Voices of DiversityPage address: http://www.mnsu.edu/diversity/commission/richardarmah.html
Cultural Diversity from a West African Student’s Perspective: Richard Armah
By Kouliga Koala
We met with Richard Armah, a student from Ghana who walked us through his career in Ghana and his experience in the United States. He shared his involvement with campus organizations and his satisfaction with attending an institution with diverse faculty.
“As Ghanaians, we always have our sense of being African. If there is one thing that Europeans did not take from Africa, it is our food, our delicious food like Jollof. I have not had any of these for a long time and that makes me miss home.” Richard said.
Richard is from Ghana, a West African country with about 27 million people. Ghana gained its independence in 1957 from Great Britain. The country has a colorful tradition with many ethnic groups and it is very hospitable. We like to say that “Ghanaians are more hospitable to foreigners than they are to other Ghanaians.” Richard said. The country’s economy is based on agricultural activities such as cacao and coffee and natural resources such as gold and oil.
Richard holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Ghana. He has the passion for non-profit organizations. “I have this passion for nonprofits because they encourage practical thinking.” He said. He worked with an organization called Teach Africa and served as adviser to help students make the best choice of their majors according to the career they want to pursue. In 2014, he was recognized by the Reta Wood Scholarship for his service in Ghana.
Richard came in the United States for the first time in fall 2013 and undertook to explore the American society. He has had some mixed experience in the United States. “I heard different stories when I was back home in Ghana. Since I came here, I travelled to about ten (10) States and every State is unique in some ways. People are respectful but at the same time very cautious.” He was shocked to see that people know very little about Africa. “The shock was not only the weather but the basic question students ask about Africa. If students read more about Africans, they would not be too cautious with Africans.” Richard added.
Richard is involved with a lot of student organizations on campus and attends a lot of events including the Eurasian night. He is president of the African Student Organization for Development and Progress and vice-president of the Francophone Student Association. He is concerned with women issues such as feminism as well. Therefore, he invited the Women Center to give a talk to African students about feminism in Africa. He gives the reason of his involvement with different issues on campus: “The reason is because after I graduate here, I do not intend to work with only Africans. You need to know other so that you do not discriminate against them in terms of their beliefs and where they come from.”
Richard enjoys his experience in the Public Administration program at Minnesota State University, Mankato. “This school is so far the best school that I have studied in because the professors are so caring although they are busy. They always have the time to go an extra mile. The offices are open to students. The library is open almost every day and that provides an opportunity to have a productive study program to study; including technology and online learning tools and services.” As African, it will be helpful to integrate things like e-services and D2L into our higher education system back home. Furthermore, “the faculty is diverse, Asians, African-Americans, and Middle East professors. “As an African, it encourages me to want to combine the different perspective because the world is becoming a global community. You have to think globally as well.”
When asked to say his last words, he concluded: “I think that diversity is very important because it forces everybody to want to know everybody and to accept everybody for who they are. The world is fast paced timing and it is gradually changing and we do not have to sit in our own backyard and believe that we are superiors and everyone else is inferior. Students should embrace students from places other than where they come from alone. At the end of the day, you may not know where you will end working, and even if you end up working in a far off place, you need to know that you are doing this for the love of humanity.”