From Architecture to Web Design and Technology

Kwabena Tettey ’17

While adapting to Central New York’s seasons, Ivory Coast-born and Ghana-raised Kwabena Tettey ’17 also adjusted his academic plans as he began to understand his talents.

Portrait of Kwabena Tettey in front of some foliage on the Quad
Photo by Susan Kahn

Tettey grew up in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, and spoke only French until he entered sixth grade at the American Cooperative School of Tunis.

That’s where he learned to speak English—with an American accent, thanks to the school’s many teachers and students from the United States. When he was considering where to continue his education, his advisor and mentor strongly urged him to include Syracuse University on his list and in researching it, Tettey liked what he saw. “I am a big basketball fan, and knew that Carmelo Anthony played here, so that was a plus,” he says. “I wanted to be in New York and I decided to come here to study architecture.”

After spending most of his life in the heat of equatorial countries, Tettey, who was born in the Ivory Coast, was stunned by the first snow he’d ever seen. And while he adapted to the climate culture shock, he also adjusted his academic plans when he realized that although he is creative, drawing isn’t his strongest talent. Instead, he combined his interests in computers, graphic design, and digital photography to major in information management and technology, specializing in web design management, at the School of Information Studies (iSchool). During Commencement 2017, he was one of the school’s two senior class marshals.

As a first-year student, Tettey attended an iSchool involvement fair and was recruited to join the Black and Latino Information Science and Technology Support (BLISTS) organization. He served as vice president in his sophomore year, and eventaully became  president of the club, which focuses on networking, supporting, and mentoring minority students. The group started offering technical workshops to students, with an emphasis on coding. “A lot of students shy away from the technical side of information technology because it’s very code heavy and takes a lot of patience,” he says. “But that’s the core, the side of IT that gets you the best jobs.”

I try to put myself in the shoes of others and be a role model for them.

BLISTS members have mentored students at the Northeast Community Center in Syracuse, hosting workshops, tutoring, and inviting them to visit Syracuse. “A lot of them live in the city, but have never been to campus,” he says. “They loved it.” In addition to his studies and BLISTS responsibilities, he is public relations chair of the African Student Union, and works as a gate supervisor for football and basketball games at the Carrier Dome. “I’m busy, but I can make time to do the things I care about, like tutoring and mentoring,” he says. “I try to put myself in the shoes of others and be a role model for them.”

With those thoughts in mind, he hopes to earn a master’s degree, then land a high-paying job, preferably in Silicon Valley. His long-term plans are to eventually return to Ghana. “I want to build my net worth here and acquire more skills,” he says. “Then go back to Ghana when I can make a change in the lives of the people there.”

He won’t have any trouble communicating there, because he is tri-lingual—fluent not only in French and English, but also in Twi, the native tongue of Ghana. “It’s nice to know three languages—I’m able to communicate with a lot of people,” he says. “And it makes me more marketable.” With all those languages to choose from, which one does he dream in? “It heavily depends on where I am, but right now, it’s in English,” Tettey says with a smile. If he achieves his goal of working in Silicon Valley, he’ll be dreaming in English for quite some time.

Paula Meseroll

This story was first published on December 14, 2017 and last updated on . It also appeared as “Designing for the Future” in the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Syracuse University Magazine.


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