African Studies seniors talk favorite courses, life after graduation

With graduation around the corner, UW-Madison seniors are preparing to tackle new adventures that will take them far beyond the bounds of campus. This semester, 38 students will graduate with a certificate in African Studies and enter fields ranging from pediatrics to foreign service to digital humanities. We spoke to three of these students about the role of African Studies in their undergraduate educations, and how they hope to incorporate the study of Africa into their future careers.

Emma Radley

Hometown: Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Major: Biology

Emma during her study abroad trip to Capetown, South Africa. (Submitted photo)

Why did you decide to pursue an African Studies certificate?
I took my first course in order to go abroad to South Africa, and once I came back I looked at the courses that counted for the certificate and thought that a lot of them were super interesting. I started off a bit more specific to Southern Africa and when I expanded beyond that I was just sucked in.

Tell us about one of your favorite African Studies courses.
I loved Anthropology 490: Culture and Health in Africa. It made me realize there are different definitions of health, and that these definitions are constantly intertwined with culture. I personally find anything health-related really interesting, and the course was able to combine two topics I wanted to learn more about. We also went beyond the title and we were able to address politics, social issues, among many other important issues in the context of Africa as well as through our own lives. Overall this was one of my favorite courses at UW, and it even managed to change my perspective on health, something I thought I had a relatively good grasp on.

How did studying Africa at UW-Madison shape your career goals?
It definitely made me interested in pursuing a career that could make a more global impact. While I still have a similar career in mind, studying Africa at UW-Madison has changed my goals I want to attain in that career; I’m now a lot more focused on being open to new perspectives and being aware that there are a variety of cultures that may have ideas that are different from mine. Equally as important, I really hope that I am able to incorporate those ideas and perspectives into whatever I do.

What career do you see yourself having five years from now?
Fingers crossed, I’ll be finishing up medical school. I would really love to be accepted into a program that I could translate into a local and global setting, possibly primary care or pediatrics.

What advice would you give to students interested in studying Africa?
I would say 100% go for it. When I first declared, my friends would often tell me, “that’s random”, but it really is so applicable to any field. Even as a science major I see myself drawing on the knowledge I’ve learned from my African Studies courses every day. Africa is a giant continent with an abundance of different and similar cultures, histories, and identities that are incredibly interesting to learn about. Studying Africa has shaped me academically, professionally, and personally, and I think it is worthwhile for any student to do the same.

Oona-Ifé Olaiya

Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin
Major: Human Development & Family Studies

Oona-Ifé Olaiya. (Submitted photo)

Why did you decide to pursue an African Studies certificate?
After transferring to UW-Madison from MATC my junior year, I decided I either wanted to spend a semester abroad or pursue a certificate program. Many certificate programs interested me, but after learning that Yoruba was offered at UW my decision became much easier to make. I am part Yoruba, an ethnic group within Nigeria, and have always wanted to learn the language. Pursuing an African Studies certificate allowed me to take two semesters of Yoruba and explore more of my cultural heritage, as well as learn more about other cultures within Africa.

Tell us about one of your favorite African Studies courses.
One of my favorite courses has been second semester Yoruba. My first semester in Yoruba was definitely a challenge because I felt like I was starting from scratch with the language. This past semester of Yoruba has built my confidence in my speaking abilities and broadened my understanding of cultural practices. I’m very excited to begin to speak with family members that I have never before been able to hold a conversation with.

How did studying Africa at UW-Madison shape your career goals?
A great deal of culture was embedded within my language and dance courses, and I gained a broad history of Africa through my survey of Africa class. Studying Africa deepened my understanding of the background of the diverse continent and its influence on American culture. While I have always been interested in working with diverse populations, these courses have reinforced this desire, and encouraged me to continue to learn more about Africa and the world.

What career do you see yourself having five years from now?
In five years I hope to have a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. I would like to be working as a licensed therapist, working with children and families from underrepresented communities.

What advice would you give to students interested in studying Africa?
I would urge students interested in studying Africa to take full advantage of the diverse array of classes offered within this area of study. There are so many classes available to students, and I would suggest that all students try to take a holistic approach to learning more about Africa. Africa is such a diverse continent, and by taking multiple classes that focus on different areas and subjects students can get the most out of this program.

David Clerkin

Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin
Major: History

David Clerkin. (Submitted photo)

Why did you decide to pursue an African Studies certificate?
Prior to attending UW-Madison I had an interest in Africa from reading Ryszard Kapuscinski’s writing, as well as from taking an African literature course at Madison College. My first semester here I took Survey of Africa with Professor Kodesh, which was a great course that inspired me to continue learning about African history.  At some point during that course the certificate was mentioned, and I thought it would round out my History degree well to have an area focus.

Tell us about one of your favorite African Studies courses.
It is difficult to pick just one, as all of the courses I have taken were great. However one that stands out was Patrick Otim’s History of East Africa. It was a small class that felt more like a seminar, so we all got to know each other, and Patrick put together a nice collection of readings and lectures. With this combination something just clicked, and we ended up having a lot of great discussions over the course of the semester.

How did studying Africa at UW-Madison shape your career goals?
My career goals remain basically the same as before I started studying Africa, namely working with information systems and technology. However, learning about Africa showed me how easy it is for significant gaps of knowledge to form. This has inspired me going forward to think critically about how to best disseminate information, as well as structure information systems for the easiest and widest access.

What career do you see yourself having five years from now?
I am starting at the School of Library and Information Studies here at UW-Madison in the fall to pursue a Master’s degree. Five years from now I will have hopefully completed my degree and be working somewhere in the field. Right now my interests are split between more traditional public librarianship and the possibilities in digital humanities, so hopefully I will be doing something in one of those areas.

What advice would you give to students interested in studying Africa?
Go to Africa at Noon lectures if you can! The speakers are great and the range of speakers offers something for anyone. It’s also a nice way to meet people in the department, or with similar interests.  I was able to attend quite a few during my first year here, and it really cemented my interest in Africa.

 

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

Folarin Ajibade
Amal Ayesh
Iakovos Balassi
Latifa Barti
Shannon Bashor
Page Bazan
Leen Bnyat
Amanda Borkowski
David Clerkin
Hannah Cohen
Victoria Cooley
Trevor Davenport
Jamie De Moya-cotter
Samuel Gee
Jenna Green
Christopher Jossart
Carrie Jumisco
Meghna Kurup
Sam Landes
Mary Larson
Emily Lynch
Jenna Mehre
Sarah Meiners
Haloren Mellendorf
Anna Miller
Mckensey Miller
Rebecca Neal
Ainsley Nelson
Oona-Ifé Olaiya
Andrea Quade
Emma Radley
Charlene Robinson
Alyssa Smith
Julie Spitzer
Claire Steven
Theodora Varelis
Luke Voegeli
Kate Wiedel
Ahad Zaman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.