Spotlight: Professor Steven Leyva

professor Steven Leyva

Steven Leyva was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and raised in Houston, Texas. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 2 Bridges Review, Scalawag, Nashville Review, jubilat, Vinyl, Prairie Schooner, and Best American Poetry 2020. He is a Cave Canem fellow and author of the chapbook, Low Parish, and author of The Understudy’s Handbook, which won the Jean Feldman Poetry Prize from Washington Writers Publishing House. Leyva holds an MFA from the University of Baltimore, where he is an assistant professor in the Klein Family School of Communications Design.

Where did Professor Leyva study?

Professor Leyva attended undergrad at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He then went on to complete his graduate work here at the University of Baltimore in the Creative Writing and Publishing Arts program.

What inspired Professor Leyva to begin teaching?

Growing up with an older brother, Rabu, who was a high school theater then mathematics teacher had an impact on Professor Leyva’s ultimate career field choice, considering he had already “seen a model of that in [his] life.” During his first year of graduate school, he also started the Baltimore City teaching residency, where he became a high school teacher in the city. Professor Leyva recalls, “my first year in grad school was also my first year of teaching high school… it was stressful [laughs], but I enjoyed the framework of it all.” He also notes that teaching is not necessarily a job for just anyone, but that he considers himself “a curious person” and that “teaching is a profession where you are affirmed and rewarded for being curious.” 

Does Professor Leyva feel any anxiety surrounding to concept of being a black writer?

Professor Leyva explains that he did feel pressure in some ways, but it was not always necessarily the typical question of, ‘how are you going to make money?’ By the time he had discovered writing poetry and chosen to attend grad school for it, he wasn’t too worried about how to apply his degree, since he was already teaching high school and had planned to continue with it after graduation. What he felt more pressure about, Leyva reveals, was “not being a certain kind of black voice the industry wanted.” He elaborates the fact that as his writing career progressed over time, he realized his writing wasn’t really meeting people’s expectations of where it could be marketed. 

Leyva shares, “I grew up really, really poor but I also grew up doing really well in school… I wasn’t involved with drugs… led a pretty straight-laced life, had people to help me, but don’t get me wrong… we were living in the hood.” Yet he stresses that he didn’t have that “up from the bottom, I could have died” experience that many folks expected to be reading about within his writing, which typically ended up being more so about his love of comic books or his childhood in New Orleans. For Leyva, this led him to question, “where are the nerdy black men, are they getting book deals?” 

Why did Professor Leyva choose Ubalt?

Leyva shares that throughout the duration of his graduate program, he only had one black professor the entire time. After already beginning teaching as an adjunct professor straight out of grad school, he felt that UBalt was a familiar place, somewhere he wouldn’t have to uproot his family’s life to pursue a job with. He expresses that “it felt like I could give back to a place that really gave a lot to me,” while admiring the university’s range in population demographics and close-knit classroom feel. Another appealing aspect of teaching at UBalt for Professor Leyva stems from the notion that “we can have really intelligent and vibrant conversations, but it’s not pretentious.” 

What does being a black professor at an institution like Ubalt mean to Professor Leyva?

Leyva shares that “having someone who doesn’t necessarily have your exact same experience, but maybe is in the same solar system as your experience, sometimes can be really helpful.” Additionally, he tries to be “the best example of one kind of blackness I can be, so that what it might do is expand what black life means at this school, or reinforce [what] it [means].” 

What inspired Professor Leyva to pursue teaching courses that fall outside the stereotypical norm?

Leyva states that he always tries to be himself, and to combine hobbies with work is something he’s always been interested in accomplishing. He explains that, “in order to create and think critically, you have to be able to adapt. You see it within podcasts, twitter…” so he poses the question, “why can’t we combine the two [hobbies and work] and make it more enjoyable for everyone?” Leyva elaborates that he is attempting to show his students “what is possible,” that there may be different lanes where each individual’s interests lay and there “is a way for you to flow through it” based on the skills students can potentially adopt and enhance upon within the class. 

What and/or who has been Professor Leyva’s biggest inspiration as a writer?

Professor Leyva attributes his inspiration to several different people who had significant impacts on his life, especially regarding opportunities he’s been given. He credits one of his former grad school professors, Kendra Kolpelke, who founded the Creative Writing and Publishing Arts MFA program at UBalt, as being instrumental in getting the interview which eventually led to his full-time teaching position here. Leyva also highlights his brother, Rabu, as being an impactful role model and the first person to ever really encourage the arts in his life. He shares that, after grad school, a poet named Tim Teebles “had a generous way of reading my poems” and helped give feedback on Leyva’s first book.

Mainly, though, he has been heavily inspired by the world of literature and by reading other poet’s works. He expresses that there have been countless individuals who have given him opportunities and believed in what he could do as an artist, people who he felt were able to see “something valuable” and “worth developing” in the art he was producing that led him to where he is as a writer today. 

What is Professor Leyva’s reaction to the recent, continuous threats of violence against HBCU (Historically Black College/University) institutions?

Professor Leyva strongly details his feelings on the continued occurrences of racism at these institutions. He states that threats such as these are “just another form of terrorism… [which] I think is the exact opposite of what an HBCU is supposed to mean… [they’re] supposed to be [these] place[s] where black folks can learn, not have to explain their cultures, be with other black people… in other words, [they] should be place[s] of safety.” Leyva’s consensus is that these matters undoubtedly need to be taken more seriously and that those making threats need to “have the book thrown at them,” because at the end of the day, “[I’m] not tryna die going to school.” Threats of violence such as these are just yet another strain on black folks in today’s America. 

What’s next for Professor Leyva?

Professor Leyva explains that he is working on a new book of poems as well as an article about poetry and public memory with another UBalt faculty member. He shares that next year, he will be applying for tenure here at UBalt, which will lead to increased job security, a bigger salary, and improved overall happiness for him and his family! 

Connect with Leyva on twitter: @sdleyva

On behalf of The Sting, we would like to give a huge ‘thank you’ to Professor Steven Leyva for taking the time out of his busy schedule and letting us conduct this SPOTLIGHT interview. Also, Sting readers: bee on the lookout for new articles!

March Madness’ return was just as crazy as ever

It’s that time of year folks! March Madness, the annual event where the best of women’s and men’s college basketball compete center stage, wrapped up last weekend with the final two championship games. 

Last year, March Madness was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This proved to be such an upset for fans across the country as the tournament is so celebrated year-in and year-out. 

In fact, recently the men’s Final Four on TBS and truTV was watched by more than seven million households

Seeing all the stellar ratings made me wonder, why do we love March Madness so much?

Supporting your School

The number one reason why we love March Madness is that we love to support our schools. 

Whether you are an alumni or a current student, everyone loves to support where they came from. It’s almost like it is in our blood. We love the ability to see our schools on a nation stage where millions of people will be able to see them. 

While the University of Baltimore hasn’t had a college basketball team to root for since the early 80’s, it’s almost better in some ways. We can root for whoever we want with no repercussions!

Cinderella Stories

The second reason why we love March Madness is that we love Cinderella stories. We love it when the underdog schools find a way to get into the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight, or even sometimes the Final Four. This happens every year and it is always exciting!

This year the Cinderella story has been UCLA. Ranked number eleven, they made it all the way to the Final Four just to come up short to the number one seed Gonzaga. Their journey is just the latest and I am sure there will be another great Cinderella story next year.

The Player who Takes Over

The third reason why we love March Madness is that every year it feels like there is one player who can take over the tournament and lead his team all on their own. 

Stephen Curry led his school Davidson. Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse to a National Championship. 

This year the most dominant player has been Jalen Suggs of Gonzaga who has led them all the way to the championship game with his crazy game winning shot against UCLA. 

This leads me to my next point.

Game Winners

My number four reason why we love March Madness is the crazy game winners. 

Every year for March Madness it feels like we always get at least two crazy game winners, sometimes even more. 

Some of the greatest that will always live in our hearts are Mario Chalmers’ game tying shot for Kansas, or Kris Jenkins’ game winner for the National Championship. The Jalen Suggs game winner I mentioned previously is arguably already one of the greatest ever because of the impact and shot itself. Suggs stopped UCLA from having arguably the greatest tournament ever with a pull up banking three pointer to send them home. This is just another classic shot that will live in our hearts forever.

UCONN’s Dominance is finally Changing

Unfortunately, women’s college basketball is sometimes an afterthought when March Madness comes around because of UCONN’s dominance. They won an astounding four championships in a row from 2013 to 2016, and eleven championships overall. 

This dominance is what made them great, but it left many fans bored of seeing the same school win every year. This is finally starting to change. 

It has been a few years since they have won a National Championship, and this is great because it allows other teams to make a name for themselves. With Paige Bueckers on UCONN’s side, it was surprising to see them knocked out so early by Arizona in the Final Four. 

This year we were able to see UCONN dominate and still see other schools grab the spotlight as well. This culminated with Stanford’s victory over Arizona by just one point!

Unbelievable Season Runs

Gonzaga had an unbelievable run this season, sitting at an astounding 31-0 record going into the championship game. When the tournament started last month, many had Gonzaga winning it all in their bracket, and they came pretty darn close. 

But the one game they needed to win, they couldn’t make it count. 

Baylor, who hadn’t won a championship in 73 years, kept Gonzaga down. The Bulldogs were able to fight back to just a single-digit definit at some points, but overall it was too much to overcome. Baylor routed Gonzaga 86-70.

March Madness is a great time each year for sports fans because it allows them to root for something. This gave us a much needed boost, considering how miserable Covid has made everyone. This tournament has been one of the greatest in recent memory.

Demetrius Jones is a staff writer for The Sting.

The Color Theory: Luxury Buying and Sneaker Culture

Photo: Ryan Plomp – Unsplash

People are willing to spend high money on sneakers for the hype –  the exclusivity consisting of vibrant colors and unbelievable comfort. We can all agree, spending on luxury items (such as exclusive, high-end sneakers) can boost confidence and egos among many people in “sneaker culture”.

Nicole Anne Pore of Highlight Story points out four potential factors of luxury spending: rationale, self-esteem, accomplishment, and authenticity. 

  • Rationale: Mirrors the impulsive buying experience. Typically, we “over-emphasise the positives and ignore the disadvantages” – simply, if we see something we like, it’s hard for us to find a reason why we don’t want it.
  • Self-Esteem: Simply, we feel better when we treat ourselves. Think about when you buy a new pair of shoes, you feel like you’re floating and got all the swag in the world!
  • Accomplishment: We buy expensive stuff because we want to reward ourselves. Also goes with rationalization, we find another reason why we “deserve” this luxury item.
  • Authenticity: Quality is the main reason why we buy a higher-priced item compared to it’s cheaper counterpart
Photo: Amit Lahav – Unsplash

We all have our own “crutch” or have a collection of some sort when it comes to streetwear fashion. Some may have more long sleeve shirts than short sleeved, some may have more shoes than hats, some may have more plaid patterns than striped patterns, and the list goes on. Personally, I am a huge advocate for collecting sneakers – as you may have guessed by now.

So for all the sneakerheads and sneaker-connoisseurs abroad, how much have you spent on shoes alone in the past year? Some may say it’s worth the price of investment (especially those who plan to resell), and some may say it’s worth the price for happiness and self-esteem.
This had me wondering: Why do people keep buying these high priced sneakers?

Photo: Artiom Vallat – Unsplash

I get it, sneaker culture is poppin’ off right now. And it doesn’t seem to slow down anytime soon, as the price of sneakers keep rising.

People are willing to spend high money on luxury items for a boost on self esteem, achieving a sense of accomplishment, feeling authentic – all which ties to the absence of rationale behind the decision to do so. Jennifer Ross of The American Reporter says, “shoppers feel better about themselves if they can buy more expensive things. It’s as simple as that. It gives them a sense of belonging where there might be insecurity. It reinforces their sense of self in a way that isn’t possible elsewhere”.

Don’t be fooled, though, you can still wear expensive shoes! You don’t have to break your bank account and still find shoes that will fit your style. After all, I’m here to help you look like a star!

For instance, the Nike Kyrie 7’s come in a variety of colors (such as dark and light aesthetics) that will fit into any streetwear – also noting for my fellow hoopers, these shoes are perfect for playing basketball too.

White Air Force 7’s are the perfect fit for any occasion – ask any sneakerhead out there! The shoe design is super versatile and is a classic-look among millennials.

Finally, it may be a little retro, but a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor’s low tops can also go with anything you could possibly wear for any occasion.


Demetrius Jones is a staff writer for The Sting. He is an English major at the University of Baltimore.

The Quick Rise of a Hometown Hero: Immanuel Quickly

Becoming a professional basketball player may seem impossible. But Northern Maryland native, Immanuel Quickley “quickly” rose to stardom as one of the most important pieces of a rising New York Knick squad, also garnering the nickname “The Floater King” for his efficient use of floaters around the paint.

Quickley was born in Havre de Grace, Maryland on June 17, 1999. His parents, Nitrease Quickley and Marcellous Quickley, raised their family under a Christian lifestyle. Of course, Immanuel thanks his parents for his support and continues his journey as an NBA player.

“I put all my faith and trust in God. My mom, along with the rest of my family, have done a really good job since I was a little child of putting that in me”, says Immanuel (Kentucky Today)

Not everyone was very excited about Immanuel dedicating his craft to just basketball. His father wanted to make sure his son did not prioritize basketball over his love for God. Kyle Tucker from The Athletic puts it best, “Marcellous Quickley has never seen his son play basketball in person until he was featured on television. As a devout member of the Pentecostal church, he has long viewed basketball as a road to perdition — a foolish distraction from the path to salvation at best, a self-edifying gateway to hell at worst”. Quickley still focused on his love for basketball, while remaining humble from God’s work.

Photo: Don Markus – Baltimore Sun

Eventually, he went to John Carroll on an athletic scholarship to play high school basketball. Although, Immanuel did not have a great freshman year, he bounced back in his sophomore year where he was finally able to start. He averaged eighteen points per game, four rebounds per game, three assists per game, and two steals per game according to USA Basketball. After having a great second season at John Carroll, Immanuel’s father finally realized that his son was capable of playing basketball at an elite level and being an elite Christian at the same time.

Source: Kyle Tucker – The Athletic

The next year, he improved his game by averaging: twenty-four points per game and seven assists per game. Then for his final campaign at John Carroll, he averaged: twenty-one points per game, seven rebounds per game, seven assists per game, and four steals per game.

Evidently, Quickley improved his defense tremendously and was named MVP of his high school team and earning more honors on the state level. On a national scale, he was named as a member of the McDonald’s All American team that has featured past legends: such as Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony.

After achieving great success at John Carroll, Immanuel knew he had to choose a college that would improve his game. Immanuel was recruited by some of the top D1 schools in the country, including: University of Maryland, University of Kansas, University of Kentucky, and University of Miami. (USA Basketball)

Photo: UK Athletics (Kentucky Today)

He decided to join legendary coach, John Calipari, at the University of Kentucky. Immanuel saw this as an opportunity to enhance his basketball knowledge and pave the way into the NBA. As a true freshman, he mostly sat on the bench while playing behind NBA first round draft pick, Tyler Herro. While doing so, he averaged an abysmal five points per game, two rebounds per game, and one assist per game.

According to YouTube sports researcher, under the name Romp 2.0, he states: “Immanuel admits that he was partying way too much and was not committed to playing great college level basketball”. Quickley knew he had to turn this around as he did not want his father’s precautions about him playing basketball to come true. Just like his freshman year of high school, Quickley reemerged as a college superstar in his sophomore season. Immanuel averaged sixteen points per game and four rebounds per game (Sports Reference College Basketball).

Source: Romp 2.0 – The Inspiring Story of Immanuel Quickley: The Overlooked Rookie Who is Taking Over New York

His incredible progression catapulted this young man into the national spotlight. Quickley was named SEC Player of the Year and was named to SEC First Team (USA Basketball). Following this season, he declared for the 2020 NBA draft. He was drafted with the twenty-fifth overall pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder, and then was traded to the New York Knicks on draft night (Corier Journal).

The young superstar started out the pandemic-ridden season slow, but has catapulted all the way to the top of the rookie report by averaging: twelve points per game, two rebounds per game, and two assists per game while helping the Knicks get to a winning record for the first time in five years. He is shooting at an efficient frequency along the paint and has garnered the floater as his signature shot.

Source: Report Door

Some may consider Quickley as the steal of the NBA draft, as he is in contention for the Rookie of the Year Award alongside his fellow draftees, LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton – who were also lottery picks in this year’s draft. He is living proof that regardless of what people say (including your own family), you can achieve greatness if you believe in your goals.


Demetrius Jones is a staff writer for The Sting. He is an English major at the University of Baltimore