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AFSEP Initiative Shows Success at MSU

Published: Wednesday, 05 Jul 2017
Author: The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program
Department: Office of the Dean

In the fall of 2016, faculty at Michigan State University launched the African Female Student Empowerment Program following a grant of $5,000 from the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives at MSU. AFSEP is led by three African female faculty members that are familiar with the hardships African women face, specifically their lack of empowerment and agency to be independent.

The AFSEP initiative was based on evidence that African female students fail to utilize University support services and resources that are likely to improve their professional and social experience. These students expressed challenges including difficulties finding professional mentors and feeling out of place in their new cultural and academic environment.

It is difficult for some African women to feel empowered in their communities, and their transition to the U.S. is no different. Many African female students hail from countries that do not promote female empowerment within their societies; most communities socialize and expect women to work solely within domestic realms, while socializing and expecting men to work in public spheres. AFSEP works to mentor African female students and instill confidence in them and to ensure they realize and utilize their full potential.

Since the launch of the AFSEP initiative, bi-weekly and monthly sessions are held to generate discussions addressing challenges African female students experience. Led by speakers from Africa and African MSU staff, the sessions engage the students in discussions about topics ranging from self-esteem and leadership, to professional networking and romantic relationships. Students were also trained to become peer mentors to the incoming female African students for the 2017/2018 school year. AFSEP participants strongly believe that having a peer mentor is critical to the process of adjusting to U.S. academic and social culture, mitigating culture shock.

After conducting a mid-year survey to evaluate its impact, AFSEP found that the participating students feel the initiative has improved their self-confidence, their ability to find and establish relationships with mentors, and their willingness to take leadership roles in their communities. After various meetings and panel discussions, AFSEP participants have come to a general consensus that the lack of female empowerment in African societies has ultimately derailed the development of Africa. AFSEP will continue its activities in the fall of 2017, and continue empowering African women to reach their full potential while studying at MSU and beyond.

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