July 2019 Alumni Spotlight
July Alumni Spotlight with Edmund Asiedu, MPA ‘17
As an individual with a disability, Edmund Asiedu has had a challenging road, but has also been fortunate and hard-working enough not to allow it to define his actions. In his alumni spotlight he discusses the work he does in support of disability rights, transitioning from Ghana to the United States, and more.
Tell us about your Career Services role at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
As an Assistant Director of Career Services, I primarily advise and encourage students and alumni on effective strategies to achieve their career goals through one-on-one meetings and workshops. Also, I act as Campus Coordinator for the Workforce Recruitment Program for Students and recent graduates with Disabilities and Accommodations, and facilitate Career Coaching Program for students with disabilities.
How did your MPA prepare you for it?
The Master of Public Administration from the Marxe School was very helpful in securing my current position, Assistant Director of Career Services at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health since the position requires a master’s degree. I believe the rigorous curriculum of the MPA program and competent faculty made me well-prepared for this role.
Can you talk a bit about the work you do in disability rights advocacy? What inspired you to take on this cause?
One of the things I enjoy doing voluntarily is disability rights advocacy. It’s all started back home in Ghana where I served as a National Public Relations Officer of Ghana Society of the Physically Disabled Youth Wing from 2005 to 2009. At this position, I played an important role in the efforts that led to the passage of the National Disability Law of 2006. Upon my relocation to the United States in 2010, I decided to continue with the advocacy work. With the support from the Office of Student Disability Services and students at Lehman College, I established a club for students with disabilities called Differently Abled Students and Friends in 2011, which raise awareness on important issues that affect students with disabilities such as lack of access, etc. In the summer of 2013, I interned at the National Disability Rights Network in Washington, DC as part of the American Association of People with Disabilities Summer Internship Program. As a Disability Policy Intern, I attended hearings on the U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on Capitol Hill and reported to the policy team. Also, I worked with a team on a nationwide study on accessibility of Amtrak train stations and participated in numerous protests. Currently, I do most of my advocacy through LinkedIn and Twitter. My inspiration comes from the fact that I am a person living with a disability who is passionate about disability rights and inclusion.
What was it like making the transition from Ghana to the US?
As a person with disability, making transition from Ghana to the U.S. was challenging. For example, I could not get jobs that you usually see many people from developing countries do as soon as they arrive in the U.S. such as retail, due to my disability. Also, the inaccessible nature of the New York City subway system made it worse. For instance, all the subway stations around my neighborhood did not have elevators and still do not have them. I was able to transition well to the U.S. because of Lehman College where students, faculty and staff live as a family. Lehman College has more inclusive programs that allowed me to fully participate in many extra-curricular activities such as volunteering through the Office of Community Service.