Former French and international studies major Priscilla Addison ’09 combines her love of art with her entrepreneurial spirit as co-founder of ’57 Chocolate, a manufacturer of fine chocolates and confections in Ghana, West Africa, where she oversees branding, communications and social media. She manages this while also working as a development outreach and communications specialist for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) where she promotes USAID programs in Ghana.
Can you speak to how Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education helped you along your career path?
I joke around with other alumni about how Dickinson makes students write multiple papers for every class. I intentionally took a modern dance class my sophomore year as an elective to avoid having to write a paper for at least one class. It turned out I was required to write not one, but two assignments for modern dance. As much as I jokingly complained about always having to write a paper—these assignments played a crucial role in helping me pursue a career in international development and communications. I attribute my strong communication and writing skills to Dickinson’s liberal-arts education. These skills have become invaluable since my jobs involve an extensive amount of writing.
What was your favorite activity/organization at Dickinson?
Serving as a Learning Community Coordinator (LCC) was one of my favorite experiences at Dickinson. As a LCC, over the course of a year, I supervised two First-Year Seminar groups. Working with faculty and staff, I planned activities, field trips and service work, which educated and sensitized students to economic, political and social injustices.
What jumps out as a great memory from your time at Dickinson?
Hanging out with friends at the “cushies” in the HUB lobby. It really does add to the Dickinson experience. It serves as a great place to gather, meet up with friends, make new friends, study and eat lunch.
How do you stay involved with/support Dickinson? Why do you think it’s important?
I have had a few current students contact me via email or LinkedIn asking for career advice, and, in some ways, it makes me feel like a virtual mentor. Finding a message in my inbox is always a great surprise. This has become very important to me because I can stay connected, contribute and give back.
How did you get interested in your work, and what about it excites you most?
First, I work full time as a development outreach and communications specialist for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Ghana, West Africa. My interest in international development stems from my upbringing. I have lived, worked and visited countries such as Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mozambique, South Africa, France, Switzerland, and many more. What is most exciting is being able to communicate all the great work we are doing to help people solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
Second, I am a co-founder of an artisanal bean-to-bar company called ’57 Chocolate (short for 1957, the year of Ghana’s independence). My sister and I started ’57 Chocolate after having lived in Switzerland. We thought it was interesting that Switzerland is known for its chocolate, but doesn’t grow cocoa. Meanwhile Ghana is the second largest producer of cocoa, but produces very little chocolate itself. We saw a vast need for manufacturing of chocolate in Ghana and across the continent of Africa. Chocolate really piqued our interest because it allows us a lot of creativity. What excites us most is being able to fuse our love for art with food.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
Creating a compelling speech within a short timeframe is often the most challenging part of my USAID work. With the chocolate company, although my sister and I are Ghanaian by heritage, we had never lived in Ghana up until this point. This posed a significant challenge because we were unfamiliar with the business environment.
What comes to mind as something unforgettable that you’ve done since you graduated?
Moving to Ghana from Switzerland and founding ’57 Chocolate with my sister. It’s been incredible witnessing how we turned an idea into reality.
If you could have dinner with anyone famous, living or dead, who would it be?
African-American civil rights activist, storyteller and poet Maya Angelou. Her words, written and spoken, are food for the soul. Her artistry is a source of inspiration and has taught me that no matter the circumstance, we must always strive to find our best selves.
You just built a time machine: where and when do you go?
I would travel back in time to March 6, 1957, to hear President Kwame Nkrumah’s speech proclaiming Ghana’s independence from Great Britain. Ghana was the first Sub-Saharan African country to gain independence.
If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?
I wish I possessed more artistic skills and could sketch, paint and/or sculpt really well. Nonetheless, I love seeing and experiencing the creativity and passion of those who do have it.
Read more stories of Alumni in Action.
Published September 12, 2017