by Kandace Kohr
Growing up among the bustling, dynamic neighborhoods of Philadelphia, Bakary “Bak” Samasa ’19 was no stranger to tight-knit communities, so when he visited Dickinson, it felt very familiar. With the shadow of the city’s iconic skyline behind him, Samasa made the 124-mile trek to Carlisle to settle in to his new home. The sense of community continued to build for Samasa as he filled his time with activities and organizations that fueled his life’s passions: science and sports, specifically biology and track and field. And the connection between the two was never as evident as when he experienced a debilitating injury, turning his track career in another direction.
“To stay close to sports, I’ve been working with Charlie [McGuire] in the sports media department, as well as the Student Athlete Advisory Committee [SAAC],” he says. “It’s an opportunity for me to step up. I’m learning a lot about myself, how to work on a team and how to implement my vision to move forward.”
Don Nichter, head of the men’s cross country/track and field team, observed Samasa’s commitment to the team from the day he joined as a walk-on. Since, Nichter says that he’s been an active leader, supportive teammate and a joy to coach. Like many athletes, Samasa says it was his determination and resilience that motivated him to keep going and turn injury into opportunity. As a runner, the notion of an “off season” is basically nonexistent, so when he isn’t working on his rehabilitative goals, he stays busy as president of SAAC, as a student sports information/multimedia assistant and as a volunteer referee for Dickinson intramurals.
“Bak has proven to be an invaluable asset to the sports information office,” says McGuire, who has worked with Samasa since fall 2016. “He’s always willing to step in and help with any sports event. He doesn’t hesitate when asked to try something new or take on additional responsibilities.”
Interestingly, what’s happening in the wake of his injury reminds Samasa of just what brought him to Dickinson in the first place: the community feel. “Most of my teammates have dealt with injury, so they provide me with a lot of support.” He also enjoys conducting research and attending conferences with Charles A. Dana Professor of Biology John Henson.
“Bakary was a real pleasure to work with last summer as a student researcher, as he was always dedicated, enthusiastic and conscientious,” says Henson, who adds that time spent in the lab with Samasa has been beneficial for both of them.
As he nears his senior year, Samasa is excited for what the future will bring, athletically and academically. While he hopes to get back on the track soon, he’s concentrating on whether he wants to attend medical school or graduate school for biological research.
“I want to be in the position my doctor is in to try to help someone like me move forward.”
Read more from the winter 2018 issue of Dickinson Magazine.
Published January 23, 2018