Graduate credits UC’s inclusive culture for success

Aissatou Barry overcomes language and cultural barriers on her road to graduation

When Aissatou Barry arrived in the United States to complete her senior year of high school, she never imagined the impact that the journey would leave on her.

Barry, a native of the West African country Guinea, received a sponsorship to come to the U.S. and attend Cincinnati’s Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School. That opportunity led her to this moment—finishing her information systems degree in December and graduating with a full-time job offer. Barry credits the support of UC’s unique programs, International Admissions staff and faculty for these successes.

A group of seven students stand in a line and smile at the camera.

Aissatou Barry (middle) with some of her classmates | Photo/provided

When Barry was finishing high school, she attended college visits to schools around Ohio, but at UC, she felt at home: “One thing that stood out about UC was how diverse it is—like how there is so many different people from different backgrounds.”

Barry felt motivated to attend because of UC’s inclusive atmosphere, and she saw potential for personal growth through the university’s cooperative education programs. But even though Barry was already within the U.S., as an international student, the college application process was hard to navigate.

With the help of the International Admissions team, Barry was accepted to the information systems program in the Lindner College of Business. After only a few weeks, though, Barry was overwhelmed. She was struggling with speaking English, understanding information in her classes and communicating with other students.

“During my first three weeks of college, I didn’t like it exactly, because I wasn’t understanding what everyone was saying,” she explained.

Through the Accelerated College English (ACE) program, a now-sunset option designed for students to improve their English proficiency while making progress toward their degree, Barry was able to improve her language skills while continuing to take business coursework.

“Seeing what others were going through and where we needed improvement really helped,” Barry said. “When you first arrive in the U.S., I think you need that environment where you have other people from different backgrounds—where you don't feel left out.”

UC graduate Aissatou Barry wears a red work vest and stands in front of an Amazon warehouse.

Aissatou Barry at her internship with Amazon | Photo/provided

One year later, after transitioning out of ACE and into her major, she felt ready for the American college experience. Barry was more outspoken in class, asking her own questions and felt like her English genuinely improved.

Overall, Barry felt that UC had an environment that fostered belonging and prepared her to succeed despite her personal barriers. Key to that success, she said, was UC’s commitment to inclusion.

“UC is a place where everyone is welcome,” she said. “You have a sense of belonging, which opens up other opportunities.”

For Barry, those opportunities included involvement around campus as an international student ambassador and a member of the National Society of Leadership and Academic Success and Lindner Women in Business.

With a supportive network and refined communication skills, she felt more empowered and confident in her career path. In 2022 and 2023, Barry completed two area management internships with Amazon. Her impressive—and eloquent—resume caught the attention of future employers, and she received two job offers prior to graduation.

“I'm very excited about having a job before graduating,” Barry said. “I had four interviews before getting the job so I believe if I didn’t have the oral communication skills, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I did.”

She ultimately chose a role as an analyst with USI Insurance Services, where she will train with underwriters to evaluate corporate employee benefits programs. Barry is eager to start her postgraduate adventure in January, but is not quite ready to leave UC behind.

“I thought I would be so excited, but I feel sad when I walk around,” she concluded. "I will miss this place; I miss it already."

Featured image: UC information systems graduate Aissatou Barry at Italian Fest in Newport, Kentucky | Photo/UC International

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