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Olivia Ekeh: History & the storytelling tradition

Olivia Ekeh '14 of Worcester, MA, majored in history and minored in black studies. She served as President of the Black Student Union and has been active in the organization since freshman year. Olivia is heading to UMass Amherst in the fall to pursue a PhD in African American Studies.

Why did you choose to study history?

My father is Nigerian and my mother is of Gullah descent from the Sea Islands of South Carolina. I’ve always had a love for history, given the tradition of storytelling in my parents’ cultures. Both my parents are history buffs, so I’ve always said it was inevitable that I would love to study history as well!

How has working with faculty impacted your studies?

Working on research with the faculty here has solidified my passion to become a historian. The faculty members I’ve worked closely with have taught me valuable skills for studying history that I can see myself using from now on. Most history students understand that when trying to study an event, looking at one source will never suffice to fully grasp what took place. Therefore, I like to do in-depth research on topics to obtain a greater understanding of the material.

How has your participation on campus affected you?

My first semester here I began attending Black Student Union (BSU) meetings as they were held in the Unity House where I worked. I tried to help the executive board any way I could. They couldn't get rid of me!

I became treasurer in my second semester and president in the second half of my sophomore year. As president, my goal was to acknowledge and appreciate all cultures within the African diaspora. Last year, BSU was able to begin the tradition of the Black History Month Show. BSU was and still is an important part of me.

Through BSU, I became more confident in my historical interests and about sharing them with others. To this day, people still ask me history questions, which always warms my heart.

I’ve always had a love for history, given the tradition of storytelling in my parents’ cultures . . . so it was inevitable that I would love to study history as well!

What are your plans following graduation?

I plan to pursue a PhD in African American Studies at UMass Amherst. Then I'd like to become a college professor. I want people to really embrace the beauty in studying history.

I'm also planning to do a lot of reading before I start school again in the fall. I'd also like to write books and/or novels. I’ve always wanted to write an account of my family's history.

What advice would you like to share with future students?

This is your life. Do something you love to do. Everyone wants to be financially stable, but don't compromise your happiness for a paycheck. You might not be a millionaire, but if you can get up every morning and say with confidence you are doing what you love, you've made it!

Also, you might not know what you want to do after one semester and that's okay! Take your time and see what truly makes you happy. If you do that you can never lose.

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