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International Student Brings Unique Perspective to Johnson C. Smith University as a Survivor of Genocide in Rwanda

Charlotte, N.C. (January 24, 2013) -- During the past year, an outdoor space on the Johnson C. Smith University campus has taken on a new look that draws attention to our increasing emphasis on global education. The exterior wall of the student union displays the words “The World is Your Home” as a testament of the growing diversity at JCSU. Two banners outside the bookstore display information about the United Kingdom and Rwanda as students mingle nearby at outdoor seating areas. Welcome to JCSU International Way.

With 29 countries represented on campus, JCSU students come from a variety of religious, social-economic, ethnic and geographic backgrounds. It’s a place for students like Umuhir Ntabana to build a new life. After losing both parents and three sisters as a young child during Rwanda’s most gruesome civil wars known as the 1994 genocide, she was left in the care of her godmother. When she became a teenager, with help from the Genocide Survivors Support Network, she received a scholarship to travel to the United States to study in Boston. This past year she transferred to JCSU on another scholarship.

The world has in fact become Ntabana’s home. With siblings in Africa, Europe and India, friends in Boston and a host family in Charlotte, she has expanded her horizons with new life experiences and her new family of friends at Johnson C. Smith University. “You cannot allow what has happened in the past to hold you back because it has already happened,” Ntabana explained of her childhood.

As an international student living in Mosaic Village student apartments, Ntabana enjoys spending time with her friends from JCSU and with a host family in Charlotte. She also receives support from the Foster Village Network’s Guardian Scholars program at Johnson C. Smith University.

The sophomore biology major looks forward to earning a graduate degree in public health, so she can follow in the footsteps of her parents who worked in the medical field. Her father was a dentist and her mother a nurse. “From experience I think I can help,” she smiles.

When she looks up at her country’s flag on the poster at International Way, Ntabana feels proud of her homeland as she thinks back to her roots. Her smile lights up when she thinks about her future and her homeland. “I was surprised to see the Rwandan flag up there, but it makes me feel happy,” she says.

About JCSU

Founded in 1867, Johnson C. Smith University is an independent, close-knit urban university located in Charlotte, N.C. It has a growing national reputation for integrating the liberal arts with business, the sciences and technology in ways that empower tomorrow’s diverse entrepreneurial citizens and leaders. Offering 23 fields of study to more than 1,600 students from a variety of ethnic, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds, the university’s excellent academic programs focus on servant leadership, civic engagement and global responsibility. For more information about JCSU, visit or follow the university on social media sites Facebook , Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.   

Jennifer Gaskins
Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing








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