Alumni Spotlight: An Interview with George Shadrack Kamanda ’16

What brought you to SJU? Do you remember why you declared an IR minor?

For me, the reasons were two-fold. One, the financial assistance I received in terms of scholarships and grants was a big draw. Two, the opportunity to attend a small school with great academic and internship opportunities in the areas of politics and international relations solidified my decision to attend SJU. In terms of declaring a minor in IR, yes, I remembered. I have always mustered a fondness for international relations and global politics prior to traveling to the United States from Sierra Leone. However, it was after my European Parliament Internship and the mentorship I received from Dr. Fukuoka that my interests to minor in IR were cemented. 

What extracurricular or professional activities (internships, research, etc.) were you involved in at SJU?

I served in several roles during my time at SJU.  I was a senator in the University Student Senate and a member of its diversity and inclusion committee. Aside from that, I was a co-president for the SJU Harambee Club, a member of the Black Student Union, and a member of SJU Men’s Soccer club. Also, I served as a peer ambassador for the Center for International Programs. Evidently, I did not allow my status as a transfer student to limit my involvement and engagement with the SJU community.

How did your experience at SJU, both generally and in the IR/POL department, shape your career path?

There are two key factors that shaped or are shaping my current career. The first was my decision to minor in IR, which opened and broaden my worldview on global politics, international development, and diplomacy. For example, my senior capstone in Nation and Nationalism in Global Society with Dr. Fukuoka prepared me to have an optimistic, yet cautious outlook of the world order in relation to social change; a topic that is dear to my heart as an African. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the impact this course had on some of the ideas in my book of poetry, “Eventualities in Africa.” Thank you, Dr. Fukuoka, I’m grateful.

I guess another thing I will mention here is the amount of support I received from my Political Science advisor, Dr. Baglione, and the invaluable help from the SJU Career Development Center. To note, Dr. Baglione was more than an academic advisor to me; she was also a moral guide and someone I can consider a mentor. Likewise, the career development center played a pivotal role in my thriving SJU experience, especially in the area of pre-law advising. They’re highly resourceful!

What makes the International Relations department at SJU special?

Simply put, the faculty and the plethora of practical and internship opportunities available to students. For the SJU International Relations department, small means great opportunity to connect and build professional relationships with faculty. Additionally, small means extensive opportunities to feel welcome and build your International Relations toolkit via research, writing, and oral presentations. I will be forever grateful for the support and mentorship of Dr. Baglione, Dr. Fukuoka, Dr. Gioioso, and Dr. Yates, of whom I never had a class with, but decided to mentor me on African history, politics, and other academic issues.

What advice/insight do you have for SJU students interested in your field?

I would say, do your best to learn the basic tenets of International Relations and Political Science, so that you can be able to self-evaluate and know how wide-ranging and diverse these fields are. The fact that you can do so many things now with an IR/POL degree should inspire you. Also, build relationships with faculty and see what projects they are working on and how you can help. Trust me, any opportunity you can get as a Research Assistant or work-study student in the department will be invaluable in your career. With that said, also know that one of the secrets to launching an international relations career can come from a culmination of internship positions in the field.  

Do you have any advice for graduating seniors?

Believe in yourself! You’ve had four challenging and transformative years under your belt and you have overcome with wit, perseverance, and courage. Now, as you enter the professional world, or seek graduate studies, or both, know that you can overcome once again because you have gained the skills and knowledge needed in your chosen career. Another point here would be for you to keep in touch with your faculty advisors and friends from the university. For those entering the workforce immediately, I urge you to collaborate with the SJU Career Development Center for all your academic, professional and placement needs. With that, I would say go out to the world and unleash the “Magis” in you!

What are your ultimate career goals?

My ultimate career goals are to attend law school, practice law for some years, and then transition to global and national politics in the higher echelons of governance in my country, Sierra Leone later in my career. The first part of the ultimate career goal is in progress now. In August this year, I will begin law school at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share?

I am a published author of two books about social change and nation-building in Africa. The most popular is a collection of poems about social change in Africa and can be found here:

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