Graduate School of Social Sciences

Dana Saxon: 'The UvA provides a diverse, international classroom setting'

Sociology: Migration and Ethnic Studies (MSc)

‘At the UvA, I quickly realised that I was surrounded by bright, determined, and richly experienced classmates who have had just as much (if not more) to teach me as I have to share with them.’ Read what Dana Saxon has to say about Migration and Ethnic Studies.

Dana Saxon

My name is Dana Saxon and I come from The United States of America. I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania., and I completed my Bachelor's in Africana Studies at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, back in 2000. 

As this degree is my third, it wasn't part of the original plan of my career trajectory. But after receiving my law degree in 2003 and working in the nonprofit sector for about seven years, my indirect path led me back to university. Initially, I chose the University of Amsterdam because it provided a relevant programme in a city that I love.

'The UvA provides a diverse, international classroom setting'

At the UvA, I quickly realised that I was surrounded by bright, determined, and richly experienced classmates who have had just as much (if not more) to teach me as I have to share with them. And since the UvA provides a diverse, international classroom setting, I have had the unique opportunity to participate in discussions and debates about issues, such as ethnicity, gender, and migration, that have influenced and affected many of us differently in our various corners of the world.

'If all goes well and according to plan, my thesis research will serve as the foundation for launching a nonprofit organisation'

And, lucky for me, with several years of combined personal and professional experience, pursuing this Master has come with more clarity and purpose than my earlier degrees. And this is because I know the direction my career will take when my studies are complete. If all goes well and according to plan, my thesis research will serve as the foundation for launching a nonprofit organisation that will serve communities of African descent throughout the world, researching ancestry and providing rare opportunities for young people to travel and gain knowledge of their family histories.

'My thesis focused on the disconnect from history and ancestry experienced by Afro-Surinamese people living in the Netherlands'

In pursuit of this goal, my thesis focused on the disconnect from history and ancestry experienced by Afro-Surinamese people living in the Netherlands, connecting it to the long-term effects of slavery, colonialism, and post-colonial migrations. And as I learn and uncover more about the Afro-Surinamese experience, I see clear similarities with other populations of the African Diaspora that descend from survivors of slavery, making the research generally applicable to my career goals, and quite simply fascinating.

And all of this was on top of receiving support and guidance from quality and engaged professors.

'I would warn those without much of a plan: create one before diving in'

But as with any academic experience, you get out of the MES programme what you put in and what you desire. No hand-holding takes place, meaning research interests and designs are entirely up to us as students. This has worked perfectly for me as preferably independent student. But I would warn those without much of a plan: create one before diving in. Otherwise, the semesters will fly by without your thesis research going anywhere (a problem experienced by even the most focused and determined among us). But knowing what I wanted, professors have directed me to an invaluable, local internship opportunity, introduced me to important players in the field, and enthusiastically supported my efforts.

I have been fortunate to have had my expectations exceeded, with invaluable learning opportunities, long-lasting professional connections, and many new, life-long friendships. I would say: I made the right choice.

Published by  GSSS

Graduate School of Social Sciences

30 June 2017