At Pomona College, one class can change the course of the rest of your life. For Maggie Fick '07, that class was Pierre Englebert's Comparative Politics of Africa. "The questions that he inspired us students to explore and the books we read inspired me to want to learn more about sub-Saharan Africa," recalls Fick, who as a student changed her plans to study abroad in Paris and instead went to Cameroon. Her senior thesis was on "Strategies of Sub-National Mobilization in Niger and Cameroon."
After graduating as an international relations major, Fick lived in Niger for a year on a Fulbright Fellowship, researching the changing role of women in Tuareg culture. She worked in Washington, D.C., and then South Sudan as a field researcher for the Enough Project, which aims to end genocide and crimes against humanity in Sudan, South Sudan, Congo and Somalia. In 2010, as South Sudan was preparing for its independence referendum, Fick decided to pursue news reporting in the region. Since then, she has written articles for Associated Press, the Christian Science Monitor, ForeignPolicy.com, The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.
Her next goal is to become fluent in Arabic, having attended the Middlebury College Summer Arabic Language program in 2012 on the Kathryn Davis Fellowship for Peace and studying the language while working part-time in the Cairo bureau of the Associated Press. "I'm working to add to my ‘toolset' so that I can be a well-rounded, well-informed and well-equipped foreign correspondent covering the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa."
For her dedication to journalism, compassionate reporting and inspirational passion for working in and advocating for Africa, Fick is the 2013 Inspirational Young Alumni Award recipient. The award recognizes dedication, perseverance and consistency in following the inscription on the College Gates: "They only are loyal to this college who departing bear their added riches in trust for mankind."
"For me, there is nothing more exciting and rewarding than having the chance to interact daily with a diverse array of peoples and institutions in the process of reporting a story and, above all, to have the chance to ask informed questions that might lead to a better understanding of complex events around the world," says Fick, who is from Bainbridge Island, Wash.
"[Maggie] is deeply altruistic and kind, while also adventurous and entrepreneurial," says Professor of Politics Pierre Englebert. "She is tremendously gifted but even harder working. She lets compassion guide her policy interests, but professionalism defines her work. It is students like her who give the greatest meaning to the work of professors."
Fick notes that more than five years after graduation, Englebert is still a mentor. "This is what is special about Pomona! Of course the bonds that students make with each other, but also the special relationships students and professors form that in many cases last far beyond the four years at Pomona."
She also says that the diversity of the Pomona community prepared her for the wide range of people she encounters as a journalist. "In my career to date as a journalist, I'm most proud of the work that I have done which has required ‘source development'--by that I mean, getting to know people, gaining trust, spending time learning about the place where I'm reporting," says Fick. "I think this skill, which I'm still working to develop, was something I began to learn about at Pomona: how to interact and learn from and learn with a wide variety of people, with the collective goal of better understanding the world in which we live."