Shanielle Allen shines
Shanielle Allen

GLENMUIR alumna Shanielle Allen was awarded the Governor General’s Achievement Award in 2021 for her contribution to youth and rural development. She served as a research assistant (intern) with Dr Karsten Mueller at Princeton University from June 2021-September 2021, working on gathering historical information on the Sam Sharpe (Christmas) Rebellion or Baptist War which took place in Jamaica in December 1831. She has since added a few more things to her achievements since Princeton, including working with Dr Emil Verner at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Allen, a 22-year-old University of the West Indies (UWI) master’s student from Lionel Town, Clarendon, took some time to share some of her recent pursuits and achievements.

C&E: Describe the programme you were involved with at Princeton.

SA: The experience was an incredible, eye-opening and interesting one. I learned the basics of advanced academic research, understanding the platforms that academics use to draft research papers, the importance of an ability to code, and I also learned a lot more about Jamaican history.

Essentially, over the three months I interned with Dr Mueller, I worked on gathering historical information on the Sam Sharpe (Christmas) Rebellion or Baptist War which took place in Jamaica in December 1831. Our goal was to gather information on the plantations, pens and other property that were destroyed during the rebellion, and to try to establish a pattern – were the plantations destroyed the properties of particularly ruthless master, or was it simply haphazard and the slaves simply lit and destroyed any plantation they felt like without much structure? Interestingly, we found that slaves would completely destroy one plantation but leave the plantation directly beside that one alone.

Dr Mueller and I also worked on ascertaining the extent and monetary value of the damage to property and loss of life during the rebellion, with the aim of mapping the legacy of the Sam Sharpe Rebellion. We wanted to see if the plantations that were destroyed ended up taking a nosedive on the British stock market, and could those effects be seen in the stock market or some kinds of stock in the 21st century.

Allen displays her 2021 Governor General’s Achievement Award for the 18-24 age group in Clarendon.

C&E: Describe what it meant to you.

SA: It was an absolute pleasure and privilege to have worked with Dr Mueller. Since working with him, I have understood the value of an ability to code in python to research and data analysis, and I have since enrolled in a class to learn the skill. This internship rekindled my love for history and for research and was the medium through which I also was able to meet Dr Mueller, a giant in the field of finance and economics.

C&E: What was your journey like to get to Princeton?

SA: My journey hasn’t been particularly stunning. I wrote to Dr Damien King, a former lecturer of mine who also serves as executive director of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute, for an internship last summer. He went as far as to call me back to say one, he liked my résumé, and two, to introduce me to the job opening by Dr Mueller and suggested I apply. I did, and surprisingly I got it!

After I did the interview, I said to a friend of mine who also applied, that I didn’t think I did so well and I may not have copped the position. It turns out I did, though, and I was elated! I think perhaps my parents and my church family, particularly my aunties Dian and Nordia, were happier than me.

C&E: Tell us about your work with MIT.

SA: Dr Mueller was also gracious enough to introduce me to his colleague, Dr Verner from MIT. I worked with Dr Verner, assistant professor of finance, from December 2021 to March 2022 when obligations from my Master of Science programme (intl public & development mgmt) meant I had to lighten my workload to complete assignments, grade papers and fulfil my duties as a resident advisor on George Alleyne Hall. I learned so much about the macroeconomic indicators of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries and had the privilege of being guided by Dr Verner, who is one of the world’s leading minds in finance and economics.

C&E: Share some of your academic achievements

SA: I left Glenmuir after seven years with nine Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects and eight Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination subjects. I recently completed my undergraduate degree at UWI, Mona. I completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Policy and Management with a minor in economics. I was awarded the Gladstone E Mills prize in recognition of the fact that I had the highest grades in my degree programme – essentially, I had the highest grades of anyone completing the BSc Public Policy and Management degree in 2021.

This was the first e-mail I saw. Minutes later, I got another e-mail informing me I also copped the Nethersole Prize. This prize is awarded annually to the final year student with the best performance in any degree offered by the Department of Government (with exception of the BSc International Relations programme).

C&E: What about some of your other achievements?

SA: I was awarded the Governor-General’s Achievement Award in 2021 for the 18-24 age group in Clarendon. I am honoured to have my contributions to youth and rural development recognised nationally. At the time, I served as executive advisor to the executive and board of Aspirar Jamaica, the largest non-governmental organisation in Manchester and St Elizabeth. I was also involved in many other philanthropic activities through the university, my hall of residence and church. I think, though, it was my 4.0 GPA at the time that won the selectors’ hearts.

C&E: Where do you see yourself in five years?

SA: I’m open to the abundance of the universe and my creator. One of the things I’ve found that I really like is the teaching-learning space. I’d like to be a lecturer of public policy or government courses. Perhaps I’ll be pursuing a PhD in five years but I’ve been going to school all my life, so I may possibly take a break. More specifically though, I hope to work in the public sector for a while, just so my experience can inform my work as an academic and as a lecturer of government and public policy.

C&E: What’s your career goal?

SA: I’m still trying to find a single, concrete answer to this question. I’d like to be a lecturer and academic. I’d like to also be a part of the policy design, management and analysis process in Jamaica and possibly even across Caricom and with international organisations such as the Organization of American States and the United Nations.

C&E: Who would you say has been your mentor/guide throughout the process?

SA: I have had so many mentors and influences over the years. Shar-Lee Amori agreed to be my mentor in 2020 and has “draped” me almost every month since, but only because she understands my potential and is determined, she says, to have me realise it. I recently just met Kemal Brown and he’s introduced me, sort of indirectly, to concepts, speakers and books that have been eye-opening. I’ve literally only known the man for four months and the resources he’s introduced me to have changed my outlook on success and creating the life I want. Dr Dameon Black, commissioner of the Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission (J-TEC), has also poured far more into me than was required of him as my supervisor during my time at J-TEC as a student intern. Senator Natalie Campbell-Rodrigues has also been a mentor to me. She’s gone as far as supporting all the programmes I plan as a resident advisor on George Alleyne Hall. My parents have been towers of support and I can’t put into words the support and guidance they’ve offered and still offer. There are other people, such as Professor Eris Schoburgh, who aren’t exactly my mentors but have influenced me simply through our engagement.

C&E: What would you say to other young people about how education and dedication can help them reach their goals?

SA: Education has opened a whole new world for me, much like my parents promised when I’d make grand declarations about how much I hated school. Education, though not the only way, allows you to access so much more. Having a degree, having subjects, having a certificate does indeed allow you better job prospects, but it also allows you more opportunities as you meet and engage with your classmates, lecturers, teachers and the many people you must engage along your journey as a student.


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