“Over the last couple of years, I had the rare opportunity to serve my local Michigan community at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as a member of the Michigan Air National Guard (MIANG) as opposed to serving overseas. This wasn’t my plan, but as everyone knows, over the last year and half, the world came to a complete shut down as far as travel was concerned - limited to essential travel only. My initial plan was to do my international study abroad in Southern Africa, Zambia specifically, during my senior year but my plans were drastically altered once the pandemic broke out. Notwithstanding the obstacles the pandemic placed in my academic path, working with LSA faculty, we came up with a plan to conduct a local internship with the MIANG, working at Selfridge Air Guard base where I assisted to set up a computer lab for a military family readiness department.

Upon completion of the internship, I was requested as a Senior enlisted (Master Sergeant) from the Air Guard to join a Michigan Army/Air Joint Task Force intended to provide Michigan with crucial assistance in combating the spread of the novel coronavirus. In this capacity, I managed the all-volunteer military staff imbedded at nine Food Bank sites spread across the southeastern part of the state including the Food Gatherers in Ann Arbor and one Veterans retirement home in Grand Rapids. Our mission was to provide hunger relief and offering consistent access to healthy, nutritious food for over 584,000 people struggling with food uncertainties in Michigan. Our efforts in assisting to maintain food hygiene standards and clean and organized storage contributed to over fifty-nine million pounds of food being distributed throughout the state of Michigan. Also, these efforts directly contributed to the success of the first-ever Joint Domestic Operation within Michigan, providing lifesaving support during a critical time of need.

Overall, I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve the Michigan community. As a result, I’ve developed a deep interest in Global Health and Environmental issues. Furthermore, being on the mission and the Program in International and Comparative Studies (PICS) made me reckon why collaboration between nation states in the mitigation of global health pandemics is important. Finally, my plan is to embark on an MBA program at Ross Business School for the 2022-2023 school year. I hope to build on what I’ve learned through PICS and apply the skills that I’ve gained through U-M to the business world to impact communities not just in America but around the world.”

Suzgo Gondwe

Majors/Minors: BA International Studies (International Security, Norms and Cooperation) ‘22

Hometown: Farmington Hills, MI

Affiliations: Michigan Air National Guard and SVA

Future Plans: “Currently have a position with the Michigan Air National Guard as an Aviation Maintenance Production Controller. My immediate future plan is to enroll in an MBA program at Ross Business School.”

Fondest memory of his experience in PICS: “My rich interactions with faculty members and the ever-supportive staff and professors.”

Is there anything you would like to express to your peers, parents, professors, or others?: “To the professors, keep doing what you do best.”