This article was originally published by Global Michigan on March 22, 2018.
When Meagan Malm was a freshman at the University of Michigan, she had to choose a language requirement. She didn’t want to do Spanish like she did in high school, so instead she chose Swahili, a language widely spoken in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in Africa.
Malm says taking Swahili changed her education path at the university. She traveled to Tanzania with Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates in her sophomore year, went back to Tanzania as a Fulbright Hays student the next year, and it inspired her plans as the next recipient of the Wallenberg Fellowship.
“I remind myself of this situation to remember the value in intellectual curiosity and serendipitous decisions,” she said. “It has had a profound impact on my life journey. It shaped the classes I took and what I want to do after graduating from U-M.”
The award is given each spring to a graduating senior with exceptional promise and accomplishment to service and the public good.
The fellowship will provide Malm with $25,000 to carry out an independent project of learning or exploration anywhere in the world during the year after her graduation. She plans to go to Tanzania and live in Dar-es Salaam and Mtwara and study the role mobile phones play in reducing poverty.
“I want to gain an understanding on how the mobile phones are used and do they serve as resources to alleviate poverty,” she said.
Malm is hoping the year in Tanzania will provide her with valuable information to launch herself as a social impact entrepreneur in East Africa, using technology for social good.
“It will give me a chance to uncover nuances and build on relationships and friendships,” she said.
Nyambura Mpesha teaches Swahili at U-M and leads GIEU students in Tanzania. She has worked with Malm since her freshman year and agrees that she is great at building bridges and connecting with the distant voices.
“She worked with her fellow students with firmness and compassion,” Mpesha said. “Meagan is challenging herself not only to study those disconnected but also to find ways to assist them gain visibility.”
Read the full article on Global Michigan.