Episode 124

Phyllis Mugadza

It’s not just about being schooled, but being educated

June 21, 2020

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Episode Overview

“Guaranteed, an African child will always be an achiever. I would just say that instead of defining what that achievement for them should be, allow them to discover that.” – Phyllis Mugadza

Phyllis was born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe. She was raised in a family that placed high importance on education.  She was a natural academic achiever — the ‘forever head girl’ as her peers refer to her.  At a young age, Phyllis’ mother would take her to her office to allow her to experience a workplace environment.  She’d even give her small tasks to do.  All of this instilled confidence in Phyllis, and she says it taught her valuable life lessons that she carries to this day.

“It’s not just about achieving great grades, going to school just to pass that exam, and getting all your A stars.  You have to become a well-rounded individual.” – Phyllis Mugadza

Constantly taking initiative and actively looking for opportunities for her academic growth and education, she was able to join an academic enrichment program through Yale University called Yale Young African Scholars (YYAS). This experience exposed her to the liberal arts, which she took an interest in.  Phyllis was also part of the Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS), where she got to visit Yale University for the first time.

Phyllis shares how her high school education prepared her by giving her opportunities to lead. She talks about the importance of extracurricular activities, and taking initiative.  She says this helped to expose her to many amazing opportunities.

“These gaps in our education system, this lack of opportunities… I began to see those gaps as opportunities. It taught me a lot about taking initiative.” – Phyllis Mugadza

Currently in her junior year at Yale University, Phyllis is actively involved in helping new scholars. In this episode, she talks about why she chose to study engineering, her journey so far as a university student, and how she found her voice as an African woman at Yale.

Phyllis also shares her thoughts on the challenges of being an academic achiever facing the pressure of high standards and high expectations, and the impact of this pressure on mental health.

“Allow your children to change their paths and routes. There’s going to be a constant redefining of their purpose. The more they’re exposed to, the more they discover what they feel they should be doing in this world.” – Phyllis Mugadza

what you’ll learn in this episode

  • The role Phyllis’ family, and in particular her mother, played in her education and academic achievements
  • The valuable lesson she learned about the importance of asking questions
  • How being part of the Yale University programs helped her to prepare for University
  • Why Phyllis thinks extracurricular activities and taking initiative are so important
  • Why she chose to study engineering
  • Phyllis’ struggle to find her voice as an African woman at Yale
  • How Phyllis has been able to balance a challenging academic workload with extracurricular activities
  • Her tips for effective study habits
  • Her advice for anyone aspiring to apply to an Ivy League University
  • Her “I am…”


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