Murama Rugumanya

Master of Public Health (MPH), Class of 2017

"(The degree program) opens up your eyes, gives you confidence and opportunities you didn’t have before."

Murama Rugumanya's youth was delineated by extremes of the human condition.

Born in Rwanda, but growing up in the Congo, Burundi and Uganda, he was exposed to war, famine, genocide and the privations caused by the seemingly endless quest in that part of the world for power and resources. Yet, in the midst of the strife, he worked with his parents, traveling missionaries, building churches and trying to help people find spiritual and physical peace.

These experiences built the philosophy he lives by today.

"At the end, we need to give our share and show we can be the generation to stop the mass killing and the hatred," Rugumanya, 38, a father of two, said. "If we don't, (the killings and war) will happen again and again."

Rugumanya said he sees his "share" as tending to the physical welfare of Africa's hardest-hit residents, as well as the spiritual. With the aid of the university's public health degree program, he has his eyes set on a more permanent return to his home continent and the establishment of clinics and better health systems and increasing the wellness of the people there.

He credits the university with helping him toward his goals.

"(The degree program) opens up your eyes, gives you confidence and opportunities you didn't have before," he said.

Like many university students, he spent many nights and weekends at the kitchen table studying, missed many social events and sacrificed time with his family. Yet he felt the sacrifice was worth it.

"Online education was wonderful to do, for sure," he said. "The one thing I regret is not having an opportunity to meet face-to-face the people I worked with and partnered with."

Following May's commencement, he will continue working as a full-time health missionary but will set his sights on the same role in a larger sphere, seeking employment with US A.I.D. or a multinational, health-focused non-governmental organization. He will be accompanied by his wife, Grace, daughter, Ivy, and son, Jayden.

"Public health is a wonderful tool, to be able to help," he said, adding, "I want to help others to get a better life. It will be a sacrifice for my family, but a worthy one."