One Foot in Spain, the Other in New York

Imani Holmes ’19

In the summer of 2017, Imani Holmes ’19 took advantage of two experiences that were, quite literally, in different worlds. She traveled to Spain, where she explored cultural identities of African immigrants on the Iberian Peninsula. At the same time, she worked via Skype to complete a six-week industry-based mentorship program sponsored by Citi Bank in New York to learn about financial models.

Sounds like too much for one person to hold in her head. But Holmes, a global commerce major and Spanish minor from Atlanta, is a determined young woman, intent on wresting the most from her education.

It all began with a desire to study internationally. “I really wanted to study abroad, but I also wanted to be an RA (resident assistant) for another year,” said Holmes. “My Spanish professor, Dosinda Alvite, suggested that I do research abroad over the summer. She helped me refine my proposal and find contacts with African immigrants in Madrid and Barcelona through her relationships there.” Through the Lisska Center for Scholarly Engagement, Holmes received funding to conduct her two-month summer research project.

While in Spain, Holmes conducted extensive interviews with first- and second-generation African immigrants such as Equatorial-Guinean author and historian, Donato Ndongo and Aquí la Tierra journalist, Lucía-Asué Mbomio Rubío. “I could see they were longing for a cultural identity,” she said. “In addition to dealing with immigration concerns such as lack of employment opportunity and racism, many second-generation African descendants desired a deeper connection to their home country. However, this yearning for connectivity was overshadowed by the media’s negative portrayal of African immigrants.”

Holmes also interviewed organization leaders, including Rafael Sánchez, the general sub-director of Fundación Súr and, Mariona Sobrequés, project manager and social media coordinator for Fundación Mujeres de África. They spoke about the important role that NGOs serve as creators of enriching cultural and educational programs. These include public radio programs about issues facing the African immigrant community, and professional development for African businesswomen interested in ecommerce and digital strategy.

“Imani’s proactive attitude and her deep understanding of her research topics were brilliantly put into action in her summer project,” said Alvite. “When we met in Madrid in June, I was very impressed with the multiple connections she had made with prominent cultural figures that also work with African migrants and exiles in Spain. Imani’s passion, discipline, and dedication to learning are outstanding.”

As luck would have it, while she was planning her itinerary in Spain, another opportunity opened through her Global Commerce major. Jane Palmer, the coordinator of the program, shared information about an “accelerator” program through an organization called ModernGuild. Holmes and another student, Alvaro Magana ’19, also a global commerce major, were accepted into the program.

“Imani is mature, engaged student who always operates in high gear,” said Ted Burzak, a professor of economics and global commerce. “In my Global Financial Markets class, she is constantly probing the material, looking for connections between the economic theory and applications to the real world.”

“Each week we would dive into case studies about developing your personal brand, value proposition, discount flow models, and leveraged buy-outs.”

ModernGuild partners with companies from finance and consulting industries to help college students build their industry and real-world skills, preparing them for future jobs. The six-week accelerator runs along two lines, finance and entrepreneurship, and sources one-on-one online mentoring with a trained industry coach. Holmes met via Skype with David Hu, an interest rates swap trading associate with J. P. Morgan Bank.

“Each week we would dive into case studies about developing your personal brand, value proposition, discount flow models, and leveraged buy-outs,” said Holmes. “It was fascinating, and I really enjoyed learning and working with my mentor – I even went to New York to interview with CitiBank.”

“ModernGuild granted me the opportunity to explore the finance industry as a potential career path, but ultimately led me to realize that my preference resides with brand management, consumer insights, and product development,” she added.

“Holistically, I enjoyed my summer because I not only advanced my Spanish language skills by living with a host family and conducting my interviews in Spanish, but I also got to better understand the finance industry and ultimately discover my passion for consumer product goods.”

October 11, 2017