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 Emmanuel Nsengiyumva headshot with green template filler
  • 2020-08-24
  • Anthony Arnone

SUNY Brockport Welcomes a PRODiG to Campus

A partnership with the SUNY PRODiG Fellowship Initiative helps strengthen faculty diversity.

The SUNY PRODiG (Promoting Recruitment, Opportunity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Growth) Fellowship Initiative is an effort to reduce the pronounced gap between the racial/ethnic diversity of SUNY faculty members compared to the diversity of the students they instruct. The PRODiG initiative launched last academic year with more than 60 faculty members joining college campuses, including three at SUNY Brockport.

Emmanuel Nsengiyumva is the newest addition to campus as a member of the PRODiG fellowship. He will start as a visiting scholar in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry this fall.

At the age of 21, Nsengiyumva moved from Rwanda to the United States in 2010 after living in a Congolese refugee camp since 1997.

Nsengiyumva’s first priority after arriving in Buffalo, NY, was to attend college to strengthen his English. He always had a passion for math and science, but he once thought he wouldn’t have the opportunity to attend higher education to study in those fields.

That all changed after Nsengiyumva’s neighbor asked him to help an older friend move some items around his house. That friend was a retired engineering professor from the University at Buffalo (UB), Alexander Scott Gilmour, who would serve as a mentor figure for Nsengiyumva throughout his college career.

"He (Gilmour) always talked to me about college and what I wanted to do. I initially wanted to study biomedical sciences, but he convinced me to study chemical engineering instead," Nsengiyumva said. "When I was having problems or I was struggling, he was always there to support and explain things to me so I could continue to grow."

Nsengiyumva first attended Erie Community College, where he studied English and focused on expanding his education. He later transferred to UB, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 2016 and a master’s degree in 2018. He is now pursuing a PhD as a member of Distinguished Professor Paschalis Alexandridis’s research group in the Laboratory for Interfaces and Self-Assembly at UB. Nsengiyumva’s research focuses on water-soluble polymers that are involved in the extraction of unconventional oil and gas.

"My research is focused on utilizing high salinity water in order to reduce the use of fresh water in hopes of a long-term benefit to the environment and energy resources," Nsengiyumva said.

Nsengiyumva will spend his first semester at Brockport shadowing his colleagues as he designs his own course focused on polymer science, which he will teach in the Spring 2021 semester. While he intends to share his experience and passion for chemical engineering, Nsengiyumva has another goal for his students in mind.

"One of my main goals at Brockport is to promote diversity on campus," Nsengiyumva said. "As a professor, I want to be a good role model for my students — someone they can look up to and seek out for help whenever they are in need."

Nsengiyumva will spend one year at SUNY Brockport as part of the PRODiG fellowship. From there, he will either continue at Brockport or move on to another comprehensive college to continue his growth as a professor. Regardless of where he is teaching, his goal to remain a role model and inspiration to his students remains a priority.

"I want all my students to know they can succeed if they continue to try. There were times in my life when I was struggling with exams and courses, too," Nsengiyumva said. "I want students to understand that is okay, and as long as you are trying, you are never failing — you are learning."

Last Updated 10/27/20

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