Kwadwo (Kojo) Adjepong-Boateng, MSFS’19, came to Georgetown with experience across the public and private sectors, having spent time working with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Rolling Stone magazine, UBS Wealth Management, and the International Crisis Group (ICG). He graduated from Trinity College, Dublin with an honors degree in History and speaks Afrikaans and French. Kojo sat down with Georgetown MSFS to talk about his path to Georgetown and provide some advice to incoming students.
As an international student, how did you first find out about MSFS and, ultimately, what made you decide to attend the program?
Upon finishing undergrad, I had been on the lookout for programs in international relations in both Europe and in the U.S. Understandably, as a foreign national, I was apprehensive at the thought of submerging myself into American culture without being fully aware of the nuances of its academic institutions. I met with several Georgetown alums in Kenya, where I worked, and in the UK. Through a series of conversations with them, and with people who had exposure to MSFS, I realized that I could in fact make MSFS a home away from home. I attended an information session led by former MSFS admissions director, Cristina Dinu, in summer 2016. Her kindness, as well as the kindness of all the MSFS staff I corresponded with before submitting my application, put the final nail in the coffin (figuratively speaking).
What experiences did you learn while working abroad that helped prepare you for your studies at MSFS?
I am fortunate to have worked in several countries, in fields ranging from criminal law to publishing, education, and policy research. For example, in my first job as a legal assistant at Bowman Gilfillan, one of Africa’s largest law firms, I conducted due diligence research with a partner of the firm who dealt with cases in the Johannesburg criminal court. These ranged from hate crime to violations of intellectual property. This taught me the value of rigorous research in building arguments in favour of social justice. At UBS Wealth Management in London, under their Young Generation Program, I worked with social entrepreneurs, helping to find viable solutions to economic inequality. This taught me the value of purpose-driven enterprise and corporate responsibility. Writing is also a passion of mine, and I am lucky to have written for Rolling Stone Magazine, as a correspondent in Cape Town, interviewing local artists who were previously overlooked under apartheid. From this experience, I learned that everyone has a story to tell.
During my freshman year in college, I worked as a fundraiser for the Saint Vincent de Paul Society (VDP) in Dublin, Ireland. VDP is an organization dedicated to educating and supporting under-resourced inner-city children. That summer I also volunteered at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and was an intern at the Simon Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, where I helped conduct research and worked on educating visitors about the horrors of genocide and hate. Combined, these volunteering experiences helped to stimulate my passion for social justice, and taught me how to achieve it practically.
Prior to coming into MSFS, I worked as an analyst for the International Crisis Group in Nairobi, Kenya. This taught me how to conduct field research, specifically looking at human rights issues. In summary, my professional opportunities have expanded my capacity to analyze foreign and international affairs and helped to refine my professionalism. I improved my communication skills and can adapt to a variety of professional situations, thanks to my ability to work diligently and mindfully.
What about growing up transcontinental do you hope to share with your MSFS peers?
I hope to come to an understanding with my peers that people are essentially the same, no matter where they’re from. MSFS is comprised of an astonishing group of individuals from an array of cultural backgrounds. As an international student who grew up in a country where I wasn’t born, and who went to college in an environment where I very much stuck out like a sore thumb, I have learned to see the humour in internationalism. It is comical navigating the cultural terrain that is MSFS, especially when you come into contact with the kinds of characters you never thought you’d meet in real life —yourself being one of them.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of MSFS?
I have made friendships here that I hope to build upon for the rest of my life. I have also been challenged academically and intellectually in ways I never thought possible. Nonetheless, the curriculum has always been rewarding, and I fondly reflect on all the times I engaged in lively debate with classmates on topics ranging from denuclearization to increasing social media usage. I have also found mentors among the MSFS teaching staff and continue to develop interpersonally as a result of their continued input.
How has MSFS changed or challenged you – and what do you hope to accomplish in your final year?
MSFS has expanded my worldview significantly. This has largely come about because of the exposure I have had to different ideas, from a variety of viewpoints. I no longer view personal development as a one-dimensional process. If it is approached wholesomely, one can open themselves up to development at all levels: professionally, personally, intellectually, and academically. This can be achieved by letting go of the dreaded imposter syndrome that affects all new students.
What do you hope to do after MSFS?
Given my interest in social justice, I aim to go into some area of public-private partnership, either from within the private sector in a field like infrastructure investment or supplier responsibility. I am also considering entering into the field of international law, where I could engage with issues of legal malpractice, concerning the impact that international law has on the obligations of multinational corporations to human rights practices. I am studying to take the LSAT in November ahead of making this decision!
Finally, we welcomed a new MSFS class last week – do you have any advice for our new first years?
Do not take yourself so seriously. You will most probably meet folks who are captains of industry, leaders in their fields, and innovators in their home countries. However, just because you enjoy watching the Discovery channel and eating the occasional half-pint of pistachio flavored Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream on weekends, does not mean that the chap next to you who is president of a small nation doesn’t enjoy those same things. Life is simple when we make it so. You are lucky to be where you are.