As she stood at the podium at the College of Engineering graduation ceremony, ITS student Patricie Uwase Mavubi conjured memories of visits to the Botanical Gardens, reading on Memorial Glade, and long nights of studying at the ITS Library. Mavubi, who graduated in May 2015 with a master of science in civil engineering with a focus on transportation and planning, won the high honor of graduation speaker for her exceptional achievements, unique story, and profound commitment to use transportation to improve people’s lives.
Mavubi grew up in genocide-ravaged Rwanda. One afternoon in 1997, she watched a documentary about a prestigious U.S. university. At that moment, “I had a dream to attend a school like the one in the movie, a school just like Cal, which would equip me with skills to be able to rebuild our devastated nation,” she recounted in her speech. In her conflict-weary nation, accessing markets and hospitals was impossible because there were no proper roads.
Already struggling to afford primary school fees, it was an ambitious goal, she said, “but dreams are powerful.” She got through school on scholarships, and was inspired by a Rwandan woman, a city engineer, who spoke at her school about engineering. “I already had a desire to improve . . . access to my hometown, and now I knew the way to really have an impact,” she said. She attended UC Berkeley as part of The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program, which provides comprehensive support for bright but economically marginalized young Africans who have a “give-back” ethos.
Just months after graduation, Mavubi, 25, was already giving back. She established and ran 100 Women Who Will Impact Rwanda, a mentoring camp for young Rwandan women, and she now works on transportation issues in the Ministry of Infrastructure. “I have learned that when you mean well and want to do good for others, the whole universe will get up to help you,” Mavubi said in an article on the Nigeria-based website Edufrica.com. “I have also learned that when you dare to dream big, anything is possible.”
Mavubi and students from her 100 Women Who Will Impact Rwanda program. Photo: Courtesy of 100 Women Who Will Impact Rwanda