Stoni Drane '20


 Academic Enhancement Research Fellow, Stoni Drane


Meet Stoni Drane, a recipient of the Academic Enhancement Research Fellowship offered through the Office of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships (PAF). Stoni is a recent UM graduate with a major in Sociology and minors in Africana Studies and Education. Throughout the course of her fellowship, Stoni focused on Black mental health awareness, particularly within the Black student population at UM. Here, Stoni offers insight into her research, her experience with the fellowship, as well as her interests and plans for the future. 

Major: Pre-law with a major in Sociology

Minors: Africana Studies and Education

Hometown: Boston, MA

Class Year: 2020

Extracurricular Activities or Clubs: The Women’s Commission, United Black Students, Empower Me First, The Civic Scholars Program, Vice President of the Sociology/Criminology Club, President of Kids and Culture

Prestigious Awards Received: Academic Enhancement Research Fellowship


PAF: What are your goals after graduation?

Stoni: My long term and ideal career would be working in the field of law and finding a position that would permit me to combine my interests in law, social justice/advocacy, and education. My goal is to implement laws, businesses, and programs that prevent the disenfranchisement of people of color, women, children, and other marginalized groups of people living in this country.

PAF: What makes you unique?

Stoni: Every person, including myself, has moments in their life that have contributed to their unique story and made them into the person they are today. I was raised by a single mother of five, in the inner city of Boston, in a housing project that was surrounded by extreme violence, drug activity, and poverty. My life, as one can imagine, has come with real struggles. Each struggle, as it grew in magnitude, shaped me into a more resilient person. With that being said, I would say strength is embedded in my spirit, and because of that, it is one of my greatest, most unique attributes.

PAF: What made you choose the University of Miami?

Stoni: I laugh when people ask me why I chose the University of Miami because I actually believe the University of Miami chose me. During my senior year of college, my dance teacher encouraged me to apply to UM. She told me her sister was an alum of the university and that she enjoyed her experience. Not knowing much about UM, I applied on a whim. A few weeks later I received a letter stating I had not only been accepted by the University but had been accepted on a full scholarship, a condition that was essential in order for me to be able to attend college. I took the letter as a sign and decided it was destiny for me to become a Cane.

PAF: Can you share a little bit about your research project?

Stoni: Discussing the topic of mental illness is a taboo within many Black communities. In fact, in my community, it is as if the term is nonexistent. This public health issue is subject to stigma and is avoided in conversations at all costs. As a Black student living on campus at the University of Miami, I have observed that this guarded attitude toward mental illness exists among different groups of Black students. In addition to the various organized outreach programs and services provided at the University, UMCC, The University of Miami Counseling Center, makes its presence known on campus. Its services are available to the entire student body and emphasizes the importance of “effective and quality multidisciplinary psychological services” that respect the “diversity and cultural identities” of every student. Yet, despite this, many Black students on campus remain reluctant to utilize them. My research explores why this is and furthermore the factors that are keeping Black students from utilizing UM’s counseling center and medical facilities beyond.

PAF: Why is the pursuit of research important to you?

Stoni: My enthusiastic and passionate drive for positive change fuels a majority of the professional and academic decisions I make. Throughout my career at UM, I have been determined to use my studies to make a difference on campus. Pursuing this research was another opportunity for me to do just that while giving a collective voice to Black students on campus.

PAF: What advice would you give to students seeking out award and fellowship opportunities?

Stoni: The greatest advice I would give to students seeking award and fellowship opportunities is to not be afraid. The university is full of bright and successful students and awards and fellowships are of course competitive. But do not let that deter you from applying because, in the words of one of my favorite athletes, Muhammad Ali, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

PAF: What is one of the most life-changing or eye-opening experiences that you have had during your time as a student?

Stoni: I would say that college in its entirety has been one of the most life-changing, eye-opening experiences of my life. I have learned so much, have met so many amazing people, and truly have had experiences that would have never been awarded to me, had I not been honored with the opportunity to be here. Having said that, I would like to thank the multitude of family and friends that helped me get to college and beyond and finally to the University of Miami, thank you. Thank you for being a part of the village that helped mold me into the young woman I am today.


For more information about how you can apply for the Academic Enhancement Research Fellowship, click here.