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Graduation profile: 'Whose lives are we impacting, and can we do better?'

December 17, 2018   /   by Damian Cristodero

Senior Kenya Moore is the first member of her immediate family to travel outside the United States. "Here I am in these great places, and they are so beautiful. But what else happened here?" she said. Photo by Lathan Goumas.

Kenya Moore said she is the only member of her family to travel outside the United States.

Those trips—to France, Italy, London and Morocco—helped reinforce her decision to study global affairs at George Mason University.

“It was an ‘awe’ kind of moment,” Moore said of her travels. “It was all so beautiful, but there was also something eerie about it. I remember reflecting on it—here I am in these great places, and they are so beautiful. But what else happened here? What are the origins of these places, and how do they affect that community?”

Those are questions Moore said she hopes to continue exploring as a community engagement leader after graduating on Dec. 20.

“I want to engage in the other side of the story,” she said. “Here are all these great things, but what are the sacrifices we are making? Whose lives are we impacting, and can we do better?”

Moore’s worldview took hold early. Her mom is Christian, her father Muslim. Spanish would often be spoken at home, and Moore took Latin in high school.

So when deciding where to continue her education, Moore looked for a diverse university campus.

“And then I found Mason,” the Chesapeake, Virginia, resident said. “It was like my home. There are people who speak different languages and people from various backgrounds. There also was this challenging of what the identity of black meant. It was not a monolith. I just love that.”

She also loves to travel.

On an educational tour before her senior year of high school, Moore went to France and Italy. Through Mason’s Study Abroad Program, she traveled to Morocco, where she studied Arabic.

With a U.S. State Department Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which gives students with economic challenges an opportunity to study or intern abroad, Moore worked in London for the African Foundation for Development, a nonprofit that, according to its website, helps enhance the contributions of Africans in the diaspora to African development.

At Mason, Moore was president of the Black Student Alliance and a member of GMU Student Power, which lobbies the commonwealth for affordable and accessible higher education in Virginia.

“In any organization I have joined, I try to give a voice to the voiceless,” Moore said. “Even those who don’t feel encouraged to speak up—I like to encourage that [they do].”

“It has been a pleasure to watch Kenya develop into the engaged scholar-citizen,” said LaNitra Berger, director of the Office of Fellowships in the Honors College. “Her study-abroad experience as a Gilman scholar allowed her to deepen her understanding of social issues facing communities of color. I know Kenya will use her Mason degree to be a strong advocate for society’s vulnerable people.”

Topics: Graduation