Women Who Reign: Arnelle Ansong

“The way to achieve your own success is to be willing to help somebody else get it first.” — Iyanla Vanzant
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Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
My name is Arnelle, and I’m a junior at Stanford, and the second daughter (and middle child!) of Jayne Ampadu and Kwadjo Ayirebi. I’m really interested in people: how we work, make decisions, and connect with each other. I spend a lot of time thinking about these things through my major at school (Symbolic Systems) that’s for me a crazy combination of computer science, economics, philosophy, and psychology. I also love food, and have been working for the past few months on a cookbook. It (when finished) will capture a glimpse of the immigrant experience through recipe, and will explore notions of identity, authenticity, and ownership through food. I’m really excited about it, and have had an amazing time working on it because it allows me to hear people’s stories.

What # would define your life journey?
Couldn’t think of a response to this! This is indicative of my indecision.
Maybe: #Hmmmm

Favorite website / app:
Favorite website is smitten kitchen– an inspiration for the blog that I kept this summer, and also for my cookbook itself. I love Deb Perelman’s way of writing and telling stories, and building up anticipation for the recipe she’s about to reveal. As far as apps go- I might feel silly looking back on this later- snapchat! It works literally anywhere in the world where there is data (this was helpful while I was in Ghana), and makes keeping up with people super easy. Not only can I chat with people, but I can update people on the (somewhat trivial) happenings of my own life while getting caught up on the things happening in theirs. I love details.

Song that makes you want to dance:
Wizkid’s Ojuelegba. I discovered it during the spring from a friend. It reminds me of happy times, and makes me want to move.

Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
Feeling valued and affirmed is a human trait that we all want. As I have grown (and still am!) I’ve had to check the places from which I’m deriving self-value and seek self-affirmation. It is dangerous when these things comes from unsteady sources. A challenge I’ve faced just in general is valuing myself for simply being me- a dear and prized child of God. That’s it! The additional things that I happen to do well or do poorly shouldn’t fundamentally change the way I see myself. That’s hard! When I accomplish something, it’s so easy to think that I’m “better” because of it. Equally when things go wrong, it’s tempting to see yourself as lesser because of it. Just reminding myself that those things are not true.

Ideal Job:
My ideal job involves using my technical knowledge to solve tough problems faced by some organization, group, or community. I am increasingly interested and excited about the power of statistical models and general data analysis in shedding light on social problems. This summer as I worked on my cookbook I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if someone found a large body of information about Ghanaian eating practice, and used it to make better health intervention proposals to people based off of what actually brought health and wellness to Ghanaian people groups and what didn’t? A customized care sort of thing. I noticed there that certain notions of health that they had differed from our American ones, and that there are women in villages in Ghana living well past their 90s and into their 100s. Their secrets should be spread to the younger generations in a tangible way. This is just one of my ideas.

Ultimately, I’d like to use data to solve interesting problems for people. It could literally mean so many different things- working as a data scientist at a company tackling interesting problems, going to grad school to develop (and focus) my research and ideas, leading a group of people already involved in such work, or none of these things at all. The possibilities are endless!

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
It’s sort of silly, but the somewhere along the college process someone or some book, said that no one can tell your story as well as you can. And I thought “yes.” We are all experts at something- being ourselves! When we confidently step into that, and do the things that we feel led to do, staying true to ourselves and the principles that guide us- greatness ensues! This is a general philosophy on making decisions in life and figuring out what steps to take next. In your collection of interests and experiences and the things that you care about, you are unique and powerful. Remember this! We are not called to conform to the patterns of the world (including the people) around us, but should seek first the truths we hold dear. I think that this is one of the keys to flourishing on earth.