Carnegie Mellon University
May 10, 2022

Orientation Set Path to Commencement for Quaye

By Michael Henninger

Peter Kerwin
  • University Communications and Marketing

As Q Quaye prepares to graduate on May 15, they can trace what's past — and what is yet to come — to their first week at Carnegie Mellon University. Four years ago, as an undecided, first-year student, Quaye couldn't have known just how much CMU's Orientation would impact the rest of their life.

Orientation is a largely student-run event, with Head Orientation Counselors that plan large icebreakers, community service opportunities, and a slew of welcoming activities for the incoming class. At Orientation, Quaye met a group of like-minded students with whom they would partner to form the startup Zodaj, with the goal of improving living standards in Africa.

"We all had this passion and spark, so we got together during our first semester to combine our different skill sets. Our idea was to come up with any solution that addressed infrastructure gaps in sub-Saharan Africa," Quaye said.

Among its various projects, Zodaj created an educational tool that tracks student progress. Quaye said that teacher shortages in parts of Africa make it difficult to give young students the individual attention they need to thrive.

"We wanted to create a tool that would help create a stronger foundation for students. We implemented it in classrooms, and saw increased reading comprehension and writing scores, so that had a real impact," Quaye said. "I was directly applying the skills I learned in class, so doing surveys of potential customers or stakeholders, and analyzing data and learning how to communicate."

Their sophomore year, Quaye settled on majoring in statistics and data science after taking several classes. One, taught by Rebecca Nugent, the Stephen E. and Joyce Fienberg Professor in Statistics and Data Science and head of the department, was a standout experience.

"Professor Nugent is such an amazing person! She's such a vibrant teacher and so engaged in the classroom," Quaye said. "I began to see how broad statistics was. It spoke to my interests — from education to social justice, and tech and computer science. You can do so many different things with it."

And many things, Quaye has done.

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