Equipped to Lead and Succeed

Student Pursues Dream of Diplomacy and International Law

by Annie Breen, USF News

Shennel Henries ’24, an international studies major, talks about USF, Liberia, San Francisco, civil rights, and her future in advocacy.   

Shennel Henries

What made you decide to apply to and attend USF?

USF’s reputation for academic excellence, diversity, inclusion, and social justice awareness; its location in San Francisco; and the opportunity to be part of a diverse and vibrant community are what drew me.

How did you find your place at USF? 

The transition to USF was initially challenging and out of the norm.  Due to COVID, I started online when I was back in Liberia. Then, during my second semester, I had to navigate and adapt to a new country and culture during COVID-19 when everyone was still at home. However, I found my place by getting involved in campus organizations and connecting with fellow students and amazing faculty and staff. 

How did growing up in Liberia inform your educational and professional goals?

Growing up in Liberia exposed me to social inequalities and the importance of advocacy. It also enabled me to gain self-confidence, passion, care, and love and taught me to locate a seat at the table for the greater good. It motivated me to pursue educational and professional goals that would allow me to make a positive impact and empower marginalized communities.

What are your plans for the future? 

I want to continue my advocacy work [at 11, she worked on the manifesto for the development of the Liberian Girl Child, highlighting the power in women and young girls], pursue further education, and work towards creating social change in areas related to civil rights and equality. Career-wise, I want to become a diplomat and international human rights lawyer.

What's your favorite place in San Francisco? 

Golden Gate Park — it's a beautiful and peaceful oasis in the midst of the city.

What's been your experience of America as a whole, and of San Francisco in particular? 

My experience of America as a whole has been one of diversity, opportunities, and challenges. At first, it felt lonely and isolated, probably due to some degree of culture shock or perhaps a hesitancy about my ability to express myself in “American” English. But San Francisco, in particular, has a vibrant and progressive atmosphere, with a strong focus on social justice and activism. It provided me with a platform to engage in meaningful work and connect with like-minded individuals. Definitely a lot different from where and how I grew up. It’s been an enlightening and nourishing experience.

What would your advice be to future international students at USF?

Embrace the opportunity to explore new perspectives, engage with different cultures, and actively participate in campus life. Seek support when needed, be open-minded, and make connections that will enrich your educational experience. Finally, don't forget to take time for self-care and enjoy all that San Francisco has to offer.