Religion major Ornella Umubyeyi ’13 found empowerment at Ripon College

Ornella Umubyeyi ’13 feels that education is the pathway to betterment, and she found empowerment at Ripon College.

She was born in Burundi, the second oldest in a family of five children, and came to Ripon College because of a generous scholarship. She majored in religion with a minor in leadership studies.

While still a student at Ripon College, she began several initiatives to help poor residents — especially women — in Rwanda and Burundi. She went on to receive a master’s degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and a doctorate with a concentration in pastoral care and counseling from Gardner Webb University. She did her doctorate research in Rwanda working with Burundian refugee women.

Umubyeyi has started a Christian nonprofit organization in Burundi, aiming to help teenagers attend school. The organization helps to pay their school fees, “giving the necessary gift of education to the underprivileged,” she says. She currently travels the world as a motivational speaker and preacher, and is a guest lecturer at universities.

“Education is power and something no one can ever take from you,” Umubyeyi says. “It’s better to give someone an education than money. Then they can create their own opportunities.

“My areas of study at Ripon College were very beneficial. Studying other religions opened my eyes and made me more respectful and considerate of other faith traditions. I felt that the staff at Ripon truly cared about me. When I returned to visit few years after, the staff remembered my name. It really meant a lot.”


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