Editor's Note — This is part of a weekly student conversation series highlighted as part of Black History Month on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's Medium page. The series will feature students who are making impacts on campus and hope to maintain that momentum in future careers.
his week, we are featuring Damien Niyonshuti, an integrated science major from Kigali, Rwanda. At Nebraska, Niyonshuti has found himself surrounded by ambition and innovation, propelling him to make a difference through his leadership and involvement on campus and setting his sights on future impact in his home country.
How do your on-campus involvements allow you to make an impact and/or achieve your goals?
On campus, I have been super involved, both community-wise and academically. I do both because I do think there’s a good deal of overlap that provides me with many possibilities. I am involved with the ASUN Student Government as a (College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources) senator and committee chair for diversity and inclusion, Black Student Union executive board member, StartupsUNL, UNL Honors program and a few others. These experiences have offered me a unique opportunity to grow and give back to my community simultaneously. Partaking in projects like BSU care bags last summer and advocating for various diversity and inclusion efforts on campus is indeed a worthy cause. To a great extent, all these involvements have shaped me into the person I am today, and I learned a lot about myself and my community.
What do you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
Oh gosh, that’s a good question. Well, I just want to get the most out of the opportunities I have been given. I think I am presented plenty of opportunities here, unlike back home. At this stage of my professional career, I am hungrily learning, learning and learning. This is because eventually, I want to go back, sometime, and impact my continent, Africa, especially my home country, Rwanda, with the skills that I will have under my belt. If I can look back at my life and feel like I have made their life a bit easier, I will definitely feel fulfilled.
What or who inspires you?
Frankly speaking, coming to UNL has been the most magical time of my life. I feel like I have changed in so many ways since I first showed up here. Being surrounded by ambition and innovation, I have been inspired to try something new each year, something that both scared me and excited me. So, the environment itself and the good friends I have made here inspire me every day.
What is your advice to other students looking to make an impact?
If I could give advice, I’d say two things: First and foremost, everyone should acknowledge the fact that this place is designed to challenge you in one way or another — especially my fellow international buddies. You have to accept that you will not be good at everything, and you’ll want to rely on your friends to help you through the process. So, I highly encourage you to seek a decent support group of friends. Second, be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Find what you love and work at it every day to make it better. And please don’t forget to bring your whole self to it.
I want to give a big shoutout to the CUSP scholarship program for offering me this lifetime opportunity. Also, to all my organizations I am a part of, thanks for always trusting me and pushing me to do my best. I am excited to see what’s in the cards for my rest of the years here.