news-category: Black History Month Profile

Freshman Computer Science Major Celebrates His Heritage Through Poems, Stories and Film

A photo of Issa Cogdell sitting in front of his computer in Tucker Student Center

Issa Cogdell Appreciates How Gardner-Webb Faculty and Students Inspire Him to Achieve His Goals 

By Isabella Brown, ’24, Intern for University Communications

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—“Always strive for the greater—for you, and everyone around you,” challenged Issa Cogdell, a freshman computer science major. He appreciates how film, poetry, and literature are used to celebrate his heritage.

Cogdell shares his story in recognition of Black History Month. During the month, Gardner-Webb will highlight several students who are making a difference on campus and in their communities. Through their creative passions and leadership skills, these students honor their heritage and encourage others to achieve their dreams.

As a computer science major, Cogdell plans to become a cybersecurity professional and eventually open his own cybersecurity firm. “My favorite parts of being a computer science major would be two things: Learning how things I use on an everyday basis work, and taking computer hardware with Professor Oscar Gonzalez because he is a wonderful professor,” he observed.

Cogdell also won the Ignite Excellence Scholarship, which is a full-tuition award for eight semesters. In his short time on campus, the professors and students at Gardner-Webb have made an important impact on Cogdell and continue to encourage him to achieve his goals. “Everyone on this campus tends to inspire me in some way or another, especially the African American community on this campus,” asserted Cogdell.

As part of the Black Student Association (BSA), Cogdell and other fellow students work together to provide opportunities for conversation, education and celebration regarding minority issues, race and culture. “Black history is American history,” Cogdell affirmed. “It spans past one month.”

He believes that when the ideas and words of intellectuals are kept alive, they continue to hold the power to fight oppression. He references the poems of Nikki Giovanni, American poet and contributor of the Black Arts Movement as examples. “My favorite poem from Nikki Giovanni would have to be ‘Ego Tripping,’ due to the confidence she exudes while using things close to African Americans, such as Egypt as metaphors to display her ideas,” Cogdell shared.

Additionally, one of the many events that come to Cogdell’s mind during Black History Month is the awe-inspiring interview that aired in 1971 between Giovanni and James Baldwin, an American writer and civil rights activist. During this conversation between poet and writer, the two discuss the depth of the human experience and the future of black culture.

Speaking about society, Baldwin asserted, “And you have—somehow—to begin to break out of all of that and try to become yourself. It’s hard for anybody, but it’s very hard if you’re born black in a white society. Hard, because you’ve got to divorce yourself from the standards of that society.” This interview remains a timeless representation of the power of conversations and also of film, which spreads these discussions around the world.

Cogdell appreciates films that highlight and celebrate the experiences of his heritage, along with directors like Spike Lee and John Singleton, who have explored race relations, the black community and black identity. “I love film because it is a generational way to tell a story, a way for us to put faces to words and be able to visualize some of our favorite moments and be able to invite those from other cultures into our world,” he observed.

Just as people on the GWU campus have inspired him, Cogdell wants to encourage fellow students to “continue being great.” Like Giovanni, Baldwin, Lee, Singleton, and many others, Cogdell believes that the consistent resilience displayed by black men and women can serve as a catalyst for the future when oppression has ended.

Writer Isabella Brown is a senior English Major.

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at

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