"Once here, I chose to study economics because, in addition to finding it challenging, I felt it would help me understand global interactions as a person who has lived in over six countries."
– Sophia Uwase, Class of 2018

An Economics major and international student from Rwanda finds her inner artist at Pace.

Why did you choose to attend Pace and to study Economics?

The Economics Department is what attracted me to Pace. The department gives its students opportunities that not many undergraduate programs offer, including doing our own research, presenting at various top-level conferences (such as the one held by the Eastern Economic Association), participating in the Federal Reserve Challenge, and more.  Once here, I chose to study economics because, in addition to finding it challenging, I felt it would help me understand global interactions as a person who has lived in over six countries.

In December 2018, a Project Studio Art class you were enrolled in had culminated with an exhibition at the new Pace Gallery at 41 Park Row. Your artwork, entitled “Prints and Origins,” which utilized acrylic on canvas and ink jet photographic prints on paper, received much praise. How did you become interested in art?

My relationship with art really started at Pace. Prior, I appreciated art as a consumer, but never thought of being an artist. Freshman year, I took an Economics class called Economics Issues through a Photographer's Lens with Professor Anna Shostya, which got me interested in photography and led me to take more classes in the Art department. Art Professor Jillian McDonald has also been a huge help in my journey, by informing me of great opportunities and encouraging me to participate. My curiosity resulted in an exploration of different art forms and a minor in Digital and Time-Based Art.

What led to the creation of your piece, that featured three generations of women in your family wearing culturally specific African textile?

In fall 2018, I took a Project Studio Art class in which the overall theme was “origins.” I thought hard about my own personal origins and what makes me who I am. I am from Rwanda and this gave me an opportunity to showcase some of my culture and learn about traditional art form in Rwanda that I hadn’t known about or took for granted. The geometric paintings and graphics were inspired by a traditional Rwandan art form called “Imigongo.” I have also lived in five African countries, hence, why each woman in the photographs is wearing different African patterns, representing the countries that had the most effect on me growing up. Lastly, I would not be here without my mother and grandmother, who had been huge influences in my life, so they are also represented in the artwork.

What internships did you have as a student, and were you active on campus?

My parents moved to Kenya when I started college, and since I spend my summers there, I decided to make the most of that time and was lucky to receive an opportunity for an internship with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Urban Economics Youth Division, at their headquarters in Nairobi. I was an analytical researcher working with plans to enhance socio-economic situations for youth living in disadvantaged areas through financial literacy and business development. I also worked at a tech startup company called Tulaa in Nairobi. Back at Pace, I was treasurer for the Black Student Union for two semesters and on the search committee for the new Pace art gallery’s director position.   

What is the most important advice you can provide to current students?

Take advantage of all the opportunities presented to you!

What is next for you, ad what would you like to pursue as a career?

I graduated a semester early, in December 2018, and am currently waiting for my Optional Practical Training (OPT) status, which will allow me to work in the US, where I want to pursue a career in asset management.

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