College graduates are preparing to don their caps and gowns within the next few months, but one North Central College student is working hard to make sure his education continues beyond campus while making a difference in the world around him.
Etienne Mashuli has never taken education for granted, perhaps because he wasn’t always certain he would have one.
At just 7 years old, he escaped the Rwandan Genocide, which left much of his family for dead, taking refuge in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His path would eventually lead him to North Central College, where he currently studies Political Science and Economics.
In his time on campus, Mashuli co-founded “Ubuntu in Action,” ubuntu being an African word for “humanity to others.”
“The idea of Ubuntu in Action was to try and address this extreme violence going on in the Congo by proposing some alternative solutions, giving these children an opportunity to go to school, to be sort of a strong, solid foundation for trying to reinvent society,” said Mashuli, who is graduating from North Central this spring.
Since its start in 2009, the group has managed to create four classrooms in the first “Ubuntu Academy.”
Mashuli has engaged in a number of other services around Africa, like spreading awareness of HIV in Rwanda and counseling trauma patients for refugee camps in Uganda.
“There’s always this feeling, at least among survivors that there’s something that should be done to stop this violence and I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to be part of this movement or this group that’s trying to change this world for a better place,” he said.
His efforts have earned him a Soros Fellowship Award, national recognition for U.S. students planning to pursue a graduate degree.
The scholarship grants him a total of $90,000 for tuition and living expenditures for the first two years.
Mashuli was one of 30 students nationwide to receive the honor, out of more than 1,000 applicants.
“So it shows the work that Etienne has put into this, it shows the commitment as North Central as a whole to nurture him and to develop the potential and talents that he has,” said William Muck, Assistant Professor of Political Science at North Central.
Associate Poli-Sci Professor William Muck has worked closely with Etienne on a few assignments, including writing articles on global poverty and Etienne’s project on the Rwanda Genocide he himself had escaped nearly 20 years ago. The two also recently returned from a model United Nations Conference in New York.
“What’s exceptional about Etienne, he’s driven by deeper goals. He wants to understand problem, what’s to make a difference. And with Etienne, you never get the sense that he’s in the class for a grade. He wants to learn, read all the material he can, he’ll engage you in the classroom, he’ll follow you into the office to talk so it’s an ongoing conversation and wants to learn about the world around him,” said Muck.
Mashuli has been accepted into graduate programs at the University of Notre Dame, the University of Illinois, Yale University, University of Chicago, and Johns Hopkins University, though right now he’s not sure which one he’ll accept. He plans on pursuing a Master’s in public policy.
In the meantime, Mashuli will begin a post-graduate internship in France with the group “Humanity in Action” to study minority rights.
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