“My family is very supportive. They want better for me than they had,” shares Mady Akkaoui, a first-generation college student who graduated from RIC this year.
Akkaoui’s grandmother immigrated to the United States from Lebanon and her parents grew up in East Providence, before eventually moving to Chepachet after they had her and her younger siblings. Her sister Emaly Akkaoui also attends RIC and is majoring in digital media.
English was always Akkaoui’s favorite subject. When she came to RIC she began her studies in elementary education. After falling out of love with the major, she found what truly drew her was English.
“I love Elizabethan literature,” she says. “I love Shakespeare so much and Jane Austen as well. I’m rereading all my Jane Austen novels because I found some really old versions so I’m annotating them now. I just really like old literature. I can appreciate it. But I also love new fantasy novels.”
Akkaoui’s passion for literature extends beyond her studies. As a student, Akkaoui served as secretary of the English Club, which she helped bring back from inactivity after former members graduated. This started in person, but with COVID-19 quarantines in March 2020, had to quickly shift to virtual.
“This year was the first year that we actually got to go back on campus in person,” she explains. “We’d been talking online for a year. [Having the club in person] was great. We had some book sales and a lot of support from other clubs like L.A.S.O.”
Akkaoui also took advantage of other opportunities RIC offered, like English internships, which she was able to complete even while COVID was ongoing.
Students are able to take an internship course with RIC professor Michael Michaud where they receive academic credits for getting experience in their field of interest. Akkaoui interned at the RIC Office of College Communications and Marketing.
Through her internship, Akkaoui received direct experience working on and contributing to the Rhode Island College magazine. A primary focus of the issue on which she worked was the 100th anniversary of intercollegiate athletics at RIC. Akkaoui was tasked with the role of research coordinator for a timeline of that history. Given access to Special Collections at the Adams Library, she was able to get firsthand experience researching an extensive archive of yearbooks, news clippings and other documents from college history.
“I really enjoyed being independent and just having the opportunity to just fill in the blanks for a lot of things because we had that giant stretch of time,” she says. “It was cool to fact check and know stuff off the top of my head that not a lot of people knew.”
In addition to the timeline, Akkaoui curated a photo essay and wrote a piece on notable people in RIC athletics history, all of which gave her valuable experience and a tangible record of it when the magazine was published in April.
Akkaoui already plans to return to RIC in the fall to pursue her master’s degree in English. As a graduate student, she will be doing an assistantship with RIC’s Zubeda Jalalzai. Akkaoui’s primary research interests include queer studies and psychoanalytical theory.
After she completes her master’s degree, Akkaoui is interested in exploring career options. “Of course my parents would support me in getting my doctorate if that's what I wanted to do” she says. “I feel like I’d want to find a career first after I get my master’s degree and then look back into getting a PhD.”
With a full year of graduate studies of her, Akkaoui is focusing on the present.
“There’s so much to look into in English that it’s hard to narrow down what specifically you want to do and I feel like I have so much to learn,” she concludes.