La Follette School graduate students Awa Maïga and Dorcas Donkoh worked with the UW–Madison African Cultural Studies Department to organize a community event for students from African countries held on October 6. Maïga and Donkoh were instrumental in planning the discussion prompts for the event, which encouraged African students from various disciplines to meet and get to know one another. At the event, students enjoyed a traditional meal along with birthday cake, in celebration of each of the students’ unique birthdays. They connected through ice breaker questions and conversation, and joined a WhatsApp group to continue building community.
“This event threw light on the relevance of representation and its role in facilitating a strong community,” Donkoh said.
La Follette graduate program manager Mo O’Connor and African Cultural Studies graduate coordinators Toni Landis and Professor Matthew Brown decided to team up to organize an event to help African students build community on campus and to make a school of 50,000 students feel smaller. La Follette School department administrator Anne Oyamada also played an instrumental role in organizing the event, which offered an opportunity for African students from both departments to connect. The 2023 incoming class of La Follette School graduate students included five students from Africa.
“At a predominantly white institution like UW–Madison, it’s essential that we think carefully about creating spaces that provide more mirrors to reflect who students are and who they can strive to become, especially if they are used to looking out windows,” O’Connor said. “Doing so expands networks, offers support, and can be empowering too.”
The graduate students look forward to the ongoing collaboration between the La Follette School and African Cultural Studies to inspire inclusiveness in the African community on campus and UW–Madison as a whole. “’I’m deeply thankful for being a member of the La Follette School community, where we continually embrace the Wisconsin Idea and enrich the entire UW campus,” Maïga said. “The potential for meaningful connections is boundless, paving the way for unexpected opportunities in the future.”
-Written by Clare Brogan