By Sofiya Ballin
Mathos Sokolo, 21, of Philadelphia is a senior strategic communication major and the president of the Organization of African Students (OAS). As we celebrate Black History Month through SMC students who are leaders of some of Temple’s student organizations, we discussed how he pursued his passion while breaking the mold.
What was your major before strategic communication?
I was physical therapy. I decided to change my major because I got some advice from a couple people, my mom, I prayed on it and my advisor. They were like, “If your heart isn’t in it, don’t do it.” I wasn’t passionate about it. So I decided to go into something that I love. I love people and I love communicating.
What’s your concentration?
It’s organizational leadership.
So you’re in the perfect position for your field! How’d you get involved with OAS?
My freshman year, the treasurer of OAS said I would be perfect for their annual pageant. I won prince. From there, it became my home away from home. I was a general body member first, then I was on the executive board and now I’m president.
How’s it going so far?
It’s going awesome!
And your parents are from?
They’re from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
For your mom to be supportive of a communication-centered major is often rare for first-generation American students. How was it talking to her about it?
At first, I was scared to tell her I changed my major.
So you changed it before you spoke to her?
Yeah I did. I was very intimidated about talking to her but I think as time progressed she changed a little bit as well. She became more accustom to American ways. I found it a lot easier to talk to her. I told her I changed my major and she was very supportive. She had the mindset that as long as it is something that you love and you can provide for your family well, and then she’s fine with it.
You’ve been a strategic communications major for two semesters now. How do you like it?
I love it! The professors are really down to earth; I can always approach them any time I have a question. The curriculum isn’t bad either there are definitely things that I can apply to my life in general.
Do you plan on incorporating organization leadership with the your interests in Congo?
Well for right now, I plan to do consulting and focus on real estate. Specifically because that’s the field I’m in. I’m a leasing agent at University Village. As time progresses, I definitely plan on finding an avenue where I can go back to the Congo and help out.
Do you feel that through strategic communications you can combat stereotypes about Africans?
Definitely. I feel like no matter how much we talk about how we’re portrayed in the media, it’s never really had a drastic change. It’s only right that ambassadors like myself and other first-generation Africans to combat these stereotypes that arise.
What kind of stereotypes do you see in the media?
Wow! There’s a lot. Do we walk around with lions and cheetahs in our backyard? Or the things that we may eat and what music we listen to.
What role does OAS play on Temple’s campus?
I feel we play a really big role. We promote African awareness, that’s our motto and our goal. Right now, we’re having a bake sale and playing our music. People of different ethnicities are stopping by and asking questions or getting baked goods. Either way, they’re learning. We’re here to be that avenue for people to understand our culture.
Why should an African SMC’er join OAS?
It’s your history. It’s your culture. What better way to express yourself and feel at home than to be a part of the Organization for African Students.
Any African leaders you aspire to be like?
It’s kind of cliché, but Nelson Mandela. He did so much for not only South Africa but the entire continent. He set such a great example for me and other African leaders to follow. I would definitely like to emulate him.
Is there anything you would like to leave us with?
I would like to leave you with a profound quote that a fellow fraternity brother of mine always leaves with me and it’s, “Ever evolving and never complacent.” Do everything that you can to catapult yourself forward, never be comfortable with where you are.