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Spotlight: Audrey Petty, Director of Sojourner Scholars

Executive Director Lela Hilton
Audrey Petty

Audrey Petty joined Clemente in 2007, when she was teaching in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As a lifelong advocate of educational equity, Clemente's mission appealed to her, and she found that teaching in the course was "an exciting, meaningful way to be more engaged and connected to [her] community in Urbana-Champaign." Since then, she has worked with Clemente host Illinois Humanities on the Odyssey Project and to develop the Sojourner Scholars program, which offers college-level humanities courses for high school students in Chicago's South Side. Get to know Audrey with our quick Q&A!

Please share a favorite Clemente memory, or a favorite "fact" about the program that makes you proud to share your time and support! Developing the Sojourner Scholars program over the past seven years has been one of the greatest joys of my life. The teaching team for Sojourners is phenomenal and ever expanding; the care and knowledge that they bring to summer seminars is extraordinary. I'm most proud of how the program has become one in which young people (high school students from Chicago's South Side) engage, document, and produce knowledge about their city's histories and cultures.

What do you do outside of the Clemente universe? I write essays and stories, and I'm currently at work on a novel. I also love discovering new music, watching movies, and walking with friends and family near Lake Michigan. (I'm fortunate to live in a Chicago neighborhood that's very close to the lake.) Over the past year, I've been involved in a mutual aid project, connecting with my neighbors on the greater South Side of the city.

What makes Clemente and the study of the humanities special to you?

The study of the humanities is a lifelong invitation: to pay close attention, to listen and watch and read the world with curiosity and intention, and to make meaning and connections all the time.

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