Harvard Alumna Angela: Passion for Economic Development

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Harvard Graduate Angela: A Passion for Economic Development

 

This last year has been full of unexpected challenges, but through all the unforeseen circumstances, the Gashora Girls Academy (GGA) alumnae remained steadfast, filled with hope and continued to pursue their ambitions.  

We are thrilled to introduce you to Angela, a 2015 GGAST alumna, and 2020 Harvard graduate.  She took time out of her busy schedule to share with you her experience at Gashora, her transition to studying in the United States, and her experience graduating and beginning a career during COVID-19.  

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Tell us about yourself.

My name is Angela Uwase Rangira and I graduated from Gashora Girls Academy in 2015. While at Gashora I majored in Math, Physics, and Geography because I wanted to have a good mix of the sciences and humanities. While there I was unsure what I wanted to do after graduation other than attend a good university where I could meet people from different backgrounds and explore my academic interests without feeling limited to one field. 

Where were you when you found you were accepted to Harvard?!

When I found out I was accepted to Harvard, I was attending the annual iDebate camp. It was the morning of December 11, 2015 and I was preparing for my first class when a friend texted me that she had seen people posting on social media about their admissions. I was not overly optimistic; however, I am not the type to postpone bad news. I asked my cousin who was also attending the camp if I could use her phone to check my email and --- boom, in big bold letters the word CONGRATULATIONS! I could not believe it!  I refreshed the portal like five times to make sure there wasn’t a glitch in the system or something. I told some of my closest friends who were also at the debate to make sure I was not dreaming. It was their excitement that solidified this new reality and I immediately called my mum and dad to let them know. It was, expectedly, one of the best moments of my life. 

Angela with fellow 2013 Gashora Alumna, Yvonne, also a Harvard graduate. 

How was your transition to the US?  What were your biggest challenges the first few months to a year?

Our college counselor did a great job preparing us for the realities of American college life, at least as much as anyone can prepare you for life away from everything you have ever known. I took comfort in the fact that another Gashora alumna, and great friend, was already in attendance. When I arrived, I already had a small community of Rwandans that I could rely on when I needed to.

The other nice thing about the first few weeks of college is that everyone is excited to meet new people, so it is rare to end up having meals or sitting in class by yourself. I was lucky because some of the first friends I made in pre-orientation went on to become my best friends in college and that support system is what got me through the harder days.

In terms of challenges, I had to work on my time management to balance the different responsibilities. At Gashora, our schedule was set for us and there was little variation from day to day. In college, I had to figure out how to balance everything by myself and it was initially overwhelming given all the choices that were suddenly available to me. The other challenge, and the worst part of college in Massachusetts, was dealing with the winter. I do not think anything could have possibly prepared me for the excruciatingly chilling cold and depression that comes during long Boston winters.

You recently graduated from Harvard with a degree in Economics.  What interested you about this major?  What do you enjoy about this degree and how do you hope to use it?

I have always been interested in international development issues because of the various extracurriculars I was involved in at Gashora. As a debate student, I participated in a lot policy debates, and a lot of my extracurricular activities involved engaging with the surrounding community which challenged me to think about systemic issues that perpetuate cycles of poverty. I chose to concentrate on economics in college as I felt I lacked the tools with which to think about these issues and their solutions. Most of my interests have evolved over time but my hope is that I can use my knowledge to create economically sound and data driven solutions to address some of these issues.

 

You worked for Raise Uganda Now (RUN) for two years while at Harvard.  What was your role and what did you accomplish while there? 

I joined RUN because I wanted to be part of a nonprofit that was working directly on issues affecting Africans. I was tasked with figuring out how the nonprofit could use its donor funds to create new opportunities that would generate more income for an orphanage in rural Uganda. I had to research, document, and synthesize data on the community needs which the organization could address using a feasible, sustainable, and more importantly, profitable venture with the funds being used to finance other operations. I drafted a report including recommendations for the team to explore three different ventures. The last time I checked, two of the ventures have already been implemented.

You were able to have a couple different summer internships while at Harvard, one with the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE) and one with the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR).  Tell us about what you were responsible for and what you learned?

Both of my internship opportunities were Harvard funded research internships. At UGHE, I performed health finance research with a focus on community healthcare development along with another student from Columbia University who was also interning there. I learned a lot about field research, health policy, and the Rwandan healthcare system.

At BNR, I was a monetary policy and research intern and most of the work I did was on understanding the bank’s transition from one monetary policy framework to another. It was particularly challenging because I had less exposure to monetary economics and most of the work the central bank does requires a complex understanding of monetary economics. I learned a lot by the end of my internship, but I also realized that I did not want a career in academia. I had fantasized about living a life in the pursuit of answers to the most complex of problems, but I realized I did not want to keep asking questions. I wanted to be part of the teams that are implementing these solutions in the real world. 

Looking back at your years at Gashora Girls Academy, how do you feel it prepared you for college and beyond?

The emphasis Gashora Girls Academy puts on a holistic experience that goes beyond the classroom provided great preparation for me.  The values of acceptance, integrity, and resourcefulness that I learned at Gashora significantly shaped my college experience. That said, the best thing that Gashora gave me was the community of effervescent, exceedingly resilient, and equally ambitious women who became the best support system anyone could have asked for.

What are some of your favorite memories of your time at Gashora?

There are too many. I mean, it was easily the best (combined) three years of my life. I miss the late-night conversations, the public speaking competitions, the talent shows, and the Friday movie nights. Students at Gashora were just the right amount of intelligent & fun, and they all had such warm personalities that are so rare to find.

You graduated during COVID-19.  How did that impact your graduation experience? 

Angela, in white, with fellow 2020 graduates. 

Graduation was a crazy time for everyone. I do not know if I will ever get over the fact that I did not get to wear a gown and walk “down the aisle” to receive my degree. I was also scared because I had recently decided I did not want to work in international development and trying to find a new career path in a pandemic seemed impossible. However, I am thankful for good health and that my family and friends were able to stay safe. With all the free time, I reflected a lot about how far I had come and what I wanted the next phase of my life to look like. I ended up taking a couple online classes to learn things that I had not had the opportunity to learn. Additionally, I had the great opportunity to network with several Harvard Alums who had a desire to assist new graduates with job sourcing.

You have started a new job!  Tell us about it!

I am working as an Associate Analyst for HubSpot, a SaaS company headquartered in Cambridge that sells marketing, customer service, CRM, and sales software.  My job is part of a one-year rotation program that will allow me to explore how HubSpot uses data to improve its platforms as part of the product operations team and later the finance team. After the rotation program, I will join either of those teams as a Product Analyst depending on which experience aligns with my interests the most.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Ideally, I will have my own company that is enabling market-driven economic development in Rwanda and across Africa or I will be working for a company doing that in a position where I can influence the direction of said company. I plan to use the next few years to figure out “what kind of company and how” before going to grad school and beginning to work on a more concrete plan.

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