my experiences in CURO, and I am eternally grateful.

Due to my research efforts and my passion for the Civil Rights Movement, in January of 2010, I I was named a Donald and Louise Hollowell CURO apprentice. The Hollowells were extremely influential in the desegregation of UGA in 1961, so I was honored to have an apprenticeship in their name. I continued working hard as a researcher, and my work for the year culminated in a presentation at the annual UGA CURO Symposium.

In March of 2010, I received a CURO Summer Research Fellowship, which gave me the opportunity to conduct paid research for eight weeks during the summer. I chose to take my research back in time by focusing on 19th-century slavery in Georgia. Specifically, I researched the life and music of one particular slave named Blind Tom, a blind, autistic, musical genius who traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe exhibiting his uncanny musical abilities. My research on Blind Tom proved to be more generative than I could have ever imagined. I presented this research at Macon State College in November of 2010 and at the 2011 CURO Symposium. At the CURO Symposium, I won a Best Paper Award in the Humanities for my scholarly paper about Blind Tom. My research on Blind Tom also was featured on the blog of Recently, I found out that my Blind Tom paper won the Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research from the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Board.

In addition to having a wonderful research community, I also am a Mid-Term Foundation Fellow. I am so thankful to be a part of the Foundation Fellowship, a community of scholars who are passionate about academics, travel and changing the world in which they live. Being a Foundation Fellow gave me the chance to study abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina this summer through the UGA en Buenos Aires Program. It was an incredible experience.

One of my biggest achievements since entering UGA occurred this past summer, when I participated in the 2011 Student Freedom Ride. Sponsored by the Public Broadcasting Service and the American Experience History Series, the 2011 Student Freedom Ride gave 40 college students from across the country a chance to retrace the route of the original 1961 Freedom Rides. As a Freedom Rider, I literally saw my research come to life as I held conversations with iconic civil rights activists such as John Lewis, Diane Nash and Jim Zwerg. After the Freedom Ride ended, I wrote an opinion editorial for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about my incredible experience as a rider, and this article appeared May 26. The 2011 Student Freedom Ride was a life-changing experience for me and one that I will never forget.

When it comes to campus life, I really enjoy volunteering at the Thomas Lay After-School Program. Through the Thomas Lay Program, I tutor and mentor elementary and middle-school age students for two hours every week. Within those two hours, I assist students with their homework assignments, read with them and, of course, play! I have served as a mentor for the Thomas Lay Program since the fall of 2010, and I absolutely love it. Last year, I also served as a staff member for the Mandala Journal (, an online, multicultural, student-run journal. As the managing poetry editor, I had the opportunity to conduct an amazing interview with Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the first black woman to enroll at the University of Georgia.

Current Employment:

I am a teaching assistant in the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. Within the CURO program, there is a special group of researchers called the CURO Honors Scholars. These first and second-year students complete 10-12 hours of research a week and attend a weekly research class. I was a CURO Honors Scholar during my first and second years at UGA, and now I am a teaching assistant in the weekly class. I absolutely love mentoring the first- and second-year students as I help them to become better researchers.

Family Ties to UGA:

Sadly, I do not have any family ties to UGA.

I chose to attend UGA because…

…this school provided the most opportunities for me. Through the CURO Apprenticeship and the Honors Program, I had the opportunity to conduct research and take advantage of Honors courses and seminars. UGA also very supportive of study abroad, and I knew that I wanted to travel during my college career. And last but not least, I loved the campus! I really felt at home here.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

…exploring the Main Library, taking walks on North Campus, people watching in the Miller Learning Center and digging through archival material in the basement of the Main Library.

When I have free time, I like…

…to read pleasure books. My favorite genres are romance and historical fiction. I also enjoy having movie nights with my best friend and fellow UGA student Melissa Kaus.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

…leave for a wedding in New Orleans on Friday when I had a final exam on Monday. It was really cutting it close, but one of my closest family friends was getting married, and I was not about to miss a wedding in the Big Easy. I made it to my final somehow!

My favorite place to study is…

…the Main Library. Although I need seclusion from people when I study, I love being around so many books—it inspires me.

My favorite professor is…

…Dr. Barbara McCaskill, associate professor of English. Dr. McCaskill has been my research mentor since I entered UGA, and I could not imagine what my college career would be like without her. In addition to being the perfect research mentor, Dr. McCaskill is truly a teacher. She teaches me how to think and write like a scholar. She shows me the ins and outs of research, and she even allows me to accompany her on research trips. What I love most about Dr. McCaskill is that she is always willing to give me life advice and listen to issues or concerns that I am having. She is never too busy for me.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

I would love to share it with John Lewis. I have had the pleasure of meeting John Lewis twice, and each time I found myself wishing that I could spend even more time with him. John Lewis was a Freedom Rider, a leader in the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, a speaker at the March on Washington and one of the most dedicated civil rights activists that I have even seen, yet he never forgets his heart for people, and he is not too preoccupied to start a conversation with someone who wants to speak with him. His humility, courage and integrity make me want to be a better individual.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

…spend my days writing. I love poetry, so I would write volume after volume of poetry about anything in the world that interests me.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

…spend an entire summer making baked goods. I absolutely love to bake, but I never have enough money to really experiment consistently. I love seeing the look on people’s faces when you bring them a freshly baked good, so I would be delivering quite a lot of surprises that summer.

After graduation, I plan to…

…teach English and reading at the middle school level. I also plan to eventually work in an education branch of a non-profit organization in order to promote social justice and diversity in the American education system.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

…was the opening reception of UGA’s 50th Anniversary of Desegregation Celebration. Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Mary Frances Early and Hamilton Holmes Jr. were all present; and Charlayne Hunter-Gault noted that she was so glad to be looking at “a rainbow of faces.” It was a surreal experience because at that moment, I realized the price Ms. Hunter-Gault, Ms. Early and Mr. Holmes paid so that I could attend this university 50 years later. Simultaneously, I was appreciating my past while remaining hopeful for the future.