In 2018, Abby Yates took a history course where she was required to undertake an independent research project. Yates decided to explore American jazz ambassadors in the 1950s and 1960s as a form of music diplomacy in the United States.
“I thought it was interesting that the United States would send African American musicians abroad to foreign countries on the brink of communism to try to sway them toward pro-American ideologies when there was a ton of racial tension and the Civil Rights Movement going on at home,” Yates says.
Her instructor, Scott McDowell, inspired her to further explore music ambassadors for her senior project.
So Yates immersed herself in a study abroad opportunity in Cape Town, South Africa.
While there, Yates became increasingly curious about the motives of white musicians from western nations traveling to other countries to spread music.
“I think it’s interesting to see that music diplomacy is really political,” says Yates. “I’m grateful to have gone to Cape Town because my experience there taught me to change how I look at the world here,” she says.
Aside from working on her senior project, Yates spends her time volunteering in Minneapolis at the Cedar-Riverside Adult Education Cooperative as an English-as-second-language classroom assistant and as a community engagement intern with the Minnesota Literacy Council. Yates plans on pursuing a master’s degree in education so she can become a social studies teacher.
With graduation right around the corner, Yates believes she is ready to take on the future.
She says that having a liberal arts education gave her “a good toolbox to go out to the world and be a good human.”
“I feel very prepared for my future,” she says.
- Arts and Humanities