Alumni Spotlight: Sally Nuamah

Sally Nuamah interviewing secondary school students in Ghana for the documentary HerStory: Girls & Education in Ghana.
July 09, 2014

By Adam Middleton

Since graduating from the George Washington University three years ago, Sally Nuamah has pursued her interests as researcher, consultant, world traveler, filmmaker and public speaker—all the while illustrating that individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds around the world can achieve.

Nuamah received her bachelor’s degree in political science with a focus in public policy from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences in 2011. Moving back to Chicago and entering a doctoral program, Nuamah’s research focuses on issues of race, education and public policy. Outside of academia, Sally works as a consultant for the United Nations Foundation (UNF) and is currently in South Africa as a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Research and Innovation Fellow.

Describing herself as “mission-oriented,” Nuamah is active domestically and abroad to improve the lives of underprivileged children around the world. She cites the lack of educational access for underprivileged children and conditions in her hometown of Chicago and other inner-city communities such as New York and Philadelphia as the impetus behind her career.

“I found that I was fundamentally motivated by this idea that kids do not choose to be born poor. The way a kid comes into this world should not affect their ability to be successful,” said Nuamah, reflecting on the anniversaries of Board v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Sally has worked heavily in schools throughout her career and even before graduating from GW. In 2009, she began to produce a short documentary that became HerStory: Girls & Education in Ghana. The film sought to examine the academic success of female students in Ghana as they completed their last year in secondary school. The film and its associated research led to a TEDx Talk at the University of Illinois at Chicago and will soon reach the community festival circuit around the country. You can learn more about Sally’s research and film project at www.herstorythefilm.com

“I actually started off with an interest in higher education policy,” Nuamah said, “but became really saddened by how many people don’t end up [in college] in the first place, and became more interested in lower levels of education.”

Her catalogue of distinctions recently expanded to include an appointment to the GW Board of Trustees. Landing back at the university during a time where so much promise and energy are around diversity and inclusion, Nuamah says, is one of the most exciting parts of returning. She remembers the dialogue about a chief diversity officer and the months leading up to the creation of the position in 2011.

“I was a student at GW when Dr. Reed was hired and to see how the diversity effort has evolved into the Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity & Inclusion is amazing,” she said.

This fall, Nuamah will continue to look at the intersection of education and policy in a pre-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, conducting more research on the educational access of underprivileged youth in minority communities around the country.

“Education is the most probable mechanism for getting kids who come into this world at a particular disadvantage to leave this world with a better outcome,” she said.

With endless possibilities for the future, Ms. Nuamah can only confirm that her passion to advocate for educational access for underprivileged children will guide her future.

“I know what I care about. All of my work is trying to find the way to get at those interests and questions, and hopefully contribute to the effort.”