An Interview with Megumi Kivuva ’22
Anna Hallett Gutierrez ‘21 interviews computer science and Spanish major Megumi Kivuva ‘22 on the intersections between technology and education equity.
Where are you from and how did you decide to come to Bard?
I’m originally from Kenya. I was born there and my family immigrated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when I was three months old. My life has really been spent navigating the Kenyan and American and Black identities.
I went to an all girls private high school and there was this track to very high performing Ivy League and really high performing liberal arts schools. I was on that track and had 15 or so schools to apply to, and one day I just stumbled upon Bard’s website. I was like, “this place can’t exist” – I liked a lot of what I saw on the website. When I was up here visiting Vassar I decided to visit Bard and I fell in love with it. On the way home I was like “I’m going to apply here Early Decision” and that’s what I did. And I basically abandoned the rest of my college applications. I just fell in love with [Bard]. Choosing Bard was almost like choosing my own path because no one had told me to apply or look into it; it was something I had found on my own, and it was kind of this little gem that I had all to myself.
Once you were here at Bard, how did you first find out about EH?
I found out about Experimental Humanities my first semester. I was taking Object Oriented Programming and someone had come into our class and talked about Experimental Humanities. At that point I didn’t really know about concentrations, and I hadn’t really decided whether I wanted to be a computer science major. I had actually come to Bard for chemistry and wanted to be a chemical engineer (I am nowhere near that field right now, I have never taken a chemistry class outside of high school, couldn’t tell you where the chemistry labs were for a really long time at Bard)!
My love for computer science lives at the intersection of the humanities and social justice, and Experimental Humanities really opened up that avenue to explore those things, especially as it pertains to digital humanities and digital literacies as well.
How did the shift from chemistry to computer science happen, and was this shift influenced by wanting to concentrate in Experimental Humanities?
A lot of my choices for computer science and EH also happen alongside my work for the Center for Civic Engagement where I’m a the Lead STEM Outreach Fellow. I do a lot of community engagement, and I just really wanted to be in a space, especially in the future, where I can be serving my community in a very equitable manner, and computer science, for me, just was not that accessible. I was often discouraged from taking computer science classes because they would be too hard or too abstract, and so I wanted to be that representation – be that woman in STEM, be that Black woman in STEM that students can see and know that they can do it too. Being in a space that offers a more interdisciplinary approach also makes it so that I can work on making computer science accessible to people who wouldn’t necessarily feel drawn to it. There’s this idea that there is just one nerd type, like that gamer that really likes computer science, when you can use computer science to do a lot of different things; you can use Twine and make your essays interactive. You don’t have to know all the intricacies of code to even just try computer science. There are so many times where I’ve learned new mediums of expressing traditional ways of thought through programming.
Can you talk about how you experience the interdisciplinary aspects of EH within your majors of computer science and Spanish?
I took Archive Fever, a Spanish literature class taught by Patricia Lopez-Gay, We examined the archive in the digital realm: through photographs, videos, movies, audio; we listened to podcasts. There are so many different ways of archiving, of telling your story, of memory making and memorializing the self. Instead of writing a paper, I created a blog that ended up capturing my feelings during the pandemic; the ways I was exploring my identity in isolation. Especially now in the digital age, there are so many different ways that we are archived, that we don’t necessarily archive ourselves, but are archived by a third party.
Is there anything that you’d like to share about your Senior Project?
For my senior project I am creating a curriculum that Spanish teachers can utilize to integrate computing into their Spanish literature classes. I am using Afro-Latinx literature as a basis, to broaden representation in Spanish literature classes. Although I am in the very beginning stages of getting my idea off the ground, I envision either partnering with a Spanish teacher to teach the curriculum, or running a teacher training workshop for Spanish teachers.
Can you share any ideas about what you want the curriculum to be like, and how you will integrate EH into this project?
I am currently reading works by Afro-Latinx writers such as Nicolas Guillen and Nancy Morejon, and coming up with creative ways to represent themes like one’s loss of identity through programming. I am working with tactile and hands-on tools such as Micro Bit and Makey Makey to make my curriculum fun and exciting.
Would you like to talk about any EH projects that you’ve been involved in through the Media Corps that you’ve really enjoyed?
In fall 2020 I had a really good time creating a virtual Gather Town for the EH Share Event. It was a serendipitous moment where it was the first big gathering we had since everything shut down for COVID, and it was simultaneously a disaster and a success as any large virtual group meeting happens to be. Any time you deploy a new technology it’s a disaster whether or not it’s a success; we had a lot of tech issues but all of the projects were just phenomenal and I had no idea my peers were doing such wonderful work. Giving students the opportunity to showcase their work was just so wonderful, especially given how hard of a semester it was.
Would you like to talk about some of your academic interests, either inside or outside EH?
I’m really interested in education equity, specifically right now as it pertains to computer science. But also just in general, making sure everybody has access to an adequate education no matter what family they’re born into, where they live, who they identify as, who they love. In the future I want to go into learning sciences and computing education and just do a lot of work on how to best integrate different learning techniques; using technology that makes learning spaces more equitable and more inclusive for everybody, but specifically Black people.
Is that what you aspire to do after your graduation from Bard?
Right now I’m definitely on the boat of going to grad school for human computer interaction, computer science, or learning sciences; something where I can bridge together education, computer science, and equity. I’ve also been thinking about taking some time off and becoming a teacher. I think that would be something that would be really fun to do and I could learn a lot from it, as I’ve done a lot of teaching over the past few years of my life and I’ve really enjoyed it.