By Cristin Siebert, CAS Program Director
While nothing can replace the in-person celebration CAS normally enjoys with its graduating class, we didn’t want to let our 2020 cohort of African Studies M.A. students leave Yale without a send-off from the CAS team. They got something no prior M.A. class ever has; a virtual going away party. Led by Council Chair Michael Cappello, the CAS team met with students and family the night before Commencement in order to gather one last time before they officially became alumni, to thank them for their contributions to the program during their time at Yale, and to let them know that the Council hopes to welcome them back for an in-person celebration when things return to normal.
The Council appreciates how Connor Compton, Jonathan Dörnhofer, Harry Green, Yoofi Nketsiah, Ethan Timmins-Schiffman, and Samuel Weber handled the circumstances of their last semester at Yale due to Covid-19. At a time when the campus was suddenly shut down, libraries shuttered and access to any non-digital research materials cut off, our class had to forge ahead with their Master’s theses. To give an idea of how they did, African Studies Director of Graduate Studies, David Simon, said that reading their work had “brightened the gloom of a chilly May on a ghost-town campus.” He described being reminded of why he loves teaching while reviewing Connor’s insights into the global ideology that motivated Kwame Nkrumah to lead a boycott of baldly racist FIFA in 1966, Jonathan’s investigation into the prospect that public investment might have the potential to attract private investment in rural South Africa, Harry’s research about the difficult path for the deepening of support for democracy in South Africa, Yoofi’s revelations about the paradoxes of promoting the study of traditional music and dance in a contemporary African university, Ethan’s look at the many bumps in the road between Kankan and Kissidougou in Guinea, and Sam’s study on the motivations of the various actors who comprise the Catholic church and its organizations in the DRC. CAS is grateful for the support the Lindsay Fellowship for Research in Africa provided to the class of 2020. As Lindsay fellows, Connor and Yoofi went to Ghana, Ethan to Guinea, Harry and Jonathan to South Africa, and Sam to the DRC, to conduct research that was integral to their Master’s Thesis.
The Council is thankful to the class of 2020 for making the most of the resources Yale has to offer, both in and outside of the classroom. This cohort with its diverse interests took advantage of the program’s flexibility to take classes across the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Professional Schools. They took courses that looked at the place of bureaucratic ambitions and capacities in shaping African trajectories, economic and trade challenges and opportunities in South Africa, and courses that framed the key concepts that have come to play a defining role in theories of global development. They studied ethnomusicology, the memoir in Africa, as well as the agrarian and colonial histories of Africa, and they used the ‘R’ computing language for data exploration and analysis. They served as Teaching Fellows and Research Assistants to faculty, led their intramural basketball team to the Graduate and Professional championships, and developed their language skills in Zulu and Kiswahili through semester long courses, and Afrikaans through Yale’s Directed Independent Language Study program.
In reflecting on his time here, graduate Harry Green wrote that “Yale gave me an excellent education, and that’s what I was looking for when I applied. My intellectual toolkit expanded and what tools I did have were improved. I’m excited to use them in future, wherever my career takes me.” The Council on African Studies congratulates the Class of 2020 and wishes it every success. We look forward to following the trajectory of our newly minted alumni as they pursue careers in political analysis and U.S. policy in Africa, government and the non-profit sector, and academia.