Meet the Majors

Peris Mwangi ’23

Quantitative Economics, African Studies minor

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About Peris

Class of 2023

Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya

Quantitative Economics, African Studies minor

House: Friedman Complex

Other clubs, sports, activities you’d like to mention:
WOZQ radio DJs, First Gen Out Loud 

You include a Professor Ngugi wa Thiong'o quote, The condition of women in a nation is the real measure of its progress,” in your email signature. Why did you choose it and what does it mean to you? 
This quote is from Ngugi’s book "Wizard of the Crow," and he talks about the intersectionality of oppression. Women, especially women of color, are oppressed on account of their color like all black people in the world; they are oppressed on account of their gender like all women in the world; and they are exploited and oppressed on account of their class like all workers and peasants in the world; and they are oppressed on account of their sexuality as well. For me, I firmly believe when the working-class, queer, disabled woman of color is free, then we will all be free as a society since we will have addressed all systems of oppression and domination. 

Describe your minor. What has it taught you?
African Studies (AFS) was realizing I knew close to nothing about the continent I was born and grew up in for 19 years. It is realizing that the little I knew was taught to me from a colonized and Eurocentric perspective, and that I needed to unlearn a lot of internalized oppression. AFS has ranged from learning about the complex political and economic history of African countries, to discussing discourse based on Afrobeats and literature movements, to learning college-level Swahili. 

Did you ever have trouble deciding on a minor? What, ultimately, helped you decide? 
I stumbled upon my minor after taking a history class on Africa with Professor Jeffrey Ahlman, and I had no trouble deciding to make it my minor. I had been yearning for ways to adapt my Economics major to the communities I identify with, and African Studies was the perfect bridge for me. While I still have a long way to go in this field, I feel a lot more confident in my knowledge of my continent’s history, literature and political landscape. 

What's one thing that has surprised you most about your major?
How many international students there were in my Economics classes! 

If you could tell an incoming first-year anything about Smith, what would it be?
Try to step out of your comfort zone and say yes to new opportunities as much as possible whether that’s taking a class on a region you have never learned about or a new hobby, studying abroad, or even exploring a town nearby! For me, these moments have been the most gratifying and memorable. 

What do you think has been the most “Smithie” thing you’ve done in life so far?
I got my “Smith chop” when I was studying abroad even though I’d sworn to never cut my hair while at Smith, lol! 

What’s your “Big Dream” for your future? 
My big dream is to build a career in the economic development space, while traveling often, learning new languages and experiencing new cultures!

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