The Courage to Question

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Gifts to the Dartmouth College Fund help make great things happen for our students. Here is one of their stories.
Andrew in snow

Andrew Nalani ’16 left Kampala, Uganda, for two years at United World College, a secondary school in New Mexico, and then Dartmouth, putting him on an intellectual and spiritual “journey of lifelong learning.” A religion major modified with environmental and gender studies, he has received numerous awards at Dartmouth, including the William S. Churchill Freshman Prize and the Ranny B. Cardozo, Jr. 1978 Award, and he is a Dartmouth Stamps Scholar. In 2014, he created and operated a youth leadership camp in Uganda, and last summer interned at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. He advises students through the Dean’s Office, works as a house manager at the Hopkins Center, and sings with the Handel Society.

DCF: Where were you in your journey when you arrived at Dartmouth?

At United World College, I met folks from different religions and began participating in interfaith dialogues. So I came to Dartmouth at a crossroads, without a strong tie to a particular religion. I eventually found solace spending time with friends, hiking the Mink Brook trails, or going to the Bema or Nathan’s Garden to read and write poetry. That has given me spiritual nourishment. My evolution in terms of faith has gone from a place of absolute certainty to inquiry.

DCF: Why the interest in emotional intelligence?

Emotional self-awareness has been central for me in this journey of learning because there have been so many questions challenging things that I had learned in Uganda. I need to recognize if I’m experiencing fear or anxiety—and if I am, where is that anxiety coming from?

DCF: You had an internship with the Tucker Foundation. What did that involve?

In my first year, we studied issues involving migrant workers and food production, and then spent our spring break volunteering in a migrant community in Florida. I led the trip as a sophomore. We participated in a march to raise awareness, arranged care packages, volunteered at a nursery school, and provided English tutoring. Working with the Tucker Foundation has been one of the clear markers of my growth, both in terms of community service and making things happen.

DCF: Why is poetry important to you?

When I read poetry, I find courage. David Whyte, one of my favorite poets, often writes about identity and the change of identity, and he talks about the conversational nature of reality. Writing poetry allows me to exercise creativity and tap into something that cannot yet be fully articulated.

DCF: What was the focus of your leadership camp?

The camp brought together 29 young people from Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania to develop leadership skills and provided a platform for them to look at cross-gender, ethnic, and religious differences. It was successful, and my experience with the Tucker Foundation set me up for that. I’m planning another camp for this year.

DCF: And then what?

Studying for a master’s in education. I eventually want to pursue a PhD, exploring how to better support learners between adolescence and early adulthood. My vision is to teach at the university level and possibly conduct research and start a consultancy. I’d like to create a professional development platform for teachers.