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>  News Releases >   2003 >   July

Junior studies in NYU program, preparing for future in academia

Posted 07/10/03, by Kathleen McDermott '04

Njoki Gatimu '04 in New York City. She is researching Nigerian-American identity. (photo courtesy of Njoki Gatimu)
Interviews to reveal patterns in formation of identity in second-generation Nigerians

Dartmouth junior Njoki Gatimu is conducting an independent research project with a professor at New York University as part of a program that prepares minority students for careers in academia.

Called the Leadership Alliance Summer Research Early Identification Program (SR-EIP), the program matches traditionally underrepresented minority undergraduates in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities with faculty mentors for a summer, allowing them to do research while receiving mentoring.

Student participants receive free housing and a stipend, in addition to access to special seminars, a Kaplan GRE course, and cultural and social activities.

Gatimu, a sociology major at Dartmouth, is working with NYU sociology professor Dalton Conley and focusing her research on the identity formation process among second-generation Nigerians. She is interviewing second-generation Nigerian-American high-school students in the New York City area and examining the sociological factors - like socioeconomic status, educational attainment, and neighborhood and community environment - that influence how they perceive and understand their identity, as well as how their identity is validated in their environments.

"It's going well," she said. "It's a great learning process, and very challenging and rewarding at the same time."

Gatimu said that because Africans are a recent immigrant group to the United States, relatively little is known about their identity formation, and how it differs across ethnic lines within the black race.

"It's a great learning process, and very challenging and rewarding at the same time."

- Njoki Gatimu

Gatimu said she has always been interested in issues of identity formation and how second-generation Africans "construct their identity within the American racial context."

"As a second-generation Kenyan, I could identify as Kenyan, black, Kenyan-American ... but my choice very much depends on my environment, and has a great influence on how I perceive myself," Gatimu said.

During Winter Term with Richard Wright, Professor of Geography, Gatimu began background research on the topic, and is applying her summer research to her senior sociology thesis.

In addition to interviewing students, she said she hopes to conduct in-depth ethnographic research and participant-observer research, and she is contacting professors involved in research on identity formation.

At Dartmouth Gatimu has worked as a presidential scholar research assistant with Associate Professor of Sociology Deborah King and examined African-American women's experiences in the prison system. She has also served as an intern at the Rockefeller Center and organized student dialogues with guest speakers on issues of social policy.

With her strong interest in issues of social policy Gatimu said she hopes to pursue graduate studies in sociology, social policy or law, focusing on issues of immigration and civil rights.

-Kathleen McDermott '04

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