Her story has all the ingredients of being a special one. She is a Senegalese-American first generation college graduate. She has parents who did not attend college. She chooses to pitch her tent with a profession that is male-dominated (Petroleum Engineering) in the United States of America. Yet, she has excelled graduating with a Special Distinction in Petroleum Engineering. She shared her story with Rasheed Adebiyi. Here are the excerpts…
Tekedia: Could you tell us about yourself?
Sokhna Keinde: My name is Sokhna Keinde. I am 23 years old. I was born and raised in Senegal, where I did my high school before coming to the US. I graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Special Distinction and a B.S in Petroleum Engineering.
Tekedia: You recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Special Distinction. What does this mean to you?
Sokhna Keinde: It means a lot to me as I have always been a hard worker. I am extremely proud when my parents brag about their young daughter graduating with the highest GPA of the Petroleum Engineering class of 2020. Both of them not attending college, I guess this means more for them than it is for me. I did it for them.
Tekedia: Could you share the story behind your tertiary education?
Sokhna Keinde: When I came here, I was first interested in Mechanical Engineering. I had my associate at LaGuardia Community College. During my last semester, my dad brought into my interest the oil and gas industry. In Senegal, there was a lot of debate on the potential future oil development there. After research and with the guidance of my Dad, I decided to change my major to Petroleum Engineering.
Tekedia: As a woman, you seem to have chosen a path in a men dominated profession. What led you to this choice?
Sokhna Keinde: I was innocently just interested in science. I love Maths, Physics and Chemistry. It was after high school that I saw the stigmatization and lines that society has built for us. I remember my older brother was very scared and skeptical for me to continue pursuing Engineering. Being a black, Muslim and a woman in the industry scared him. I saw it more as a challenge and I love that. I had to be good at whatever I was doing to get respect in the area. I was fine with that because I know I can work hard and attain my goals.
Tekedia: As a Senegalese-American, what was your experience passing through a system that many have regarded as a race-conscious system?
Sokhna Keinde: Racism is a reality but people are different. Through my experience, I was able to see easy going people that respect you because of your uniqueness. On the other hand, I have seen some not very open to it. I usually act and adjust based on the environment.
Tekedia: What next after your degree?
Sokhna Keinde: I am open to full time engineering opportunities within or outside of the energy industry. Let’s see what God has written for me.
Tekedia: Thank you for your time.
Sokhna Keinde: It is my pleasure