Martha Njolomole, a 2017 and 2019 graduate of Troy University from Malawi, has built a successful career as an economist in Minnesota where she draws daily from the concepts she learned as a student at TROY’s Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy.
After a 30-hour journey, Njolomole arrived in Troy in 2013 with two other women as part of a scholarship program funded by the 100X Development Foundation. After graduating in 2017 with her undergraduate degree, she decided to stay and pursue a master’s degree in economics.
She graduated for a second time in 2019 and moved to Indiana to stay with her aunt while job hunting, and in October of that year was hired as an Economist at the Center of the American Experiment researching economic policies on taxes, spending and government relations, among others. She has been published in the Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy and has also written numerous op-eds to various research outlets, including the Foundation for Economic Education.
Njolomole said growing up in Malawi sparked her interest in economics, even if she didn’t have the word to describe that feeling at the time.
“We had this small radio we used to listen to in the evening for the news. You would hear things like the United States government is giving Malawi aid, maybe for building schools or building roads, or sometimes the government would be asking for aid,” she said. “I just really wanted to know why Malawi was poor while these other countries were rich.”
After arriving to TROY and immersing in classes and a new culture, Njolomole found a home at the Johnson Center, founded in 2010 thanks to a $3.6 million gift to support the exploration of economic freedom and its role in promoting the economic well-being of people. She credits the instructors in this program with preparing her to work in the field she’s in now.
“The way the program was structured was really useful,” she said. “You have all these teachers doing research that was mostly policy geared, as opposed to just academically oriented, which seeped into how they were teaching us. So instead of being more theoretical, I think we did more research.
“It was more geared towards what’s actually happening in the real world and how (the policies) actually affect individuals. So, when you get into a job like the ones that I’m doing now, you already have that experience to draw on, and you have experience with data as well. That was really useful for us.”
Njolomole arrived to Minnesota just before COVID-19 hit and spent months working from home. Four years later, she’s settled after adjusting from life in the South to the Upper Midwest, not to mention the change in weather.
“It’s interesting how different it is living in Minnesota and Alabama. I don’t really get the ‘honey’ and ‘sweetie’ over here,” she said. “I always tell people here that I was in Alabama for six years and it snowed two times, and just for maybe a couple hours, but both times we missed classes for a whole week. Here you get six feet of snow and you still have to go to work!”
Njolomole said the international presence at TROY benefited her just as much as the education she received. Sharing a space with students from across the world allowed for different perspectives to be shared, ones that she still takes into consideration today.
“I just really like how TROY puts emphasis on international students and having so many people from so many backgrounds together. It makes your whole experience more enjoyable, but also more interesting. It brings out some curiosity in you,” she said. “It was especially useful for me because I remember in some of my classes we had to talk about institutions and culture and how that plays into economic development. Everybody brought their own perspective, things that you wouldn’t normally think about that I relate to to this day.”