2020 AAADS Senior Graduates

CONGRATULATIONS!! On behalf of the African American and African Diaspora Studies (AAADS) department, the faculty and staff send our heartiest congratulations to all of you.

Bella Rideau is from Los Angeles, California by way of Portland, Oregon. On campus, she has served as community outreach chair on the executive board of the Black Students’ Organization, as well as president of the Rho Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the community organizer for the Intercultural Resource Center, Judicial Chair for the InterGreek Council, and teaching assistant and college mentor at the Double Discovery Center. Bella is this year’s recipient of AAADS’s Ella Baker Award.
Since my first semester of college I have been a student of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies. I arrived on the doorstep of this University not ready to learn, but unlearn. Unlearn the histories I’d been taught that push the Black subject to the outer margins of the page, that render my history irrelevant and insignificant. For my own self, my identity, and my position in the world, the pursuit of unlearning expanded my realm of understanding. It challenged my notions of normativity and liberation and continues to do so. It sparked curiosity and joy, pessimism, and outright anger.

I am grateful to my professors, who have poured into me over the past four years with incomparable care and thought-provoking conversation. I am not only a more considerate, humbled, and curious student for it, but also a better person, committed to the communities I work and live in, dedicated to blazing new trails, just as others have done ahead of me. 758 Schermerhorn Extension is a site of growth, a source of curiosity, and a place I am grateful to call home. Thank you to IRAAS/AAADS faculty and staff for embracing me these last four years. I am excited about continued involvement as an alum!

I am an African-American Studies major and Economics minor. I have made Dean's List for Fall 2017 and Fall 2019. I am a track and field athlete, and have competed in hurdles, long jump, and javelin within my 4 years. I have placed 6th in the Ivy League for hurdles in the indoor seasons of 2016/17 and 2017/18. In addition to placing 6th in long jump for the indoor season of 2017/18 and outdoor season of 2017/18.
During my time within the AAADS I have come to build a genuine relationship with all of my professors, but one that I hold close to my heart is the one I have established with Professor Josef Sorett. It the fall of my sophomore year that I came to be in his Intro to African-American Studies class, this is when I decided to change my major from Economics to African-American Studies. It was also because of Professor Sorett that I came to grow confident in my writing skills. After his year sabbatical I found myself ending my senior spring in his Black Memoirs class, and I truly realized his impact on my Columbia experience. I will forever be grateful for his counsel and the immense amount of meetings that we have come to share. I do not have many Black male role models in my life and I am glad to say Professor Sorett is at the top of the list...behind Jesus of course.

Andrew Wang is a proud double major in the departments of AAADS and sociology. In African American Studies, his research focuses on understanding the philosophical work of W.E.B. Du Bois as a lifelong project extending beyond The Souls of Black Folk; in sociology, he studies cultural consumption trends across socioeconomic class differences. Outside of his studies, he is a co-founder of the Columbia undergraduate sociology association, a recent inductee of Phi Beta Kappa, and enjoys going on runs. As part of the Class of 2020 commencement ceremonies, he has the honor of sharing his reflections on COVID-19 with his classmates. His articles and essays have appeared in Bwog, HuffPost, and Columbia University News.
As the AAADS department knows, I transferred to Columbia because I had a very difficult time adjusting to my previous institution. There, it was logistically difficult to be an African American Studies major, and I did not feel I belonged to a healthy political environment where I could passionately study my field as well as be civically engaged at once. When I got to Columbia, AAADS—then called IRAAS—was the first to take me in and make me feel welcome. In fact, during the summer, I was able to visit the department where Ms. Sharon Harris assured me that I would find a home on the 7th floor of Schermerhorn extension. It's funny, actually. In high school, my favorite teacher was a woman named Megan Paulson, and she was once a graduate student in the department who Ms. Harris remembers fondly. Small world!