Student Spotlight: Nadia Sasso

Nadia Sasso, Africana Studies 

What is your area of research?

My research explores the complex identity formations of young Africans living in America and West Africa who identify bi-culturally. It specifically looks at how they wrestle with concepts of race, complexion, gender, and heritage among other issues. I will use film, fashion, and new media to generate qualitative insights into the fusion of U.S. and African experiences, as well as identify the contours of new identity formations among immigrants beyond the first generation.

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

I was attracted to the field of Africana Studies because I wanted a field that was interdisciplinary and allowed me to dissect issues related to both African-Americans and Africans living in the U.S. and other countries.

Why is this research important?

This research is important to me because, I believe that African-Americans and Africans or people from the diaspora don’t really understand each other’s history and thus their is a lot of interracial tension.

How has your background influenced your scholarship?

For me, the connection to the African Diaspora has always been strong. I was born in America to parents who emigrated from Sierra Leone. I grew up feeling like a step child to both America and Sierra Leone and thus wanted to bridge some of these connections and wanted to create something that would lend to understanding this feeling and connecting people along the way.

What else has influenced your thinking as a researcher or scholar?

I dont have any particular scholar that I can single out at this moment, however, I am very interested with different aspects of various scholars. Hence, my thinking is heavily influenced by staying true to self. I believe wholeheartedly in the power of digital storytelling ((Exploring Media as Tool of Teaching, Sharing and Creating)  and being a hybrid creative (Mixing Fashion, Art, Literature, Music and Film). In the 21st century, innovation is key and mixing different fields, genres, and disciplines not only produces a competitive advantage but challenges one’s way of thinking. Lastly, my work is driven by being relatable. Academia is seen as an elitist institution for many reasons, however my purpose and aim is to reach the audiences from which I originated; everyday people, and not just the realm of academia.

What other hobbies or activities do you enjoy in your spare time?

  • Traveling
  • Biking
  • Reading
  • Blogging
  • and collecting lipsticks!

Why did you choose Cornell?

I chose Cornell because of its support of my hybrid creative process; as well as being able to be a pioneer of this pilot program, which allows me to combine my academic interests with my work in film, multimedia and social media.

What’s next for you?

Getting through the examination process of the Ph.D. program! But aside from that I would like to take my film “Am I: Too African to be American, Too American to be African” on the road to generate discourse in person and via social media. I also believe that the conversation generated will inform my dissertation.

Any advice for incoming graduate students?

I would recommend making sure that you can relate to professors academically, professionally, and build a good working relationship because it would make your tenure at Cornell all the better. Keep your mental and physical health a priority so that school and everything else can flow smoother. Self-care is very imperative in any program. Lastly, make your cohort your family because when you have family around everything is always better as no man is an island. You want to have people around that you can ask for help no matter what along with people you can celebrate with.