Impacted by higher education for much of her life, doctoral student Faustina “Faustie” Mensah has dedicated her career to student advocacy.
Faustie, who is from Ghana, Africa, recalls identifying her passion for student affairs as early as 2001, while she was studying at University of Cape Coast and noticed a need for more resources and student support services.
“I struggled to find social support and craved for a more student-centered environment,” she said. “Even though I was not sure how it would materialize, I was confident that this would enhance the student and faculty’s educational experience in a mutually beneficial manner.”
At that moment, Faustie felt determined to commit her working life toward advocating for student support, retention, and career success. Today, the first-generation college student is pursuing a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration.
Alongside her graduate assistantship and dissertation research, Faustie initiated and co-founded the International Student Task Force, a coalition of Ohio University student leaders dedicated to providing aid to international students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shortly after its inception in March, the task force partnered with Ohio University student leaders, Athens city leadership, members of the mayor's virtual roundtable, and community members to raise awareness about the unique predicaments international students face in light of the pandemic. Through the advocacy efforts of the task force, Ohio University created the International Student Emergency Relief Fund, which has provided support to more than 300 students this year.
Faustie felt that her decision to help create the task force was a culmination of her personal beliefs and passion for student advocacy.
“I draw my conviction towards life from Mother Teresa, who said, ‘Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.’ This statement became my philosophy of life: that I can do small things with great love,” she said.
With that philosophy in mind, Faustie sought to create a support system for fellow international students as quickly as possible.
“After Spring Break was extended in March 2020, my projection of the impact of what was happening around us revealed that summer would be challenging for myself and all international students,” she said. The planner in me also realized that, if there will be any form of assistance for international students in the summer, the advocacy had to start before the Spring Semester ended in May 2020!”
Faustie, who is also President of the Ohio University African Students’ Union, said she felt a responsibility to connect with her peers and fellow student leaders. Using skills obtained from her leadership experiences and doctoral coursework, she began her work with the task force.
“I believe in the power of advocacy and resonant leadership. This conviction has been strengthened through my training from the Department of Counseling and Higher Education within The Patton College of Education and the Career and Leadership Development Center, where I held my Graduate Assistantship,” she said.
In addition to helping solicit support for the International Student Emergency Relief Fund, the task force worked to encourage food and monetary donations to Cats’ Cupboard, Ohio University’s on-campus food pantry.
In October, Faustie served as a panelist at The Patton College’s Advocacy and Leadership Summit, where she shared her experiences as an international student leader and as chairperson of the task force.
After she earns her Ph.D., Faustie hopes to advocate for more student-centered education initiatives in Ghana and the rest of Africa. As she completes her third year of doctoral studies, she has already been deeply inspired by her time at Ohio University.
“I always say that coming to Ohio University has been a life-changing experience for me because of the nurturing environment, support, and encouragement received from OHIO's leadership, faculty, staff, the Mayor, local community organizations, and individuals,” she said. “Most importantly, I would kindly acknowledge the leadership and selflessness of my fellow co-founders of the International Student Task Force. We have all worked tirelessly since March 2020 advocating and serving our international students.”
“Last but not least,” Faustie added, “I am eternally grateful to my family and friends for all the love, care, and support—they are at the center of my ability to envision and persevere.”