Professional News

‘Wildcat Wednesday’: UK Alumna, Marshall Scholar Is Changing How the World Views Immigration

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 23, 2022) — Throughout March for Women’s History Month, the University of Kentucky is spotlighting Women Making History. These women are leading their fields of research, crossing traditional academic boundaries and impacting Kentucky’s most pressing challenges including opioid use disorder treatment, aging and Alzheimer’s, water and air filtration, environmental impacts on health and suicide prevention. 

They are mentoring the next generation of women scientists and scholars, curating stories and creating artworks illuminating who we are. Their work and voices shape the University of Kentucky. 

On this Wildcat Wednesday, UK celebrates Chimene Ntakarutimana, an alumna from the UK College of Arts and Sciences and Lewis Honors College, from Lexington.

In 2021, Ntakarutimana was named a Marshall Scholar, making her only the sixth UK student to receive the honor from the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission.

Ntakarutinama is currently using her Marshall Scholarship to pursue two master's degrees in the United Kingdom, at the University College London, in the fields of global migration and gender, society and representation.

From personal experience, Ntakarutimana understands how forced migration can change one’s life. For six years, she lived in a refugee camp after fleeing genocide in her home country of Burundi. It was this constant moving and resettlement process that led to her interest in the field of migration, as well as her undergraduate research at UK and abroad as a participant in the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates program in Rwanda.

“Coming to the U.S. as a refugee was a difficult process,” she said. “With the encouragement of my family, I was able to see that I could use my own personal experience to change the way the world views immigration.”

During her time at UK, Ntakarutimana was named a Chellgren Fellow and earned a minor in criminology and a Certificate in Social Science Research in addition to her two bachelor’s degrees (psychology and sociology) from the UK College of Arts and Sciences. Active in undergraduate research, she analyzed how African Americans view other racially diverse people and their friendship groups. Outside of the classroom she was active as a College of Arts and Sciences Ambassador, K Crew Leader and UK 101 peer mentor.

Off campus, Ntakarutimana volunteered with Ampersand Sexual Violence Resource Center of the Bluegrass, and worked as an administrative coordinator at Kentucky Refugee Ministries, where she had the opportunity to see the resettlement process firsthand, while learning how a nonprofit operates.

After completing her two master's degrees, Ntakarutimana would like to work with international nonprofit organizations focused on migration and one day be director of the United Nations Women's Department.

“I want to give back. That’s something that (UK) has taught me — that you have to pass it forward. You have to make sure you are mentoring the people behind — that way everyone gets to be where you are at.”

Read more about Ntakarutimana and her Marshall Scholarship here.

The UK Office of Nationally Competitive Awards assists current undergraduate and graduate students and recent alumni in applying for external fellowships scholarships funded by sources (such as a nongovernment foundation or government agency) outside the university. These major awards honor exceptional students across the nation. Students who are interested in these opportunities are encouraged to begin work with the office's director, Pat Whitlow, well in advance of the scholarship deadline.

Look for “Women Making History” stories, like Ntakarutimana’s, in UKNOW on “Wildcat Wednesday” and every day on UK Research social media (@ResearchKY on Twitter and Facebook) throughout the month of March.

Recent UK graduate Chimene Ntakarutimana is the University of Kentucky's sixth Marshall Scholar. Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.