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Making positive change on campus while building her future

| Judy Berthiaume

When Magdalene Abang came from Nigeria to UW-Eau Claire to earn a bachelor’s degree, she never imagined the young woman she would become.

The uncertain “young girl” who first arrived on campus as a freshman has grown into an independent, confident young woman who is unafraid of challenges and has broadened her view of the world thanks to her years as a Blugold.

Through her studies as a mass communication-public relations major, Magdalene has developed strong public speaking skills, as well as excellent written and oral interpersonal skills.

Outside the classroom, she has embraced multiple opportunities to develop her leadership and organizational skills, while also discovering a passion for social justice and the joy of giving back to the world around her.

As Magdalene prepares to graduate this month, she took some time to reflect on her journey as a Blugold, a journey she says has helped her grow as a person and become a better global citizen.

 

How did you come to be a Blugold?

After I graduated from high school in Nigeria, I wanted to go to another country. I wanted to be independent but also to explore something different from what I have always known. Luckily for me, my father supported my coming to the United States for my bachelor’s degree.

When I began applying to schools, a good friend of mine mentioned the UW System schools. We looked up all of the school names and then I settled on Eau Claire because it was French and one of the prettiest names I have heard.

Fortunately, I got accepted and began my journey to self-discovery.

When I added UW-Eau Claire to my list of schools to apply for, I had no idea what role this community would play in shaping me to become who I am today.

How did your involvement in student organizations impact your college experience?

When I arrived at UW-Eau Claire, I searched for other international students like myself, specifically, students from Africa. I realized then that there was a lack of diversity here.

I began thinking about what I could do to change that, and how I could get the few students who are from other countries in Africa to come together as a support system for both prospective and current students.

Another goal was to teach people in the Eau Claire community about the Africa that they never see on TV. I was confronted with negative stereotypes of Africa and I wanted to show people that there was so much more to Africa.

So I founded the African Students Association on campus.

It makes me happy that when new students come here from Africa, they don’t feel alone.

Every year, we participate in the International Folk Fair and the International Cultural Night to show people that Africa is not only a continent of hungry, sick and dying people, but also a continent full of smart and innovative people.

We help people understand that Africa is just like any other developing region in the world.

Starting this student organization and gaining leadership skills from the experience helped me see that if I put my mind to anything I can achieve it.

I am no longer afraid of getting out of my comfort zone, and I’ve learned critical thinking and public speaking skills.

There is so much for anyone to learn in college. I think that pushing yourself and having that “yes!” mentality is key to making the most of college.

 

What kind of social justice issues have you been involved with as a student?

I’m passionate about equality for marginalized groups, the underprivileged, gender inequality, education, and providing food and shelter for those who cannot afford it.

I’m currently working as a peer diversity educator on campus. We go into classes and residence halls to educate our peers about the importance of diversity and inclusivity.

What I love about this job is that we plant seeds that we hope to see mature to bring about the change that we want to see on our campus.

I’ve also volunteered at the Community Table and the Boys and Girls Club.

Doing this work as a peer diversity educator has helped me learn to question the privileges that I, as an individual, have and it taught me to look at the world through a different lens.

This experience has taught me to fight for the rights of others who are not as privileged or who don’t have the opportunities that I have at my disposal.

It also has taught me to appreciate the things that I might have once taken for granted.

What comes next for you now that you’re graduating?

The first thing is to find a job in the public relations field; one that I’m passionate about and allows me to put my many talents to use.

My long-term goal is to return back home to Nigeria and give back to those who are less privileged in the society. That may be in job creation or starting a nonprofit organization. I’m not sure which way to go yet, but I have many ideas.

I want to volunteer with a major nonprofit organization like UNICEF or the United Nations.

I also want to be a mentor to the younger generation of youth around the world and help them see the importance of caring, being resilient and being a better citizen for our society and the world at large.

My ultimate goal is to apply the knowledge that I have acquired from UW-Eau Claire and help improve the lives of others who are not as privileged as myself.

What does it mean to you be a Blugold?

I have learned to challenge myself to do things that I thought were never possible.