'Being able to relate with architects, actresses and activists was a function of my A&S education'

Obioha Chijioke

Information Science & Africana Studies
Bronx, N.Y.

What was your favorite class and why? 

person standing with an award

My favorite class would be ASRC 3947 Race and World Politics taught by Prof. Oumar Ba. It was the second class I had taken on international relations and the first while being a fully dedicated Africana studies major. I was probably more involved in that class than I had ever been in the past, partly because I was re-energized to learn after being on leave the previous semester, but also because I could feel the entire class learning. We were discussing somewhat difficult topics with critical but nuanced analyses. The government majors were being introduced to lines of thought that they had never encountered before while the non-government majors, like myself, were engaging with a discipline which usually feels guarded. Ultimately, I think for everyone, education is partly about bringing to consciousness what is unknown or unconscious, and we routinely accomplished that in lecture and discussion.

What is your main extracurricular activity and why is it important to you? 

Black Students United, an umbrella organization serving 35+ student-organizations and many more Black students at Cornell, was my main extracurricular activity at Cornell. It is important to me because I like working with people and feel that my value is in helping others to achieve their fullest potential. I felt great ownership of the organization as internal relations chair, president and secretary. I knew that I wanted to restore the organization to its pre-Covid capacity but also further grow it into whatever students needed it most to be. It was extremely important for my growth as a person. I am extremely grateful for the trust that fellow students put in me, and also for the expectations that came with that trust. BSU was and is important to me because it taught me about collective understanding and action, organizational leadership and patience.

What are the most valuable skills you gained from your Arts & Sciences education?        

I think that Arts & Sciences allowed me a lot of freedom to essentially be a Cornell student at-large. This meant being open to many fields of study and types of students. Being able to relate with architects, actresses and activists all the same was in part a function of my being an Arts & Sciences student. 

three people standing together

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of?

Even in my last spring, I still feel very energized to explore new opportunities at Cornell. Right now I’m doing an independent research project for the Einaudi Center Global Scholars Program. It focuses on the relationship between dual-national identity and political self-censorship. I’m also going to Ghana this summer through Einaudi to work in education development and information and communications technology, and I think that will probably be the most important experience I’ll have had through Cornell. I still hope to leave a little bit more behind for other students who are interested in the same questions I am.

If you were to offer advice to an incoming first-year student, what would you say?

Cast a wide net for potential friends, clubs and interests, then decide as you go along which are best for you. Make sure to get in touch with an advisor soon, and understand what you want your time at Cornell to look like. Strategize with your academics, like finishing requirements first so you can make decisions on your electives when you have more decisive interests. Know when to move on from something and go in a different direction, try to be decisive. Know what others are doing, but don’t measure your value against others’ accomplishments. Every day could be special, take it all in and enjoy your undergraduate years.

Every year, our faculty nominate graduating Arts & Sciences students to be featured as part of our Extraordinary Journeys series. Read more about the Class of 2024.

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Obioha Chijioke