W-K travel grant recipients align personal, academic narratives
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of The Carthaginian magazine.
Hoping to gain a deeper understanding of his ancestry and African-American identity, Antoine Givens ’20 extensively researched the infamous House of Slaves on Senegal’s Gorée Island.
Historians say thousands of captive Africans, or perhaps more, were sold into slavery there in the 18th and 19th centuries and held until ships arrived to haul them off to a life of servitude. The more he researched, the stronger the link Antoine felt with the past.
“I am aware, as a young black man pursuing a college education at a prestigious college, that I am the realization of the hopes and dreams of my ancestors,” he says.
It’s possible or even likely, Antoine realized, that some of his forebears walked through Gorée Island’s “Door of No Return.” A newly established Carthage grant program afforded him a unique chance to follow in their footsteps.
The Wiggan-Kenniebrew Experiential Learning Fund enabled 11 students to take international study tours during January Term. Several of them, including Antoine, opted for the interdisciplinary course Senegal from Colonization to Globalization.
Led by four professors, the Carthage contingent saw plenty of uplifting signs in the West African nation: people committed to service, education, and sustainability. Students even met with a former prime minister.
There were also chilling moments. That’s the feeling some described after viewing the minuscule rooms in the House of Slaves, now a museum and memorial to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
For Jawaune Johnson ’19, it was a riveting and emotional experience. “I have never felt more connected to my ancestors,” he says. “It was like the weight of the past that the United States so easily wants to forget was on my shoulders, and this was a part of my history as an African-American male.”
Members of the new Wiggan-Kenniebrew Black Alumni Network established the experiential learning fund to support students of color. Named in honor of the College’s first female and male African-American graduates, Lorraine A. Wiggan ’46 and Alonzo H. Kenniebrew ’54, it provides grant money for study abroad, conferences, internships, and other co-curricular opportunities that tuition doesn’t cover.
Roger Moreano, assistant director of student involvement for diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, calls the W-K fund a “treasure” for Carthage.
“The investment of time, money, energy, and passion from dedicated alumni will provide students of color with aspects of an academic experience that historically have been out of reach,” says Mr. Moreano, who accompanied the group to Senegal.
These grants expand access to the international component of Carthage’s popular J-Term. According to the Institute of International Education, only four U.S. colleges in its category have more students participating in short-term study abroad.
Students chose from 13 destinations in January. Another seven faculty-led study tours are planned for the summer, which is considered an extension of J-Term.
Xavier Sizer ’19 picked Nicaragua. Based at Carthage’s first international field station on the island of Ometepe, he did his part to ensure the locals receive clean water quickly and effectively — one half of a long-running water and medical mission that’s now offered three times a year.
Sure, the W-K grant allowed him to break out of his comfort zone, but mostly Xavier just wanted to help others.
“For me, the trip was about being selfless and putting other people first,” he says. “I was happy I could make difference in their lives, because they’ll remember that moment forever.”
A direct personal connection drew W-K grant recipient Asmau Diallo ’21 to Senegal to learn more about her heritage. Her father was West African, but she grew up in Southern Africa.
“I missed out on learning about half of who I am,” she says. “This trip provided a way to reconnect to those severed ties.”
Majoring in business management and psychology, Asmau hopes she can return to the region someday with achievable ideas to grow the African economy. She returned home having learned a new word in Wolof, the Senegalese people’s most widely spoken language: séentu.
“It’s officially my new favorite word,” says Asmau. “It means to look forward with hope and anticipation for the future.”
To find out more about how to support students through the W-K Fund, please contact Bridget Haggerty at firstname.lastname@example.org.