Faramola Shonekan

It took traveling thousands of miles to Oxford University for Faramola Shonekan to realize the importance of home.

Shonekan graduated from high school in Columbia, studied history at Mizzou as an Honors College student and was a three-year captain of her track team. 

As the 2020 Mark Twain Fellow at Oxford University, she studied imperial history and wrote a dissertation on constitution-making in post-colonial Africa. 

During her research, she kept seeing the importance of individual people on the places where they lived. The great men of history might get the recognition, but those who didn’t seek power or position are often the ones making change in their communities. 

She started thinking about her own life, how Columia had given her much, how Mizzou had invested in her with the Mark Twain award. She wanted to give back to the community that shaped her. 

After she finished her degree, she returned to her hometown and took a job with the RagTag Film Society as the director of community partnerships and education. 

She works to connect schools and community organizations to the arts, which are often viewed by poor and minority communities as elitist and unwelcoming. While not the far-flung international humanitarian work at the United Nations that she once envisioned, it’s humanitarian work nonetheless. 

“It’s how I can go back and make work meaningful to myself and my community,” she says.