Alumna Connects History

Travel, family, and a career in banking enrich life after UMD.

Dechandra Malo ’15 has experienced a whirlwind of experiences since graduating from UMD. She landed a rewarding job in the Global Treasury Group at US Bank, she has taken on several roles in the Minneapolis community, and she traveled to places in Europe and Africa.

“My mom is Jamaican and my dad is Kenyan,” she says. Growing up, she had been to Jamaica “a couple of times,” and as a young professional, she used her vacations to see cities in the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. Her most recent trip took her on a personal journey to Kenya.

“My grandmother used to say she wanted to show me her home, the village where she grew up in western Kenya,” Malo says. Her grandmother passed away in late 2020 and Malo was able to honor that wish by going to her grandmother’s village. She journeyed to the Ugenya district for a ceremony. Malo, her father, and extended family members made the long trip. First they flew to Dubai, then Nairobi, and finally drove by car for five hours to her grandmother’s village. 

Malo said she was able to “ponder all the things that we had talked about and appreciate the time that I had with her.” The village organized a gathering with prayers and flowers. They presented a feast where Malo’s father took a special role. “It's a form of appreciation for guests to slaughter a chicken,” she says. “My dad did the honors... It was a sad, bittersweet moment for me. I was just overcome with emotion at that point.”

Dechandra Malo family in Kenya

Dechandra Malo with her family in Kenya.

Civil Rights

Malo credits a UMD adventure in 2014 with connecting her to her ancestral history. John Arthur, professor of African and African American Studies, accompanied Malo and twenty or so UMD students and staff on the Civil Rights History trip during spring break that year. Arthur and Hillary Kowino, associate professor of English, were mentors to her and championed her research. They assisted her with combining elements from the trip with sociology, English, African, and African-American subjects.

She saw evidence of her research on the black family dynamic and how it has developed over the years as the group traveled. “That trip really helped me learn about different events, such as slavery, the African diaspora, and the migration impact of African-American families.” 

Each of the students recited a speech by a civil rights leader. “My person was Medgar Evers,” Malo says. “We were able to visit his home and see how his family lived. It was where he was assassinated.” She says, “seeing how those events impact the black family today… helped me feel connected to history.”

Career Moves

With a degree in economics and sociology under her belt, Malo dove into the workforce in the Twin Cities. She took a job with a telecommunications company while she improved her employment skills. For an entire year, encouraged by her sister, who ran a business consulting center, she attended networking events. She took career assessments and built connections. The advice she followed was to “get that step in the door, and then you can show what you know, and they can see your credibility. You’ll be able to build a relationship with someone and allow your personality to shine through.” Read More


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