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Diversity and Inclusion

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Esi Kalefe: Chemical Bonds

“As a community we struggle with the idea of inclusion most, even though we accept diversity in all of its aspects.”

For Esi Kalefe '14, the path to higher education began in Togo, a nation of seven million on Africa's west coast, and ran through the Bronx, New York, before ending in Kentucky at Transylvania. Those experiences give her a little different perspective than many of her Transylvania classmates.

"At my high school in the Bronx, there were students from 46 countries," said Kalefe, who can communicate in three languages—English, French, and Ewe (a Togo dialect). "We were all just trying to learn from each other and share opinions."

Esi Kalefe

In New York, Kalefe’s path crossed that of Jeff Briggs '00, a chemistry and mathematics teacher at New World High School. He was her teacher for trigonometry her sophomore year, an advanced placement pre-calculus class her junior year, and chemistry her senior year.

"In high school, I wanted to go into biochemistry," said Kalefe, a chemistry major and possible math double major or minor. "Mr. Briggs (a Transylvania chemistry major with history and math minors) said Transylvania would be a good fit for me because they have good chemistry professors. He talked to me about the professors he had here and said I should apply."

Kalefe had lived in New York City with her parents and brother since leaving Togo in 2006 at age 12. Coming to America, language was never a problem for her.

"In my country, you start with French in elementary school, then begin English in middle school. Also, my father is half Ghanaian, and they speak English in Ghana. I went on vacation there, and that helped me understand English better."

When Kalefe flew into Lexington for student orientation and registration in the summer of 2010 and saw the city and the surrounding countryside for the first time, she was momentarily stunned.

"For a second, I thought I was back home in Togo," she said. "I lived in a city, but not such a big city, and Lexington is like that. And I like the farms. We had a horse park not so far from my home that I used to go to every summer."

At Transylvania, Kalefe has served as president of the Black Student Alliance, a role that has helped her more fully understand how students on campus actually embrace diversity and inclusion. She feels the campus community has the most work to do in the area of inclusion.

"I would like to see inclusion being front and center of a lot of the activities that are held on campus, especially student activities. Diversity is lacking on our campus, but it is not because we don't have a lot of minorities. It is mostly because we are not as inclusive and open as we could be."

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