By Evelyn Manyatta '22, CAS Communications Intern
Sela Kasepa ‘20
I recently had the privilege of talking to Sela Kasepa ‘20 about her Harvard experience now that she has just graduated. Born and raised in Zambia, Sela is a Harvard College Class of 2020 graduate who concentrated in Computer Science and is set to start her full-time job at Microsoft in Redmond, WA. When I asked her to reflect back on her experience at Harvard, she started by acknowledging that Harvard enabled her to explore and experience so many things and has shown her that the world is full of different possibilities.
“Harvard has shown me that the world is full of different possibilities.”
Upon reflection, Sela expressed her appreciation for the GenEd requirements Harvard “forces” us to fulfill. “The Harvard curriculum pushes you beyond your comfort zone,” said Sela as she recalled two classes which had a great impact on her learning. Without these requirements, she wouldn’t have taken these great classes namely “The Politics of Harvard Development” and “Landmarks of Architecture” of which she highly recommends students to explore. From the Politics of African Development class, Sela admits learning things about her own continent she didn’t know of before. Listening to Sela speak made me take a step back and acknowledge how privileged I am to study at such a resourced academic institution with a liberal arts curriculum. Sela also highlighted how helpful her classmates were during her time at Harvard. “The hardest classes are where I made my best of friends. The long pset hours really got us to bond with each other,” Sela said.
“Harvard Curriculum pushes you beyond your comfort zone.”
Sela is a recipient of Queens Young Leader Awards for her work in Robotics. This came up as she was describing some of the transformative experiences she had at Harvard. Sela has always believed that technological advancement is the key to Zambia's economic development. To contribute to this technological advancement, she wanted to assemble a group of Zambian students to participate in the first Global Robotics Challenge. “I looked at the list of countries participating in the challenge and Zambia wasn’t there. I was determined to change that.” However, this wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the help she got from people at Harvard. “I think the best part about Harvard is the people. The students, professors, everyone.” It is through a conversation with her professor where she expressed her goal of getting this robotics team to the competition. A week later, the professor was able to find support from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) to fund her project. The success of sending the first group of Zambian students to participate in the Global Robotics Challenge was recognized through this prestigious award.
“Harvard helped me explore different places.”
Sela took advantage of the many opportunities to study abroad. During the summer of her first year Sela got the opportunity to study abroad in Senegal. During her sophomore summer, Sela had the opportunity to intern for the Jospong Group of Companies in Ghana, an opportunity she got through the Center for African Studies. Sela was the first group of students to participate in this internship program which gave her room for a lot of creativity. She gained a lot of hands-on work experience in the tech department working on creating an app and this internship helped clarify her career path. Besides professional growth, Sela appreciated the many friendships she made and just exploring Ghana and the beautiful city of Accra.
Tour of Lavender Hill Faecal Treatment Plant - a subsidiary company of the Jospong Group of Companies that deals with the treatment of sewage collected from many households in Accra. This photo was taken during our tour of the site and other Jospong subsidiary companies.
“COVID-19 made me graduate in front of my laptop.”
After all the amazing experiences at Harvard, the Coronavirus pandemic made the end of the Class of 2020 college journey anticlimactic. When I asked Sela how the pandemic affected her senior spring her response was “left, right, center.” By this, she meant that it affected her in every way possible. “If you told me two years ago that I will be graduating in front of my laptop, I wouldn’t believe it at all.” Having to say goodbye to all her friends in four days after the students got notice to leave the dorms in March was another sad memory.
“The best part about Harvard is the people.”
Sela from our conversation seemed to have a transformative experience at Harvard. All the friendships and learning experiences have really shaped who she is and it is something she is very grateful for. I wish Sela all the best in her next learning journey and I will really miss seeing her on campus!