African Studies Graduates Reflect on Time at Madison

(Image by UW-Madison College of Letters & Science) 

This weekend, six UW-Madison seniors graduated with certificates in African Studies. Olivia Giddings, Bailey Huser, Riley Klarkowski, Aberdeen Leary, Olivia Mulford, and Cali Sanborn have spent their past few years taking African Studies courses, learning African languages, and studying abroad on the continent.

The African Studies Program joined up with two of these newly graduated badgers to reflect on their college experience as part of the African Studies Program. Olivia Mulford is a Political Science major with a certificate in African Studies and Olivia Giddings is a Political Science and Communication Arts major with certificates in African Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies.

Do you have a favorite memory from one of your African Studies classes?

“I really loved how, starting from first semester Arabic, I was able to meet my classmates and get to know them throughout many more semesters in Arabic. I even met one of my best friends in my Arabic classes!” –OM

Did you have a favorite African Studies class? Why was it your favorite?

“My favorite African Studies class was one that I took while studying abroad. It was a South African Politics class and it was the first semester the class had ever been offered. The University of Cape Town created it in response to the Fees Must Fall movement that has been present on campus since 2015. The class was taught by a Zulu professor and it really opened my eyes to the ongoing colonization of South Africa’s education system and helped me to understand why the protest movement was so critical to helping the country heal from its apartheid past.” –OG

Who was your favorite African Studies professor and why? 

“Mustafa Mustafa is so genuine, really cares about his students, and makes the class enjoyable. He assigns work and projects that are very meaningful and helpful in order to enhance your understanding.” –OM

Did you study abroad in Africa? Which country? How was the experience?  

“I studied abroad in South Africa at the University of Cape Town. It was the most transformational experience I have ever gone through and it really cemented the career path I want to pursue. I was able to study South African politics, foreign policy, and gender and development in Africa. It helped me to better understand my position as a white American wanting to work in the Nonprofit/NGO field in Africa and how to critically examine the ongoing effects of colonialism on the continent as a whole.” –OG

“I was lucky enough to study in Africa twice, in Morocco and South Africa. Both experiences were AMAZING and I would recommend both to anyone who is interested in studying abroad. My experiences in both countries were extremely different, but both allowed me to grow as a person and a student and I was able to create lifelong friendships.” –OM

Why is it important to learn an African language?

“Personally, I took Arabic because of the career goals I have. Specifically, I want to work for the State Department within the Middle East, so I anticipate that my background in Arabic will be very valuable in today’s climate.” –OM

Will you be pursuing a career in African Studies? Tell us about it.

“I am definitely planning on centering Africa in my career. I’m very interested in helping grassroots community-centered CBOs and NGOs find the funding they need to address the concerns of their communities, whether it be health care, education, agriculture, democratic governance, etc.” –OG

How will your knowledge of Africa benefit your future career goals (whether Africa-related or not)? 

“As I said before I want to pursue a career with the State Department, or another government entity, and am hopeful that my background in Arabic will launch that career.” –OM

“I think my knowledge of Africa will greatly benefit me in my career goals. It will give my resume a boost when applying to nonprofits or NGOs focused in Africa and I will be able to better understand the context of the various countries I hope to work with people from.” –OG

Congratulations graduates!


Published by Aberdeen Leary