“Without this degree, I would be lost,” Mia Hargadon ’10 says of her B.A. in American studies.
Since October 2010, Hargadon has been the North American marketing manager for the Specialised Safari Company, which offers exclusive luxury safaris throughout East Africa. She works with current, past and potential clients while splitting her time between the United States and Africa.
“Whether it’s traveling in the U.S. or abroad, I come face-to-face with people with different ideas and beliefs,” Hargadon says. “My American studies degree taught me how to work with that - how to listen and understand others’ reasoning behind their questions and actions.”
While her work has also taken her to Rwanda, Kenya is the place where Hargadon has traveled most frequently, the place where she studied abroad during her junior year at Salve Regina.
“I had been to Kenya a handful of times, had fallen in love with the people, the culture and photography, and thought it would be an unbelievable experience,” Hargadon says. Working with the late Dr. Christopher Kiernan, the longtime director of Salve Regina’s American studies program, she crafted a curriculum for her time abroad that found her studying the psychology of African tribes and following Obama’s presidential campaign through the eyes of the Kenyan people.
“The few months I spent in Kenya that semester were some of the best I’ve had, and certainly enhanced my Salve experience that much more,” Hargadon says.
Prior to enrolling at Salve Regina, Hargadon took a year off to focus on volunteering and worked in a third-grade classroom, helping the children with their reading, writing and math skills. “They taught me so many things, such as how to laugh and be a kid again, and to not take things too seriously,” she says. “I will forever be grateful for that lesson.”
Hargadon learned the importance of giving back from her mother. As a young child, she began with fundraising walks, which led to soliciting friends and family for any sort of donation. “Service and volunteerism is so important to me, because with sometimes very little effort, one person can make such a difference in the lives of others,” she says.
Hargadon came to Salve Regina undecided on a major, but decided to give American studies a try after taking Kiernan’s U.S. history course during her freshman year. “After that semester, I was pretty much hooked,” she says.
The strength of the American studies program, Hargadon says, is the way the major teaches students to become well-rounded learners. By combining topics such as literature, history, philosophy and the arts, the program provides students with the opportunity to focus on a variety of subjects. In doing so, she adds, students want to learn, instead of being “forced” to.
“I know for me personally, I would never have taken a philosophy course, but it was required for the major,” Hargadon says. “That class turned out to be one of the most beneficial experiences for me in my four years at Salve.”