International Studies & Programs

The Scholars

Every year, The MasterCard Foundation Scholars program welcomes new undergraduates and graduates from sub-Saharan Africa to Michigan State University's campus. These Scholars have demonstrated academic talent and have a personal commitment to give back to their countries.

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Thelma Namonje Cohort: 2012
Country: Zambia
Level of Study: Graduate
Major: Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics
College: College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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Biography: Thelma is from Zambia where she obtained her bachelor’s degree. She graduated with a Master’s Degree in Agricultural, Food & Resource Economics in 2014. Thelma believes that The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program has enhanced her motivation to give back to Africa in the role of an agro-economist who can forecast future trends and make sound recommendations based on the application of economic theory and knowledge. Thelma has been working with MSU partner, Alliance for Commodity Trade (ACTESA) in Eastern and Southern Africa for several years and wishes to continue to make her contributions through this organization for the development of Zambia. Thelma returned to Zambia in the summer of 2014 to join the Indaba Agricultural Policy Institute in Lusaka Zambia.

Stella Nhanala Cohort: 2012
Country: Mozambique
Level of Study: Graduate
Major: Plant Breeding, Genetics, & Biotechnology
College: College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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Biography: Stella is from Mozambique where she obtained her bachelor’s degree from the University of Algarve. She graduated with a Master’s Degree in Plant Breeding, Genetics & Biotechnology. She has followed her passion for biosafety and genetic engineering by being involved in a project of the African Union New Partnerships for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) called the African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE). Stella wishes to be a role model for girls in her country and to give back by “creating a revolution in Mozambican agriculture through the use of methods and approaches used in biotechnology.” Stella realizes that challenging oneself is key to personal development and to influencing others in positive, lasting, and meaningful ways. She believes in one of Nelson Mandela’s maxims: ‘until I change myself, I cannot change others.’

Joseph Ajao Cohort: 2013
Country: Nigeria
Level of Study: Graduate
Major: Business Administration
College: College of Business

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Biography: Joseph is from Nigeria and received his MBA from Michigan State University (MSU) in 2015. Prior to coming to MSU, he worked at Rocket Internet, a technology incubator; he says Rocket's drive to create opportunities for Nigerian entrepreneurs inspired him to pursue an advanced degree at a top business school. His dream is to create opportunities for new and early-stage technology companies in his home country. He hopes to launch a $100 million venture capital fund within six years and invest in companies that could potentially generate at least 100 new jobs annually.

Barbara Kotei Cohort: 2012
Country: Ghana
Level of Study: Undergraduate
Major: Economics
College: College of Social Science

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Biography: Barbara completed her program in Economics in 2016. Barbara wants to give back to her community by working in the public health sector in Africa. She sees a need for loopholes and gaps to be filled in the health system, and she would like to bring her ideas to the table.

Mohamadou Diatta Cohort: 2012
Country: Senegal
Level of Study: Undergraduate
Major: Computer Engineering
College: College of Engineering

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Biography: Mohamadou, graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor's in Computer Engineering. He has been cultivating the idea of giving back to his community and believes that he can make an impact when he goes back to Africa. He said, "Being chosen as a MasterCard Foundation Scholar puts me on the path to create the next Silicon Valley somewhere in Africa."

Abigael Metto Cohort: 2013
Country: Kenya
Level of Study: Undergraduate
Major: Neuroscience
College: College of Natural Science

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Biography: Abigael is an undergraduate from Kenya majoring in Neuroscience. She plans to get into medical school and specialize in radiology. She hopes to study hard and eventually return to Africa, where she is positive that she will bring change. Additionally, she hopes to be part of the professional group working toward achieving the Kenya Vision 2030, with the goal of transforming Kenya into a newly industrialized, middle-income country.

Hailu Abreha Cohort: 2013
Country: Ethiopia
Level of Study: Undergraduate
Major: Biomedical Laboratory
College: College of Human Medicine

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Biography: Hailu is an undergraduate from Ethiopia majoring in biomedical laboratory science. After receiving his degree, he plans to return to his home country to help in the fight against rampant diseases. For three years, he was a member of an anti-HIV organization in his country that went from place to place teaching about HIV/AIDS. During that time, he realized that a knowledge gap can greatly affect society. This, coupled with the fact that there is a severe shortage of skilled workers in the field of medicine in his country—particularly in the biomedical field—spurred him on to earn a degree that would enable him to help his community. His interest is in biomedical engineering, and his long-term goal is to work as a research scientist.

Vincent Karenzi Cohort: 2013
Country: Rwanda
Level of Study: Undergraduate
Major: Agribusiness Management
College: College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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Biography: Vincent is an undergraduate from Rwanda majoring in agribusiness management and environmental studies. He is inspired by Maj. General Fred Gisa Rwigema, who started a liberation war in October 1990 and stopped the 1994 genocide against Tutsis. Karenzi has recognized the economic injustice that a high percentage of his country's people are facing. In Rwanda, 85 percent of the population depends on farming, but their hard work doesn't always lead to the expected benefits. Karenzi says, "I envision my future working with farmers in the villages of East African countries, especially in Rwanda." His dream is to solve the economic injustice being done to agriculturists in the deep villages of Africa. The MasterCard Foundation Scholarship Program will provide the platform for him to be that "change agent."

Chiwimbo Gwenambira Cohort: 2013
Country: Zimbabwe
Level of Study: Graduate
Major: Crop and Soil Sciences
College: College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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Biography: Chiwimbo graduated in 2014 with a Master's in Crop and Soil Sciences and is currently pursuing her PhD in the same discpline at MSU.

Rosette Nakalema Cohort: 2013
Country: Uganda
Level of Study: Graduate
Major: Food Science
College: College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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Biography: Rosette completed her Master's in food science and technology in 2015 and is on her way to becoming a senior researcher focusing on food science and nutrition. She says that 80 percent of the population of Uganda is ignorant about food science, and the food processing industry there is under-developed. Nakalema says, "This expertise will allow me to enhance the nutritional value of staples, which, in turn, will help address malnutrition, hunger, and poverty among many people in Uganda." Within the next decade, she'd like to pursue a Ph.D. degree and teach at her former university—Makerere University in Uganda. "Studying at a first-rate world university—Michigan State University—has always been my dream. I am more than delighted to have been awarded this scholarship; it is a great opportunity for me and a stepping stone to my future career goals. Long live MasterCard!"

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