This summer, I worked with Dr. Krystal Strong from the Graduate School of Education to explore leadership trajectories of young Africans. The goal of this study is to understand the leadership development of the African youth across the continent, which is a recent phenomenon first noticed in the past decade. The earliest phase involved mapping different leadership programs across the world that targets the African youth in order to understand the scope of the phenomenon. Currently, the research project is focusing on collecting and analyzing experiences of young Africans who’ve participated in leadership initiatives targeting the African youth on the continent.
Over the course of this summer, I joined the research team as the study transitioned from mapping programs to collecting experiences. I assisted on developing different outreach plans for recruiting participants. Throughout this process, I worked on creating a social media presence by creating a Facebook page and making posts and identifying other creative means of reaching out to eligible participants for the study. Since the study relies heavily on participants’ experiences, I conducted interviews and disseminated surveys. In addition, I transcribed interviews for record purposes.
Working with Dr. Strong was a great opportunity for me to get introduced to research and what it entails. I learned that research is a slow process that requires gradual development, especially when one is working with human subjects. The process challenged my expectations and encouraged me to think creatively and outside the box in order to advance the work I was doing. My research helped me polish different soft skills such as interviewing, transcribing, and note taking as it challenged to step outside my comfort zone.
My experience as a research assistant not only contributed to my skills’ development but also opened my eyes to new academic interests. As a student from a science background, it exposed me to the fields of humanities and social sciences and allowed me to challenge my preconceived notions about those fields. Stemming from a simple question “Who are Africa’s next leaders?”, I engaged with interesting and thought-provoking questions that are relevant to modern Africa and the world in general. This intellectual realization was my biggest take-away from my summer experience.