Blue & Gold Campaign supports local and global students: Monicah Namu

Blue & Gold Campaign supports local and global students: Monicah Namu

UBC launched the Blue & Gold Campaign for Students with the goal of raising $100 million over three years to support students. Those who give to the Blue & Gold Campaign provide promising students access to a life-changing education — and perhaps more importantly — invest in the future of our province and our global community.

Born and raised in Kenya, Monicah Namu explains why she felt compelled to come to UBC for a Master of Food Science degree, a professional program within the Faculty of Land and Food Systems. Without donor support, she could not have made the journey to Canada. Monicah studied biochemistry in her undergraduate degree and was always at the top of her class—she did not have role models or much exposure to the idea of Food Science as a possible future career pathway. Now as an Alumni, and having landed a job in Food Science prior to graduating, she reflects on her journey getting to LFS and how greatly the professional program ( Food Science) has shaped her as a person and her career.

“I was very interested in helping my community in terms of food security as my country experienced famine and crisis,” said Namu. “I could see the lack of good agricultural inputs and knowledge of how to process food after production, which included post-harvest loss of almost 40 per cent. I thought, if I can do something, now is the time.”

Inspired to make a difference, Monicah began searching for scholarships before choosing to study at UBC. She was supported by the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program, which gives students from Africa financial, social, and academic support to complete their education. After graduating, the scholars then use their learning and experiences to contribute to the economic growth and social transformation of their communities in Africa. Monicah took a big risk moving to Vancouver, as this was her first time out of Kenya, and it was a huge leap for her and her family. The support of her family, the MasterCard foundation support staff, and her LFS contact made the transition a smooth one for her for every step along the way. The cultural differences were profound, “back home everything is in a community, life here is very fast and people are very busy which is not the case back at home”, and Monicah was able to build her own sense of community within the MasterCard program as well as in LFS. As an alumni now, she expresses that after her year in the Food Science program, LFS has become home and “for me and wherever I go I will always feel attached to the people and the community”, and will carry her affinity proudly in all that she does.

She reflects on the special nature of the program, and how well-designed it is in training students to grow practical skills needed for the industry as well as the confidence to excel. The course material directly applied to work within the industry, and this direct translation of knowledge into skills, provides a unique program with a meaningful practicum designed for enhancing one’s career path. The difference that professors made was a distinct feature for her as she explained that instructors empowered students as they took a keen interest in students to find their interests and to help students beyond the context of the classroom to develop their interests and goals deeper “that help you understand yourself better so you can keep a clear focus on your vision”. The direct engagement with industry professionals who visited the classroom for weekly workshops allowed students to gain access to what is happening on the ground and to understand what their role will be outside of UBC, it also increased confidence in networking with industry professionals. Monicah emphasizes that everyone will benefit from studying as, “even without a food science background, it doesn’t matter where you are on the spectrum or what your background is, as the program is designed to facilitate wherever you are to get something out of the program”.

She know works in Quality Assurance, applying all of her gained knowledge and is grateful that she can make a difference “every day food recalls reported, pathogen and microbial issues, and I felt responsibility as a food scientist to make sure the population is safe as companies can be tricky and want to make money at the expense of public safety. When I am there on the ground, I can do something to ensure the food is safe”.

The student support she has received allowed her to fully immerse into her studies and focus on excelling, without worrying, “Words cannot explain my gratitude to the Mastercard Foundation for having a program that supports students from sub-Saharan Africa to study at global universities like UBC. I could not have done this without their support.

I am so happy they gave me an opportunity to study here and they should continue doing this because there are so many other kids from Africa who have dreams, and because of financial constraints they can’t achieve those dreams and most of them give up along the way. Donor support to help someone achieve a dream goes a long way in changing society; the support doesn’t just benefit me, it benefits my community too.” She reflects that UBC is one of the best institutions and that it has transformed her life, not only in career development, but her as a person, she has grown as a person and is confident in her ability to impact her community back home. Her advice to current and prospective students is “You have opportunity to make more impact in the world wherever you go, once you are at UBC take an interest in learning as much as you can, not just course material, learn from your peers, instructors and most importantly from the the cultural diversity at UBC. Engage and interact with people different from you to expand your cultural intelligence, which is key Be ready to learn in your classroom and beyond, with the whole community, it makes more sense to learn from a 360 degree perspective and to try new things”. She considers the Faculty of Land of Food Systems to be a special place to learn and grow and we are proud of our alumni who excel and are making a difference from their time here.

In the Faculty of Land and Food Systems, students in the professional programs sometimes experience financial hardship due to program costs and demands, especially when unpaid work experience is a requirement of the program. The professional programs in Land and Food Systems include Master of Food and Resource Economics, Master of Food Science, Master of Land and Water Systems, and Dietetics.

These programs are training the leaders of tomorrow to find solutions to pressing problems in our global food system and in our natural resources.

UBC students such as Monicah Namu are ready to create meaningful change and tackle the challenges that affect us all. Supporting these promising students today — so they are equipped to build a better tomorrow — is more urgent than ever. Please consider supporting the Blue & Gold Campaign for Students to change their world so they can change ours!

Interested in learning how to support our students and the Blue & Gold Campaign? Contact: Alexa Class-Freeman, Development Officer, alexa.class.freeman@ubc.ca.

If you are an alumni interested in getting involved with our students, please get in touch. We want to hear your story. Contact Niki Glenning, Alumni Relations Manager, niki.glenning@ubc.ca.