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Graduate Scholars Tour New York City

Published: Wednesday, 29 Mar 2017
Author: The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program
Department: Office of the Dean

Scholars and staff pose in front of the Civic Center building on a sunny day

During the spring break, The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program took a trip to New York City with second year graduate students. Program Manager, Isaac Kalumbu, and Academic Advisor and Student Support Specialist, Sheba Onchiri, accompanied the 12 students on the trip that lasted from March 5th to March 9th. Throughout the trip, Scholars gained exposure to the city and culture and received practical leadership training. They visited various historical sites and popular political and cultural landmarks like  the American Museum of Natural History, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, and the Acting to Succeed Academy.

On the first day of the trip, the group visited the American Museum of Natural History where they were exposed to world cultures. One exhibit that generated a lot of discussion among the Scholars was on African wildlife.  Scholars noticed and commented on how well the museum was able to document the wildlife and according to Isaac Kalumbu, "It raised the question about what Africa can do to document its wildlife and other heritage because there aren't any museums of this nature in Africa."  He thought it ironic that "American's can come to New York to see exhibits on African wildlife but you can't see them in Africa". This contradiction highlighted for the Scholars how important it is to preserve the heritage of their own countries.

A guided tour of the United Nations Headquarters helped the Scholars get an understanding of how global organizations function.  The group entered a number of chambers including the General Assembly Hall and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber where they were privileged to witness delegates during a live session. Sheba Onchiri noted how excited the Scholars were to see all the flags. "They saw their home country represented at the UN and felt a sense of connection."

The group visited the National September 11 Memorial and Museum on their second day in New York City. This visit was to help expose students to the realities of the current world and to memorialize the tragic event. It also showed the students how important it is to archive this kind of event. "They marveled at how well the event was recorded down to the minute. They knew the minute voicemails were left and they had the timeline of the events for each plane," said Kalumbu. "It gripped peoples' emotions," he added. The Scholars acknowledged that a combination of visual aids and artifacts along with the detailed records of the tragedy was an effective way to connect with a wide range of people, giving the 911 Memorial a sustained platform for educating tourists about US history and global events. This experience exposed students to new interdisciplinary career paths that could help them promote similar ventures in their home countries. 

On the last full day in New York City, the Scholars got the chance to attend the Acting to Succeed Academy which would help them prepare for future interviews and presentations. They received tips for speeches and learned warm up exercises ranging from staying focused and alert to the importance of body language and voice quality. The highlight of the event was a mock interview, which gave one student the chance to put the newly learned techniques to the test. The other students and actors critiqued his interview based on what they had learned. "He did very well!" Onchiri noted.  "We got such outstanding feedback from the exercise that we're now looking into ways to give all of our Scholars the same opportunity to be trained and critiqued on their speaking during interviews"

By visiting New York City with Kalumbu and Onchiri, the Scholars were exposed to cultural experiences and received important leadership training. They got the chance to visit various historically significant sites that taught them more about documenting and archiving culture and the visit to the Acting to Succeed facility helped them learn more about preparing for important interviews.

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