'My studying of the Wolof language is my proudest achievement'

Aliou Gresseau-Gambrel

Africana Studies and Harrison College Scholar
Wauwatosa, Wisc. and Bandafassi, Senegal  

Why did you choose Cornell?

I chose Cornell in the hopes that an extended engagement with the intellectual atmosphere of Cornell, access to rare collections like the Johnson Museum’s collection of West African photography, the inspired instructors and researchers in the Africana studies program and visiting world class scholars would shape me into the artist and researcher capable of both engaging and re-imaging the complexity of our world.

people standing outside house

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

My studying of the Wolof language with Professor Mariame Sy to the 5000 level is my proudest achievement. Not only have I formed lasting relationships in these courses, my thoughts and ability to understand my own identity and those of the diaspora have been challenged.

I am currently a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, a Humanities Scholar, a Rawlings Cornell Presidential Research Scholar and have had the opportunity to conduct research in Rwanda, Ethiopia, New Orleans, Zambia (virtually), the Gambia and Ghana (virtually). Visiting these spaces, either virtually or physically, has taught me that education can happen anywhere and connections and depth of connection is in no way diminished through a screen. 

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most? How or why?

two people touching a cow

The presence of the scholars and professors at this university. I have met people possessed in their ideas, or convicted in their dreams to such an extent as to define their being. This has inspired me to remain dedicated to my critical and constructive engagements, and read, think and be with intention. 

What are your plans for next year?

In the fall I will be starting my graduate studies at Columbia University in the department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies with a concentration in African studies, where I will continue my study of Wolof and begin formal study in Pulaar.  

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 2022.

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