Margarita Fajardo and Aliya Diawara ’16

Collaboration to Drive Transformation

Aliya Diawara ’16 came to Sarah Lawrence College from Saudi Arabia with plans to pursue studies in music, but it wasn’t long before she realized another passion sparked her curiosity: international relations.

Margarita Fajardo, a history faculty member with a focus on Latin America, connected with Aliya over their shared interest in the complexities of international development.

Before long, their conversations evolved into a valuable collaboration. Aliya and Margarita jointly explored models of international cooperation that had driven Brazil towards Africa since the 1960s—models informed by traditional Western diplomacy, but set apart by distinctive histories and cultures.

Learning about the World—and Herself

Aliya focused particularly on the efforts of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known colloquially as “Lula,” to cooperate with African nations in building their emerging economies.

“Lula managed to work internally in Brazil to institute affirmative action policies to help the country’s Afro-Brazilian population,” Aliya explains. “At the same time, he tried to have a more horizontal relationship with Africa—one that felt like a partnership between equals where both parties benefit and neither is exploited.”

“This conference project was a great way to combine my newfound interests in Brazil with my personal history,” says Aliya, whose family is from the West African country of Burkina Faso. “I don’t think I would have been able to do that outside of Sarah Lawrence, because Margarita’s class was truly interdisciplinary in its approach.”

Margarita adds that Sarah Lawrence’s distinctive approach benefits faculty, too: “Here, you have a responsibility to spend time with students, and you get to learn from them as well,” she says. “That process forces me to go outside of my areas of expertise to help my students navigate their own work. It’s very enriching.”