May 6, 2014
Faustin Mwambutsa distinguished himself as a top math and science student in Rwanda and earned a Rwanda Presidential Scholarship that placed him at Millsaps College.
Before arriving at Millsaps, he spent three months enrolled in an English as a Second Language class while living with a host family in Little Rock, Ark. During his first days of classes at Millsaps, he struggled because his writing and reading were, in his words, “mediocre.”
Millsaps staff members and students helped make the transition from his homeland as smooth as possible, he said, and professors helped him focus on his education and overcome challenges posed by the English language.
“Millsaps has been incredibly helpful in so many ways. I have worked with faculty whose goal was to see me succeed and that has been a great motivation for me,” said Mwambutsa, who with Jean-Leon Iragena will in May be the first students from Rwanda to graduate from Millsaps.
Mwambutsa’s commitment to academic excellence and the hours he devoted to study recently earned him membership in Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society. The Millsaps chapter, Alpha of Mississippi, elects members from the senior class on the basis of scholarly achievement, broad cultural interests and good character.
“My advice to a student who wants to make Phi Beta Kappa or any other goal for that matter is to have a plan,” he said. “Learn early about what it will require to achieve that goal and do multiple evaluations at different stages to make sure that progress is being made toward achieving that goal.”
Mwambutsa will continue his education at Vanderbilt University where he will pursue a doctorate in chemical engineering. “I have already been accepted and I have accepted their offer of admission,” he said.
A chemistry and applied mathematics major, Mwambutsa plans a career in research either in academia or industry and also teaching. He plans to return to Rwanda but doesn’t have a date to do so.
As part of the Rwanda Presidential Scholars Program, the top mathematics and science students in Rwanda compete for places at 16 participating American colleges throughout the South. Each Rwandan student selected to participate in the program receives a full tuition scholarship at the participating college. The students also receive living expenses, travel costs, a book allowance, and a stipend, all of which are paid for by the Rwandan government. The Rwanda Presidential Scholars Program is a key component of the Rwanda government’s redevelopment efforts.
Millsaps currently has two additional students, Fabio Ntagwabira, a sophomore, and Jean Pierre Niyigena, a sophomore, from Rwanda.