The President’s Medal is the highest award a USI student can earn, and Jean Marie Uwimana's motivation and high expectations for his education helped him do just that. Uwimana, who grew up in the Tongogara Refugee Camp in Zimbabwe, before receiving a Global Ambassador Scholarship to attend USI, is graduating summa cum laude with a double major in economics and mathematics with a concentration in actuarial and minors in finance, computer science, and statistics. When USI President Dr. Ronald Rochon told Jean Marie that he was the recipient, he asked him to call his parents from the conference room. Jean Marie describes hearing his mom’s excitement about the news as “out of this world!”
Jean Marie arrived at USI after a 22-hour flight, which was his first time on an airplane. He describes his new environment as overwhelming and confusing but also exciting. He told himself, “This is the best thing I’ve done. I’ve managed to get to this point. Take this opportunity and keep going further.” He has always had a love for mathematics, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to choose it as a major. Following in his father’s footsteps in the construction business, he briefly studied engineering. However, having never done programming, he was fascinated with technology and took a chance on computer science. Eventually, he took an interest in economics as well and credits Dr. Perry Burnett, associate professor of economics, and Dr. Tim Schibik, professor of economics and assistant dean of Romain College, as crucial to his success.
Many first-year students jump right into student organizations and activities across campus as part of immersing themselves in the college experience, but Jean Marie focused on studying and getting good grades. After spending so much time in his room studying, he began to feel like something was missing and that there was more to college. That’s when he became more involved on campus – AMIGOs, USI Speaking Eagles Toastmasters, African Cultures Club, Honors Program, Welcome Week team leader and other organizations, as well as getting internships and attending conferences. He thought he had an idea of how to balance coursework and other commitments. “My friends were getting involved early, so I’d talk to them and find out everything. By the time I was comfortable getting involved and doing extra activities, I already knew what to expect and how to deal with it without being overwhelmed.” Jean Marie reassures students that they don’t have to rush into anything. “When you’re free to take on other responsibilities, do that. You need good grades to get a job, but you also need to be a social person and know how to work in teams.”
"There is a lot of responsibility with college. If you manage everything well and find that balance, the world is yours for the taking. "
Last summer, he was a brand planning intern at Ralph Lauren Global Headquarters in Manhattan in New York City, where his work focused on data analytics. He created reports in MicroStrategy and Excel based on sales by product and by region, and presented the results and trends to members of the merchandising team. He was one of four USI students selected to attend the annual weeklong SoNIC summer workshop at Cornell University in Ithica, New York. The program exposes students to cloud computing and networks, with the goal of encouraging them to pursue Ph.D.s in computer science. During his time at USI, Uwimana was a Global Ambassador and 2017 Outstanding Sophomore award recipient. This spring, he was named one of the Distinguished Graduate Finalists at the Romain College of Business. He received the 2020 Academic Achievement Award in Mathematics.
“I want to make myself proud and everyone else proud.”
Jean Marie is finishing some research work in economics this summer. Looking back at the past four years, he says he wanted to maximize his time at USI, “I knew I was going to do whatever it took to succeed at USI, and to my surprise, USI has been the perfect fit for me; I feel like it was meant for me.” He will leave the United States and move to Vancouver, Canada, when travel resumes. His official coursework at USI may have ended, but Jean Marie has confidence and high expectations for his future as he pursues a career in technology. “If you manage everything well, and find that balance, the world is yours for the taking. You can go out there and do amazing things. We have students who graduate from USI and do amazing things, and hopefully, I will do the same. I feel confident right now. I feel that once I get that job and opportunity that I’m looking for, things are going to go up for me because USI has prepared me well. Education has been my life. I’ve grown so much at USI, and there’s so much for me out there.” Jean Marie also wants to be an example and inspiration to others. “I want to take chances. I might inspire another individual who may have lost everything but still has hope that the future is in their hands. Hopefully, this is just the beginning for me.”
Published May 29, 2020