Abdoulaye Ba jumped up and down with excitement after checking his email in an empty JSU computer lab on Friday, Feb. 1. The junior political science major was unable to curb his elation or hide the smile plastered across his face.
Ba had just finished reading a message from Princeton University congratulating him on his admission to their 2018 Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship Junior Summer Institute hosted by The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The program takes place June 13 – Aug. 3.
“My mom was the first person I called. She was very happy,” said Ba. “She said that she prayed about it. I told her that Feb. 1 would be a good day for me, and she prayed for it, and it happened.”
All the expenses associated with his courses, textbooks, transportation, housing, and meals for the summer institute will be covered by the fellowship. He will receive an additional stipend for any miscellaneous costs.The aspiring public servant learned of the fellowship while at a public policy leadership conference at Harvard University hosted at the Kennedy School of Government. He said that attending the Princeton institute adds to his optimism about life.
“The opportunity to be surrounded by all of these student leaders at Princeton this summer is going to be a very motivational and influential moment of my college career,” he said. “And Jackson State helped to make this possible.”
Always up for a challenge, Ba finds a way to balance an 18-hour course load while interning with University communications, tutoring at Blackburn Middle School and being an honor student.
“I don’t want to regret anything when I graduate. I want to feel like I’ve done everything I could’ve done in college,” he said in an exuberant tone.
His good-natured spirit and drive are not lost on his adviser Dr. Rickey Hill, chair of the Department of Political Science. Hill characterizes the soccer-loving Ba as determined, hard-working, focused and serious.
“I have been impressed with him as a student. I have, over my career, been able to discern who I think are my very best students,” said Hill.
Also serving as one of Ba’s professors, Hill said that he enjoys students, like Ba, who seek him out after class to raise questions. “That tells me that a student is really interested,” he saidWhen Ba moved to Tampa, Florida, from Senegal, West Africa, he recounts feeling as if his dream of attending college was beyond his grasp due to the expensive cost of tuition. So while in high school, he took numerous college-level advanced placement classes believing it would be his only chance at obtaining a higher education.
Although Ba said he applied and was accepted into the University of South Florida, and other noted institutions, he knew attending would place a financial strain on his family. He also points out that many of his high school peers perceived community college as a place for individuals who were not intellectually capable of attending a four-year institution.
However, his thirst for knowledge outweighed any stereotypes and negative perceptions. After graduation and some research, he enrolled at Hillsborough Community College as a pre-medicine major. The tuition was manageable, and they allowed him to make monthly payments.
“God knows what he is doing,” Ba said.
Initially a pre-med major, he changed his major to political science after immersing himself in student government activities and later becoming SGA president. Ba would go on to intern with Florida U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.
Fluent in three languages – French, English and Wolof – the multilinguist eventually transferred to JSU.
“Here, you meet so many different black people with different stories, different backgrounds, different tastes and ideas. So it is definitely diverse,” said Ba, who describes JSU as a cocktail of black experiences.
Hill calls Ba “one of the most conscientious students” he has encountered at Jackson State before divulging additional good news. Hill explains that Ba was recently selected by the University of Mississippi to participate in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Mississippi Water Institute. For two weeks, honors college undergraduate students from around the state will examine water security in Mississippi.“He’s ambitious. I like that he is ambitious,” said Hill.
According to the professor, finding an undergraduate student with Ba’s level of curiosity, for any professor, in any field, is significant and refreshing. Aside from cerebral aptitude, Hill describes him as an all-around likable guy.
“I expect him to do great things, and I have no reservations about his future,” said Hill. “If he continues to be focused and stays on track, he should go far and achieve whatever he wishes to achieve out here.”