African Studies Working Group

ASWG Mission Statement

ASWG’s mission is to cultivate a community of students, scholars, and practitioners who are passionate about African studies and the African Diaspora. 

In order to accomplish our mission, we aim to:

  • Develop a dynamic, and sustainable network of African and diaspora studies scholars and practitioners who have research and work interests in this field; 
  • Facilitate opportunities for graduate and doctoral students to develop and showcase their scholarly interests and academic pursuits related to Africa; 
  • Establish and maintain partnerships with other African-focused student organizations and groups within Columbia University and other institutions.

ASWG Members Bios

With over eight years of experience in the education sector, Hilena Tibebe is a global educator and advisor who specializes in curriculum mapping, instructional design, monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) programming and implementation. She has a passion for improving the learning environment and outcomes for diverse and marginalized learners, both domestically and internationally.
Currently, she works as a Department Manager and Learning Coordinator at the NYC Department of Education, where she leads school-wide initiatives and policy implementation, represents the department at monthly conferences and professional development sessions, and consults on current trends and research on social-emotional learning, cultural responsiveness, inquiry-based pedagogy, and literacy initiatives. She also work as a Research Fellow at Columbia University, where she conducts a MEL program in Somaliland with a focus on social-emotional skills instruction and the impact on students' academic performance and wellbeing. Additionally, she mentors new teachers in culturally responsive, inquiry-based, and project-based learning practices as a New Teacher Mentor at NYC Department of Education. She is also pursuing a Master of Arts in International Educational Development at Columbia University, where she deepens her knowledge and skills in the field of global education.

Ibssa Abdo is a second year Master's Student at Teachers College, Columbia University studying clinical psychology with a focus on trauma from war and conflict in Oromo people and indigenous people in or who have escaped conflict settings (refugees and children of refugees). He made a commitment to trauma psychology after having led the International Oromo Youth Association in 2020. During this time, he was involved in community advocacy and collective organizing for people experiencing the war and crisis in Ethiopia. He learned the necessity of collective action in these matters, but also the great grief and tragedy that war brings. He has thus since learned that he must bring more than a voice to a people's strife, he must bring a skill. He decided he would bring psychological and psychosomatic healing as his service to his people and those in need of it, born of his passion for psychology. He was accepted into Teachers College, Columbia University the following year. He has now been involved in numerous labs and opportunities such as the VA and Families Resilience Lab, Psychology at the UN Advocacy Lab, The US and South Africa Racial Justice Fellowship and the Boston Trauma Research Foundation. And now as co-chair of the African Studies Working Group where he hopes to bring all great minds passionate about Africa together as a collective to Africa's growth and brighter future.

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