LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 10, 2017) — Want to get to know the people behind some of the biggest student leadership positions on campus? We did, too! That's why we've introduced "see blue." #selfie — a series on UKNow that lets student leaders from across campus tell us a little bit more about themselves and their organizations. Up this week, Director of Martin Luther King, Jr. Wildcats for Service Aisha Nwandu!
Aisha Nwandu, a senior public health major from Nigeria, serves as this year's director for Martin Luther King, Jr. Wildcats for Service! We sat down with Nwandu to get to know the true student leader behind the title. Nwandu's love for Kentucky, her native country and service help fuel her passion behind her position as director. Learn more about Nwandu's story in her "see blue." #selfie.
UKNow: What is your major and what year are you?
Aisha Nwandu: I'm a senior and my major is public health.
UK: Where are you from?
AN: I am from Nigeria.
UK: Tell me about your position as director of Martin Luther King, Jr. Wildcats for Service.
AN: My position as director is to oversee the whole program. I have a couple of people on my exec team — there are nine of them in total. The positions vary from leadership chair, partnership down to marketing. I make sure every chairperson is doing their part to make all our events, especially the service events, run smoothly.
UK: When was MLK Wildcats for Service founded?
AN: The organization has been around for about four years, but it was known as MLK Day of Service because there were no other events yearlong except the day of service in the spring. Last year, the former director took initiative and redesigned the program and it had its first yearlong events with monthly service events and also a civil rights educational trip to the civil rights museum in Memphis, which was a life-changing experience for a lot of us that went on the trip.
UK: Why are you so passionate about this organization?
AN: When I came here as an international student, I was looking to belong and find something I’d love to do. I learned of the CCO (Center for Community Outreach) my sophomore year and then shortly after I applied to be on MLK Wildcats for Service not really knowing a lot about the program but before the end of the year, I fell in love with it and decided to apply to be director. I am passionate because the program is all about diversity and we also try to connect students to their communities, to show them how they can make a difference and the most important for me is that we get to educate the UK community about MLK and show them he embodied a lot more and it was beyond the civil rights movement, he was involved in education and service as much as he was involved in equal rights.
UK: Is there any other organization that you're involved in?
AN: Right now, all my time is focused on MLK. I'm involved in Public Health Students Association, too, for my major. I chose to drop a lot of other things to focus on this position.
UK: What do you do throughout the year to prep for MLK Day of Service?
AN: Oh, there is a lot that goes through planning for the day of service, first and most important is finding the service sites that will love to have our volunteers and finding the sites that are diverse with different social issues so students can sign up for something they love and then you have to keep up with the sites throughout the year so they do not forget they are hosting us in the spring. Next, we plan the venue, the food, send out applications for the site leaders and site advisors that are going to lead these students. And the most important thing we also do is make sure our reflection event at the end of the day is inclusive and educative as we make sure the students understand what they just volunteered their time for and how they can continue with that. So yes, it is a long process, but it is one that I love. (To sign up, click here.)
UK: When was your first year being involved with Wildcats for Service?
AN: My junior year, this is my second year involved with the program.
UK: Who would you say is your one role model?
AN: My role model is definitely my future self. I try to imagine a different version of me every day, I make goals for myself to grow as a person and that person; the one that achieves all these goals is my role model. For example, I am putting on this great event next semester, my role model for right now is the person giving the closing remarks after a great event celebrating MLK. I am a strong believer that your role model should always be the better version of you.
UK: Why did you choose to come to UK?
AN: Basically I fell in love. I never even saw the campus. I was online every day looking at colleges and I just fell in love with UK. I was looking into programs and the International Center is amazing. They made it so welcoming even before I even came here. I got so much help through the applications process — it was pretty amazing. And we have really good programs here and a lot of different Africans here from where I’m from. I can come here and still see people from home even though I didn’t know them at home. I have them to share things with.
UK: Once you got here, what was one thing you weren't expecting to find?
AN: All the friendships I have made. I feel like I dropped my whole life and I came here to start something new. The kind of friendships I did find here have been really great. I didn’t expect to know someone for three years and be as close to them as I am now. But this is also home now — I was not expecting that. I thought I was going to be homesick all the time.
UK: If you had a warning label what would it say?
AN: "Beware — very blunt."
UK: Do you have any advice for freshmen wanting to get involved in Wildcats for Service?
AN: Email me! One of my exec members emailed me the night before applications closed wanting to get involved, I told her to apply as soon as she can and she might get an interview and now she is a part of the team. Do not be afraid that you are just a freshman, we are always looking for bright new ideas and there is always a leadership opportunity or just a participant opportunity in our program.
UK: What is your favorite thing about being in Lexington?
AN: The people. They are the friendliest bunch ever. They make you feel so welcome here. I love the city — it's small but it's so big. UK makes it so huge but the city itself is so small and it feels great to walk down the street and seeing at least two or more people you know.
UK: What are your dreams for after undergrad?
AN: My dream would be as an infectious disease specialist working for the United Nations. I do want to go home at some point after my education. We need a lot of help in Nigeria with public health.
UK: You're happiest when …
AN: I am happiest when I'm talking to my parents. It's always by Skype. It has been three years since I have seen them. They have been trying to plan a trip here.
"see blue." #selfies will appear every other Tuesday on UKNow. Know a student leader we should feature? Contact Rebecca Stratton at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate someone.
UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue