This article is part of students’ stories, a series profiling students across campus.
You can usually spot him on campus wearing his trademark baseball cap and button-up plaid shirt, friendly smile on his face. Most people know him as a friend, a fellow student or the resident hip-hop enigma on campus, but Kia Albertson-Rogers ’13 is more than meets the eye.
Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, Albertson-Rogers grew up in upstate New York after moving to the U.S. with his parents at a young age. Years later, his long-held desire to live in a city led him to start college at Boston University for his freshman year in 2009. His transformative first year, during which he was unsatisfied with his academic program, led him to seek educational opportunities elsewhere. He transferred to Cornell the following year.
“It was a freshman year I was glad to have because it pushed me into a dark spot, but I found out a lot about myself. When things challenge you, it’s important to figure out what is most important to you,” Albertson-Rogers said.
A communications major at Cornell, Albertson-Rogers said he is fascinated by the way humans interact with social media. He said that he has other academic interests — architectural design, for one — and that he as thrown himself into different opportunities provided by the University.
“When [I came] here, I took Psych 101. I learned about sleeping and since then I started sleeping nine hours every night and lost all my friends,” he said with a laugh.
While living and working as a Residential Advisor in the Just About Music program house in 2010, Albertson-Rogers met one of his best friends, Dylan Owen ’14. Their mutual interest in hip-hop sparked a close friendship that Albertson-Rogers said has continued since Owen transferred to the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University in Fall 2011.
“We got along really well, and [he] is one of the best friends I’ve ever had … I’ve stayed in touch with him, and he has really inspired me to [pursue] my own music projects,” Albertson-Rogers said.
As a member of the Public Service Center Scholars program — which provides a select group of undergraduate students the opportunity to intergrate community service into their education — he spent last summer working for Ithaca’s Youth Advocacy Program, helping children learn to express themselves through hip-hop.
“I worked in a studio and the kids would rap or work on their lyrics … There’s a fascination in hip-hop culture with gangster life, so I was trying to get them to work on embodying your own kind of identity with music …” he said.
During Winter 2011, Albertson-Rogers worked at the Wellington Boys’ and Girls’ Institute in New Zealand for a street art program that seeks to cover graffiti with permanent works of art. He then studied abroad in New Zealand at Victoria University of Wellington in Spring 2012.
“The Institute ended up being my home while I was there,” he said.
Although he said he enjoyed working at the Institute, Albertson-Rogers said he had a difficult time adapting to the cultural differences between New Zealand and the U.S. while he was studying abroad, despite being born in New Zealand. Still, he said the experience pushed him to learn more about a culture he was not familiar with and to become more independent.
After returning from New Zealand this summer, Albertson-Rogers immediately began to work on his next musical endeavour. In July, he completed his own hip-hop album titled ‘Yesterday, Tomorrow’ a compilation of songs he said were influenced by many of his close friends.
“I don’t charge [money] for it because it was done for the love,” he said. “I do it more because I like it, and if people listen to it, that’s awesome.”
Back at Cornell this semester, Albertson-Rogers said he hopes to continue to learn and try new things in his final year.
“I’m all about having experiences, traveling and living a full life … I’d love the opportunity to do the Peace Corps someday,” he said. “I realized how much there is to see. It’s so scary, but then that means there’s a lot [of people] out there to meet.”