Senior Profile/Traveling the World: Nina Weaver Heads to Tanzania on Rotary Scholarship

Issue Date: 
May 1, 2011
Nina WeaverNina Weaver

Fluent in both Swahili and French, Nina Weaver possesses a worldview comprising scenes ranging from Oakland and Plum Borough to London and Tanzania.

An industrious student with a 4.0 GPA, Weaver is one of four Pitt students to have received a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship this year. She graduates today with a Bachelor of Philosophy degree in international and area studies and a Bachelor of Arts degree in history through Pitt’s Honors College and School of Arts and Sciences.

The Rotary Scholarship will provide Weaver with a year of study at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

A native of Plum Borough, east of Pittsburgh, Weaver has been interested in things international since her high school days when she toyed with the idea of a career in international business. As a student at Plum High School, she was part of a volunteer organization called Girls Leaders Association (GLA). She became interested in international nonprofit and humanitarian aid work, with a focus on East Africa. Soon, the idea of specializing in educational development in foreign countries took root. Today, Weaver is interested in developing countries’ educational systems—in particular, the issues of access to education, health, emergency aid, and refugee education.

At Pitt, she continued to volunteer, joining “Keep it Real,” an after-school tutoring program. She has tutored a Somali-Bantu refugee family—with seven children, ranging in age from 1 to 21—since she was a sophomore. Twice a week, Weaver tutors the oldest child, a young woman who is now married and living in

Lawrenceville, and five of the younger siblings. Until coming to the United States through a United Nations resettlement program, the children had spent all of their lives in refugee camps.

“I’ve grown very close to them. Sometimes I eat dinner with them and help the mother with the bills and advise her on various things,” said Weaver, who visits the family during the summer when the Pitt program is on hiatus.

And during a six-week summer internship through the Pitt African Studies’ Pitt in Tanzania program last year, Weaver met with one of the family’s cousins.

Through Pitt in Tanzania, Weaver studied Swahili. The intensive language program earned her the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Undergraduate Fellowship. She is currently enrolled in Swahili IV at Pitt.

Weaver studied French at Pitt for six semesters but said, “I assure you, I’m much better in Swahili.”

In addition to visiting Tanzania in 2010, Weaver traveled to London in 2009 on a Savina S. Skewis Pitt Nationality Room Study Abroad Scholarship. While there, she studied British literature and popular culture and was an intern at The Baytree Centre, assisting with its youth program and working as a public relations liaison.

As a student at the University of Dar es Salaam this year, Weaver will have the support of the local Tanzanian Rotary Club. She said she looks forward to learning from Tanzanian professors and working with Tanzanian students. She also plans to work with nonprofit agencies in the East Africa nation.

Upon Weaver’s return from Tanzania, graduate school and a master’s degree are next on the list. Her goal is to work in international educational development and education reform in foreign countries.

“I’m grateful to the Honors College, African Studies, and Global Studies (both part of Pitt’s University Center for International Studies) for all the support I’ve gotten,” said Weaver, who received several scholarships through those programs, including the FLAS and a Global Studies Tuition Remission Fellowship.

Weaver takes time to have a little fun, too. She is a member of Pitt’s Panther Equestrian Club and served as its vice president for two years. Weaver noted that one of the best things about student organizations is that they help students to make friends and become a part of a community.

“I’ve been really lucky to find the kinds of communities and opportunities Pitt offers,” said Weaver. “I received a great education.”