NYU Accra: Igniting Ericka’s Passion and Purpose
As a Global Public Health and Anthropology major, Ericka Kamanou-Tenta is determined to empower others to improve their communities
Studying at NYU Accra, Ericka Kamanou-Tenta discovered ways to combine her interests in public health, social entrepreneurship, and African development in service of others. In her time abroad, Ericka taught an entrepreneurial course about start-ups and interned with a local agricultural social enterprise. In essence, her study away experience exemplifies how college led to the discovery and development of her passion to drive change and empowerment within communities. “NYU makes it possible to find your niche,” Ericka says. “Because the curriculum and the programs are so interdisciplinary, you’re able to find what you love and get to know yourself better by learning about the world.”
Finding the Perfect Path
Before her time at NYU Accra, Ericka came to NYU planning to become a doctor. Those plans changed, however, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She grew concerned about the flaws she was witnessing in global health systems and felt called toward a profession that might have a broader impact. As a result, she declared a major in Global Public Health and Anthropology at the College of Arts and Science. With this major, she felt she’d be better prepared to solve problems at the intersection of society, culture, and health. Moreover, with the addition of a minor in Social Entrepreneurship, she has been able to study how start-ups and innovation benefit low-income communities.
Ericka’s extracurricular activities provide another avenue for exploring these interests. As president of the Association for African Development club, Ericka applies knowledge from her major and minor to learn about and promote sustainable solutions for the needs of Sub-Saharan Africa. She also interns in the Leslie eLab. “I’m gaining a lot from the eLab’s faculty as they’re very supportive of my personal and professional goals,” she shares. “I get to meet like-minded people, learn about students’ innovative ideas for specific problems, and network with NYU Founders.”
Empowering Communities to Build Better Futures
Perhaps the most influential of Ericka’s experiences at NYU? Studying away at NYU Accra. “I knew I was going to Ghana to step into my purpose,” she says. “And I found a sense of purpose in everything that I did and built there.” For example, in one course at NYU Accra, Ericka interned with a social enterprise that helps farmers escape poverty. Specifically, her work included traveling to northern Ghana to interview farmers and uncover how the organization could better promote the adoption of new agricultural technologies. Today, that experience through NYU Accra continues to inform her understanding of health and financial freedom.
While at NYU Accra, Ericka also volunteered at the nonprofit B.A.S.I.C.S International along with a fellow NYU student. The pair devised the idea of teaching entrepreneurship in Chorkor, one of Ghana’s poorest neighborhoods. They hoped to give local youth the skills to make a difference in their community. Ericka drew on concepts she learned at NYU in order to lead the three-month course. For example, interviewing potential customers to identify and validate problems and building business models based on market feedback.
Under Ericka and her partner’s mentorship, one team worked to develop cost-effective, nutritious meals for nursing mothers. A second group ideated plans to collect and recycle local plastic waste into fashionable reusable bags. Eventually, both teams pitched their ventures to a panel of Ghanaian entrepreneurs. The second group won $3,000 to help launch their line of reusable bags! “This experience reinforced my love for African development,” says Ericka. “I found real joy and passion for empowering others and helping them see themselves as changemakers.”
Creating a Positive Impact in a Career You Love
Now, as she approaches graduation, Ericka is weighing her options to continue working with underserved populations in Ghana or pursue a role in venture capital to support sustainable businesses in the United States. Either way, she’s confident that the knowledge and skills she’s gained and experiences she’s had—both at NYU in New York City and at NYU Accra—have prepared her to not only build a career she loves but to also make a positive impact on the world.