For Emily Shelden ’13, the study of Africa became a significant and influential part of her academic pursuits at Hobart and William Smith. As a double major in political science and Africana studies, it was Shelden’s educational experiences at HWS that became a critical launching point for her service in Guinea’s Haute region as a member of the Peace Corps.
From coursework to enriching conversations with faculty, Shelden says it was guidance from Professor of Political Science Kevin Dunn and Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Sociology Christopher Annear that helped to advance her understanding about Africa. She says her early interest was piqued as a first-year student during the course, “South African Women’s Narratives,” taught by former Visiting Independent Scholar in Africana Studies Thelma Pinto.
“I became passionate about issues in Africa and intrigued by gross misconceptions about Africa in the United States,” Shelden says.
As Peace Corps volunteer, Shelden joined numerous other alumni and alumnae who have dedicated themselves to serving with the organization in countries all across the globe. Annually, the Peace Corps deploys thousands of volunteers to work in fields such as health, business and technology. They work to make better the communities and lives of those they serve.
While working in Guinea, Shelden served as an agroforestry volunteer in a village called Tindo. However, due to the recent Ebola outbreak, Shelden was part of an evacuation effort that brought her back to the United States. “While I was in Guinea, I was aware of the outbreak of Ebola in February, but not until an American health-care worker contracted the virus was it in mainstream American news cycles,” she says.
On her outlook on Africa after this experience, Shelden says there is much needed foreign aid and intervention on the African continent by Western countries. Back in the United States, Shelden is eager to return to Guinea, not only to help share information and assist in containing the Ebola virus, but also provide technical skills and cultural exchange.She plans to return to Guinea when it becomes safe, but is also looking forward to continuing her education at the graduate level with focus on international development.
At HWS, on-campus events such as one-on-one meetings and regularly scheduled Pizza with the Peace Corps gatherings give students the chance to learn more about service opportunities with the organization. Shelden says it was one of those experiences that opened the door for her.
“Having the opportunity to chat with several returned volunteers on campus and participating in Peace Corps presentations at HWS, I knew this would be a good step for me after completing my studies,” Shelden says.