University of Wisconsin–Madison

Taking the next step: African Studies seniors on how the certificate shaped their career goals

This Saturday, 25 seniors will graduate with an African Studies certificate. They are moving on to pursue fields ranging from chemistry to teaching to diplomacy. We chatted with three seniors about how their African Studies certificate prepared them to tackle real-world problems in their respective fields.

Hawa Keita

Major: Chemistry

Hawa Keita
Hawa in Bamako, Mali. (Submitted photo)

Why did you decide to pursue an African Studies certificate?

I knew since high school that I wanted to study chemistry in university. Once I got here, I realized I need something else to have a more holistic education. Since I am a first generation American of Malian descent, I thought it made sense to learn more about my own history and other parts of the continent that I was not as familiar with.

Tell us about one of your favorite African Studies courses.

My favorite African Studies Course has been “Cultural Cross Currents: West African Music and Dance in the Americas” taught by Prof. Chris Walker. This class looks at how West African Music and Dance has evolved and served as the foundation for music all across the Americas. I was absolutely amazed at how so much of contemporary music today has its roots in West African traditions! Additionally, we learned many of the dance moves which was an awesome way to put the theory into practice.

How did studying Africa at UW-Madison shape your career goals? 

Studying Africa made me want to expand my chemistry skills beyond the United States. One day I would love to teach chemistry at an African university. I feel like I am in a unique position of being passionate about both Africa and chemistry.

What career do you see yourself having five years from now?

Five years from now I will be finishing my doctorate in Organic Chemistry from the University of North Carolina. I hope to then start looking for jobs in industry while still working on educational programs.

What advice would you give to students interested in studying Africa?

I would recommend taking courses in every academic discipline to get a diversity of lenses to learn about Africa through. I took classes on Africa in History, Literature, Political Science, Music, and the African Studies program itself. I loved the different angles I was able to tackle a topic as large as Africa from.

 

Jesus Del Toro

Majors: Spanish and Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies

Jesus Del Toro
Jesus Del Toro. (Submitted photo)

Why did you decide to pursue an African Studies certificate?

Prior to pursuing an African Studies certificate I had completed a certificate in Chican@ Latin@ Studies. I had an incredible experience and had learned volumes about Chican@ history. Africa had always fascinated me and I often felt that it was an area of the world I did not know much about. Thanks to this certificate I have been able to explore literature, culture, and language, giving me a greater picture of this abundant continent.

Tell us about one of your favorite African Studies courses.

One of my favorite courses was African 405: The Problem with Whiteness taught by Professor D. The title alone was intriguing and provocative. I had never heard whiteness being described as a problem and thus I was interested to learn where this class would go and what I would take out of it. This was the first class to introduce me to literature from Frantz Fanon, George Yancy, W.E.B  Du Bois, and James Baldwin. Through the literature we read and the discussions we had the aim of the course was to understand how whiteness is socially constructed and experienced in order to dismantle white supremacy.

How did studying Africa at UW-Madison shape your career goals? 

My career is goal is to work for the US government either here or abroad. After learning more about Africa, if given the opportunity it would be an incredible experience to work in an African country.

What career do you see yourself having five years from now?

In the next two years I will be completing my Masters in Public Policy from Loyola University. My goal is to learn as much as I can about running for public office and constructing policy as I begin my efforts of becoming a public official.

What advice would you give to students interested in studying Africa?

My biggest advice is to come in with an open mind, ask questions, and pursue a language.

 

Joshua Baumgartner

Major: Biology

Joshua Baumgartner
Joshua with his home stay sister in Rhotia, Tanzania. (Submitted photo)

Why did you decide to pursue an African Studies certificate?

I have always been incredibly fascinated in learning more about African nations and the numerous cultures. I have always been shocked at the lack of U.S. media coverage regarding Africa and when it is mentioned in the news it’s always referred to as this monolith. I wanted to dispel this misconception and gain a better understanding on the different ethnic groups and cultures.

Tell us about one of your favorite African Studies courses.

I loved taking first semester Arabic. I was really anxious learning a new language, especially one as daunting as Arabic. However, the amazing classroom atmosphere, lesson planning, and teachers made the process incredibly educational and enjoyable. I felt silly waiting until my senior year to finally begin learning a foreign language and only regret not taking it sooner!

How did studying Africa at UW-Madison shape your career goals? 

After spending my last semester in Tanzania studying Wildlife Management I can’t wait to return. I’ll be moving to Oakland, CA after graduation to work with Teach For America. I hope my work in Oakland will give me the experience I need to maybe one day teach in Tanzania. My experiences in Tanzania and the relationships I developed there were absolutely incredible. Three months just simply was not enough and the opportunity to work there would be a blessing.

What advice would you give to students interested in studying Africa?

Dive in! There are so many interesting classes that you can take that are in so many different subjects. I was under the unfortunate misconception that because I was a Biology major a semester abroad would be too difficult or a semester to take electives. But there are so many different programs out there and it truly is an incredible and valuable experience studying and living in another country.

 

Congratulations to all of our graduating seniors!
The African Studies Program wishes you the best in your future endeavors.

Bronte Adamson
Hiwot Adilow
Samuel Allen
Ellie Anderson
Joshua Baumgartner
Jordan Davis
Jesus Del Toro
Kyra Fox
Benjamin Goodrich
Isha Hammad
Kayla Jashinksy
Hawa Keita
Tess Kolker
Molly Krueger
Calley Mannion
Abby McHenry
Jessica Miller
Marissa Miller
Katie O’Brien
Claire Roth
Lana Scholtz
Lauryn Siebold
Thomas Valtin-Erwin
Tia Williams
Zachery Zeichert

 

 

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