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Laetitia Walendom

Laetitia Walendom

Portrait of Laetitia Walendom


Why I'm majoring in Urban Studies: Cities center the culture, politics, innovation, and various aspects of life that shape us all. Their interconnected spaces of living (physical and otherwise) have long fascinated me. Developing countries are urbanizing at rapid rates, and have many areas in urgent need of conscientious and sustainable (re)design. Only by studying where and how the majority of humans live can we bring urban spaces to their full potential and preserve the indispensable natural entities surrounding them.

What I like best about Urban Studies: The program has a strong interdisciplinary edge that allows me to explore and align two of my greatest loves - architecture and African societies. Through the urban studies courses, I've been able to directly apply myself with my fellow majors to design and service-learning classes. That the major then so flexibly accommodates courses in other departments allows me to nurture my concurrent interests and in turn connect them to the study of urban forms.

Favorite class / professor (and why): Danno Glanz's 'Introduction to Urban Design' facilitated my transition from an architectural design major by encouraging me to expand my perspective to the larger scales of design. I learned more about San Francisco in ten weeks than I had in three years through incredibly fun and exhaustive group studies of the city's neighborhoods. By way of India and South Africa in particular, Thomas Hansen's 'Urban Culture in Global Perspective' grappled with topics in international urban settings that so frequently remain unexamined, complementing the knowledge we've gained from Stanford courses that largely concentrate on American cities (and the Bay Area in particular). Both professors did an exemplary job of inviting students to check into the diverse array of social and infrastructural changes occurring in cities worldwide.

Favorite book (and why): The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born confronts the melancholy realities of corrupt post-Independence Ghana through its strong (often scatological) imagery. Ay Kwei Armah unapologetically brings to light the realities of a country on a continent often misconceptualized as simple and without agency. The novel offers an honest and darkly humorous representation of urban plight applicable to any city in the world. As indicated by the optimism in its title, it compels you to fight for a future better than the one it presents.

Career goal / Future plans: I hope to coterm in African Studies - and perhaps pursue business school soon thereafter - before working in urban design and development in as many African countries as my life will allow.

Honors Thesis or other research project: After spending a summer conducting research in Madagascar, I am completing my honors synthesis on architectural and urban development in the capital, Antananarivo.

Other academic interests (major, minors): Minor in African Studies.

Extracurriculars: Co-Director of the Sexual Health Peer Resource Center; House Manager in Kairos Cooperative; Editor in Chief of Sauti (the Stanford Journal of African Studies); Student Assistant at the Center for African Studies.