Alumni Spotlight: Chuma Nnawulezi ('15)

Sep 17, 2018

Chuma Nnawulezi's experiences as a black American descended from the Igbo people of Nigeria made him curious about how to resolve conflict in his own and the wider world.

Teased in high school for being African, he sought out a Jesuit college with the kind of program that would meet his desire to understand why. At a Xavier scholarship event with philosophy Professor Paul Colella, he learned about the PPP program and knew right away it was for him.

"He put on the first slide and said, 'PPP is for students who are engaged in society and want to know how foundations were created and how to affect it,'" Nnawulezi says. "I said, 'That's me'...This program is the best thing about this University because it's so relevant to how we shape our society. There's nothing else like it in the U.S."

While still a junior, Nnawulezi became anxious to learn more about the part of the world known as the Global South-Africa, Asia and Latin America. With help from Xavier's study abroad program, he found a semester-long program in three major cities-Ahmedabad in India, Dakar in Senegal, and Buenos Aires in Argentina.

The only problem was, he had to pay for it himself. But with guidance from PPP co-founder Gene Beaupre, Nnawulezi put together a letter-writing campaign seeking financial support from educational organizations, the Jesuit priest of his church back home in Omaha, and finally from the Kroger Co., whose donation put him over the top of his $25,000 goal.

The trip during spring semester of his junior year was a success. He completed four courses and learned how different-and how similar-people can be in different cultures. His favorite location was Senegal-not too metro but not too backwards, either, a good mix of bucket showers and gelato.

"I'm interested in the clashing of cultures in cities and how we can do better," he says. "I feel obligated toward black Americans to use my talents to improve their situation. I also feel some obligation toward Africa and the Global South. I needed to have experience to see if these ideas translate internationally."

His experience overseas just added to the mix of experiences gleaned from PPP. As a sophomore, he worked supporting the campaigns of Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and President Obama in 2012, and he was a research assistant for Professor John Fairfield, analyzing the history of the historically black Cincinnati neighborhood of Avondale.

In April of his senior year, Nnawulezi learned he was selected to receive a Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellowship, which supports a master's degree and work experience in international affairs.

Nnawulezi is now a second-year graduate student in Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service, concentrating on Global Politics and Security. After graduating from Xavier in 2015, he worked in the Office of Representative Karen Bass supporting her work on the House Subcommittee on Africa. Last summer, he interned at the U.S. Mission to UNESCO (United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Operations) in Paris.

"The most helpful skill that PPP provided me was the ability to absorb large amounts of information, on a subject area that might not be my specialty, and make significant contributions to the discussion," he says. "I also appreciate the lasting relationships that PPP has enabled me to create. I still keep in touch with many of my classmates and the professors of the program."

Nnawulezi graduated in May of 2017 with a Master of Science in the Foreign Service with plans to enter the U.S. State Department as a Foreign Service Officer.