International students honored during virtual ceremony

Each spring, the Center for International Programs recognizes USI’s international graduates and exchange students who have completed their programs. The event usually takes place in the University’s Performance Center. This year, however, the ceremony looked much different as nearly 80 participants attended virtually via cell phones, tablets and laptops, from time zones around the world.

President Ronald Rochon, Provost Muhammed Khayum, college deans and Janet Johnson, Director of Alumni Relations and Volunteer USI, were among those who celebrated the University’s 24 international graduates and 15 exchange students, representing 21 countries, Friday, May 15. “As we honor you, we want to thank you. As Eagles, you are fearless highflyers,” said Johnson. “Wherever life takes you, USI will always be a part of your family.”

Members of the USI community urged students, despite the disappointment of a semester cut short, to come back and visit. Dr. James Beeby, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, reminded the graduates to put their educations to good use by serving others.

Additionally, three international students were specially recognized for their outstanding contributions to the University.

Chiamaka AtuegbuChiamaka Atuegbu, of Nigeria, received the Peace Ambassador Award for her work to promote cross-cultural awareness and increased understanding of the world, its people and its traditions. A junior political science major, Atuegbu served as president of the African Cultures Club and Administrative Vice President for University Affairs in the Student Government Association. The Global Leader Scholarship recipient organized African Cultures Day and hosted an intercontinental soccer tournament. Through SGA, she organized Alcohol Awareness and Crime Prevention Week and planned active shooter training with Public Safety. She is also active in Gamma Phi Beta Sorority and performed in The Vagina Monologues. “I know you can’t see me, but I’m smiling really hard. I can’t believe it,” Atuegbu said of the honor.

This year’s Outstanding International Graduate Award was presented to both an undergraduate and graduate student, both of whom showcased strong leadership skills and academic achievements during their time at USI.

Jean Marie UwimanaJean Marie Uwimana, of Zimbabwe, a double major who graduated summa cum laude with bachelor’s degrees in economics and mathematics, grew up in a refugee camp before receiving a Global Ambassador Scholarship to attend USI. His nominator shared that “the experience of growing up in the … refugee camp … motivated Jean Marie to strive for an education, to work hard to achieve success, and always give back to those who are less fortunate, those left behind.”

Uwimana earned the 2017 Outstanding Sophomore Award and served in many campus leadership roles. He is the first international student at USI to receive the President’s Medal, the highest honor presented to a student. “It was a team effort, from my parents, who got me to this point, to Dr. Rochon and Heidi [Gregori-Gahan], who took me in like their own child. My friends, this is just the beginning, now we get to go back home and make a difference,” said Uwimana.

Salome ApkhazishviliSalome Apkhazishvili, a USI Fulbright scholar and Global Ambassador from the country of Georgia, graduated with a master's degree in communication. “Salome is an inquisitive and curious student who cares about the world and sees beauty in the big questions …. She is a dutiful friend and active member of the USI community,” her nominator shared.

Apkhazishvili’s two years at the University were well-rounded, from presenting at professional conferences to speaking at TEDx Tbilisi in her home country, to writing and performing a play at the Petit Jean Performance Festival in Arkansas and serving as a co-organizer of USI’s Social Media Week. “We all travel together; we all win together. Everyone deserves this award,” said Apkhazishvili.

Fellow Global Ambassadors Alessandro Trujillo, mechanical engineering, and Fatin Yaro, MPA (and Fulbright scholar), were also recognized during the ceremony.

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