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International Student Mike Kayigize '18 Brings Unique Perspective to Campus | SUNY Plattsburgh

Before he attended a college fair at his high school in Zimbabwe, Mike Kayigize ’18 had never heard of Plattsburgh.

“It was the furthest place where anybody I knew was going to go (for college),” said Kayigize, a political science major.

At the college fair, he met Jackie Vogl, SUNY Plattsburgh vice president of global education and director of the Global Education Office.

She instantly drew his interest to Plattsburgh.

“She was able not only to convince me to apply to a school I had never heard of but was also able to make me feel at home in a place I had never been,” he said.

As a prospective college student, Kayigize said he was looking for something different than the larger research universities some of his friends were looking to attend.

He found that at Plattsburgh.

“I have lived and visited a lot of beautiful different sceneries and I have always enjoyed the mountains a lot,” Kayigize said, adding that he appreciates the beauty of the Adirondack landscape that surrounds Plattsburgh.

‘Focused, Determine, Passionate’

As vice president of SUNY Plattsburgh’s chapter of Delta Sigma Phi, Kayigize found a mentor in the fraternity’s advisor, Dr. Michael Morgan, dean of the School of Education, Health and Human Services.

“On top of giving great guidance, he is also a great resource for networking,” Kayigize said of Morgan.

Morgan said Kayigize is an active member of the fraternity, which is composed of “young, value-based leaders who care about making a positive difference.”

“Mike is focused, determined and passionate about all he does,” Morgan said. “He is a great example of someone who is getting the most out of college because he is highly involved with academics, with friends and with developing his leadership skills. He is not someone who waits for life to happen; he makes life happen.”

While he is still in the process of deciding on a future career, Kayigize has found SUNY Plattsburgh offers many opportunities for the development of skills he will need once he graduates and enters the workforce.

“There are an abundance of resources on campus for career-oriented decision making,” he said, adding that he has benefitted from campus networking events in particular.

Kayigize is one of 317 international students studying at SUNY Plattsburgh in the spring 2016 semester.

His unusual life story sets him apart from his fellow students.

A native of Burundi, a young Kayigize moved with his mother, father and three siblings to Cameroon and then to the Ivory Coast. They were forced to evacuate in 2002 in the wake of the political and military crisis there. They relocated to Harare, Zimbabwe.

Growing up, he saw his parents work in jobs where they were able to help improve the lives of others.

His father, Dr. Deo Nshimirimana, is the director of the immunization and vaccine development cluster at the World Health Organization’s regional office for Africa in Senegal. His mother, Dr. Marceline Ntakibirora, is an immunization specialist for UNICEF.

Community Service Enlightening

In Zimbabwe, Kayigize studied at an international school where community service was a mandatory part of the curriculum.

He volunteered in orphanages with HIV/AIDS patients and distributed packages of food to disadvantaged youth.

Those experiences were eye-opening for him, he said, exposing him to the harsh realities of life for those whose experiences contrasted starkly with his.

“It definitely cemented the fact that I want to be doing something where I’m helping people on a large scale,” he said. “Somehow, change can take place so that the communities in which I live can reach their potential.”

His childhood experiences have conditioned him to appreciate diversity in opinion and perspective.

“I see the benefits of different political ideologies and I value a world in which various cultures can live together without having to lose their cultural identity and authenticity.”

As a student at Plattsburgh, Kayigize enjoys listening to the opinions of his peers, which have widened his view of the world even more, he said.

“Sometimes, I just like to sit back and soak up the mentality.”

While learning from his peers, he is also in a position to educate them about things he has experienced that are outside their realm of understanding.

A misconception some have is that poverty and disease were constantly apparent to him while he was living in Africa.

“It didn’t see it every day,” he said.

After Kayigize graduates from SUNY Plattsburgh, he aspires to work internationally, potentially as a lawyer specializing in social issues or corporate responsibility and accountability.

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