'In our divided world, much can be changed through dialogue'

Sokhnadiarra Ndiaye

Africana Studies
Brooklyn, N.Y. & Diourbel, Senegal

What was your favorite class and why?  

My favorite class was actually held over Zoom my first semester at Cornell, called New Visions in African Cinema, with Professor Naminata Diabate. It was the first time I truly watched African films from across the continent that were made, directed and acted out by Africans. Whether we were watching a Senegalese, South African or Kenyan film, there was always something new to be learned, and it expanded my knowledge of other cultures beyond the West African region I come from. I loved watching as cultural subtleties were embedded in the scenes we watched, and I equally enjoyed the intimate group discussions. It was my introduction to broader African cinema, and I haven’t stopped since.

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?         

person eating ice cream cone

I will never forget the feeling of sitting in my townhouse living room criss-crossed on the ground, surrounded by other Cornellian women as we talked about anything and everything, our laughter synchronizing with our paintbrush strokes. It happened in such an organized yet random manner. After noticing the trend of isolated Black women on campus, I recruited my housemate to begin “randomly” striking up conversations with these women. It didn’t take long to realize that my social experience at Cornell was not shared by everybody. So, we invited them over for a girls’ night. It warmed my heart as a group of women who were strangers to each other mere minutes before began laughing and shedding tears with each other, forming friendships that would last throughout and beyond their Cornell careers. It was at that moment that I found my calling as a gatherer.

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

The ability to think critically and engage in dialogue are the most valuable skills I have gained from my Arts & Sciences education. Whether I am going into business, nonprofits or even holiday dinner conversations, these skills will always remain relevant and integral to both my personal and professional success. Nearly everything I do begins or ends with conversations, and oftentimes, disagreements stem deeper than the topic at hand. In a world as divided as the one we live in today, much can be changed through dialogue. This critical thinking has allowed me to continuously reflect on my own interests and impact, as well as the stories that I tell others and myself. From selective pre-law societies to finance groups, I’ve certainly dipped my foot in a lot of waters here. Yet, it is my ability to adapt and thrive in any environment I am planted in that I believe will be crucial for the years to come.       

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most?     

person standing up

In high school, whenever I visited universities and asked the students what they loved most, they’d almost always say “the people.” It baffled me. What was it about “the people” that was so special? Was that just a coded way of saying, “there's nothing else to this place?” As my time at Cornell finishes, I finally understand. As much as I have enjoyed the classes, organizations and resources available to me as a Cornellian, at the root of my confidence and ability to create such a fulfilling four years was the intergenerational community of people who support me. It was the friend who affirmed my value when I doubted it; the mentor who challenged me with, “Why not you?”; the professor who reassured me that my voice matters; the parents who embraced my changes; and many others who empowered me to make my time at Cornell what I wish. To them, I cannot say thank you enough.

What are your plans for next year? 

I will be in Senegal conducting market research with the goal of launching a business in the coming months.

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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Sokhnadiarra Ndiaye