A Mawrter for a Cause (or Two)

Farida Ilboudo ’18 sees study of education as a path to give back.

A Gates Millennium Scholar, Farida Ilboudo ’18 came to campus by way of the Bronx, but her journey started thousands of miles away in Burkina Faso. Of her college experience, she says, “What Bryn Mawr has done is open me up to a new world—to a new and better Farida. It has allowed me to figure out that my voice and my dreams matter.”

An anthropology major, with an ambitious double minor in political science and education, Ilboudo has attended quite a few schools along the way—public and private in West Africa, a charter school in New York, and now Bryn Mawr—and, she says, “I see the difference between the schools in Burkina Faso and here.”

“Knowing that I have so much, I want to give back to other people. One of my interests is to study educational policy and reform in the hopes of improving the educational system and methods in West Africa,” she says, “so that students there can get the same kind of opportunity that I’m receiving here.”

This summer, she explored that interest as a fellow in Lagim Tehi Tuma/Thinking Together, a Bi-Co partnership with the community of Dalun, Ghana. “In Dalun, we learned about the students and the schools, and we worked with the community to research educational methods.

“Studying education opened up a whole new field for me—and a new interest,” she says. “When it was time for my field placement for Learning in Institutional Places, the professor said, ‘I think you should try the prison.’”

At the time, Ilboudo was watching Orange Is the New Black, so the prospect of working in a prison had her a little scared. “But when I got there,” she says, “the women smiled and said, ‘Hi, what’s your name?’ and I became comfortable in a locked room with prisoners. I saw the Thursday literacy group and the Friday book club, and I saw how open and powerful those programs were and how much the women appreciated them. I started researching, so something else I’m interested in is helping to change prisons in America.”

The Name Game

“My name means unique in Arabic. So I would say that Farida is unique.”

Before Bryn Mawr

Ilboudo attended a New York charter school (based on the Korean educational system), where she learned Korean.

The Cloisters

“It’s my favorite place on campus. When I’m sad, when it’s a nice day, I go there.“


“My best friend is a math major who’s interested in studying autism, minoring in anthropology, and theater.”

Lagim Tehi Tuma

This Bi-Co/Dalun fellowship combines team-building, study, and education projects to foster dialogue about culture, power, history, and learning.