Meet this Malawi native who is making a big impact in her new home
Written by Lauren Goldstein
Photography by Sydnie Roper
Tamanda Chabvuta’s shining energy is undeniable. She’s been in Las Cruces less than a year and is already forging her path as an engaged member of the NMSU and Las Cruces communities.
Tamanda hails from Lilongwe—capital city of the African country of Malawi. Her undergraduate degree is in English literature, though she took time after graduation to work in the agriculture industry in her home country. So what brought her all the way to Las Cruces?
“I was interested in studying abroad to gain perspective and build my future through new experiences. My older sister participated in a two-week program in the NMSU College of ACES in 2011, so when she first knew I was looking at masters programs, she recommended NMSU because of the great people she’d met there years ago. When I researched it, I found it a good fit—the program, professors, and the affordable cost and value.”
Tamanda began working at Arrowhead Center, NMSU’s innovation and entrepreneurship organization, one month after enrolling in studies at NMSU in 2017. Her first position with Arrowhead was as a graduate assistant to Studio G, NMSU’s student and alumni business accelerator. Among her duties was tabling and outreach at public events, which Tamanda acknowledges built upon her social and academic interests in communication.
“My work with Studio G meant a lot of communication with many different groups of people, including students, and I always found it as an opportunity to build and develop my skills. Every time I have an interaction with people in Las Cruces, it is a site of intercultural communication. I find that my perspective of life broadens and changes for the better with every one of these experiences.”
In Spring 2018, Tamanda took an opportunity as a graduate assistant for the Department of Communication Studies at NMSU. This summer she is working specifically on research and program support for AgSprint, Arrowhead Center’s agriculture-technology focused business accelerator program, and AgAssembly, the culminating agtech conference held September 6th. Both programs are supported by the US Economic Development Association and industry partner New Mexico Gas Company.
On the interweaving of multiple professional, academic, and personal experiences, Tamanda says, “Where I come from, agriculture is the main source of our economy and day in and day out, we are working towards growing our crops as a business. I find the idea of helping startups to develop a business a necessity regardless of geographic location or circumstances. So, I treasure working with Arrowhead, because it gets me on the ground level to support these entrepreneurs.”
This spring, her younger sister and a close friend both joined her to pursue their undergraduate degrees. The familiarity of family is welcome, Tamanda says, but she points to her early experiences in Las Cruces as formative to personal growth.
“I can say that I have gained a sense of strength in my own willpower and also in the power of believing that there are good people around us everywhere we go. When I first set foot on New Mexico soil, I did not know anyone. But I told myself, ‘I am strong enough to do this,’ and with faith, I found even more strength within this community. I am proud to acknowledge that I do feel I have family in the Las Cruces community, apart from my family back in Malawi.”
Tamanda is dynamic. Her passion is palpable as she discusses interest in working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)—the international agency focused on catalyzing innovation, organizing disaster recovery, and providing humanitarian aid. She cites Kofi Annan, seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Prize winner, as her inspiration for pursuing a career in communication and international development. It’s easy to imagine her professional future as one akin to Annan’s.
“Really,” she says, “I always wish to do work that connects and empowers people from all walks of life.”
Meet the Photographer
Sydnie Roper is a Las Cruces based photographer currently shooting fashion as well as occasionally freelancing for local artists, jewelers, and business owners. In May 2018, she was a featured photographer in El Paso Inc. for National Photo Month. Sydnie earned her BA in studio art from NMSU in May 2016 and has spent the last two years working on various projects.
Her photography is available at sydnieroper.com