Mpoe Mogale (’19 BA Hons, Political Science) has always had big dreams. Growing up, they had their sights set high – literally – with plans to one day explore the universe by studying astronomy. But when it came time to apply to university, Mogale realized their true passions were grounded here, in the complexities of this world, and switched their focus to an arts degree.
“It just seemed more urgent to deal with what we have in front of us,” explains Mogale, who is originally from South Africa and relocated to Edmonton as a teenager. “[My degree] allowed me to understand the systems that are in place that contribute to the societal issues we face, and how to then navigate – and, if possible, mitigate – those societal issues.”
Mogale wasn’t content for their learning to come from within a single section of the academic calendar. Rather, they envisioned an education that spanned diverse fields of knowledge and perspectives, and steadfastly worked throughout their undergrad to turn that vision into a reality. As a result, the degree they’re receiving this month includes a major in political science, a minor in international studies and no less than six different certificates.
The interdisciplinary focus of Mogale’s degree – which helped them discover an affinity for areas such as gender studies and cultural studies – allowed them to develop a broad, nuanced understanding of global issues.
“I found myself really developing a knack for critical thinking, and critical race theory in particular” they explain. “Topics of gender and race are often neglected in international relations, so it definitely allowed me to see a gap in that field that I’m very much interested in.”
Mogale credits political science professor Malinda Smith, one of the co-supervisors for their honors thesis, with helping open their mind to these areas and bring about revelations that went beyond the academic. “The material we read in her class [on critical race theory] was very affirming,” Mogale recalls. “You see your own life experiences articulated by other people, and it really affirms that it’s not just me in this world.”
Mpoe Mogale is graduating with a BA (hons) in Political Science
Mogale also wanted to explore how the knowledge they were gaining through their studies could be connected to the local community, which prompted them to take Community Service-Learning (CSL) classes, and even work as a student intern for the program. These experiences included working with non-profit organizations, such as the Inner City Recreation and Wellness Program where university students participated in wellness activities alongside people experiencing homelessness. “It brings worlds together and that’s something I’m really passionate about,” Mogale says. “I’m very interested in this bridging of different worlds.”
Mogale’s interest in CSL led them to complete a Community Engagement and Service-Learning certificate, along with the five other certificates they’re set to graduate with: International Learning; Peace & Post-Conflict Studies; Globalization & Governance; Sustainability; and Global Citizenship.
“I wanted to have a very rich university experience,” Mogale says of their decision to pursue a diverse array of specializations. “I was only able to [accomplish this] because of the immense amount of planning I did.”
In addition to their studies, Mogale was also an incredibly active volunteer during their years on campus. They served as an Undergraduate Student Representative for the Academic Women’s Association, a UAlberta Ambassador and as Vice-President Community and Alumni Relations with the University of Alberta’s African Students Association.
After completing a year-long work placement with the Undergraduate Research Initiative as part of the Arts Work Experience program, Mogale returned for their last year of studies ready to focus on a single volunteer activity that was important to them. They look back at their experience as a Faculty of Arts Councillor for the Students’ Union as invaluable, including the opportunity to sit on both a policy committee and an aboriginal reconciliation committee. “It really opened up a wealth of skills that I wanted to attain,” Mogale explains.
Mogale has plans to eventually continue their studies by pursuing a master’s degree in international relations. But right now, they’ve switched directions to pursue another big dream: a career as a professional dancer.
“Dance has always been nudging at me to really do it seriously,” says Mogale, who danced throughout their undergraduate degree and is now a member of the Decidedly Jazz Danceworks Company based in Calgary.
For Mogale, dance is another outlet for pursuing their passion for understanding different worlds. “My artistry is intended to cast a mirror upon ourselves and the society we created and exist within – particularly calling into question the deep constructs of race and gender,” they explain. “I utilize art as a means of understanding myself and the world around me.”