USC honors Gates Millennium Scholars for achievements in community service and campus involvement.
Joy Ohiomoba 22, is one of 16 Gates Millennium Scholars graduating from USC in 2017. She has always been passionate about pediatrics and maternal health care. She was given her name, “Joy,” to signify her mother’s successful high-risk pregnancy. Joy’s mother went to a specialist in another Nigerian city every month to ensure the birth of her child. However, many women are not as fortunate. Around the globe, more than 800 women die due to problems with pregnancy or childbirth on a daily basis.
While this number has been cut in half since 1990, Ohiomoba will not stop until the statistic is zero. Ohiomoba encompasses the motivation, initiative, and resources to make this goal a reality. She recently graduated with twin bachelor’s degrees in biology and global health, and a master’s in global medicine.
“I have always had a passion for not just medicine but people, cultures and social justice issues,” said Ohiomoba, who praises USC for cultivating her philanthropic principles and giving her opportunities to develop solutions to real life problems.
Her senior year, Ohiomoba enrolled in Maryam Farzanegan’s “Global Health Field Study” course. She traveled to the United Nations and UNICEF headquarters in New York to address the world populations most at risk and meet their top lobbyists. Farzanegan is an associate professor at Keck School of Medicine of USC associate professor and worked for UNICEF for 20 years before joining the university’s faculty. This course was one of Ohiomoba’s favorite experiences during her four years at USC. To learn more about Farzanegan’s previous career and her courses at USC, read her biography at http://keck.usc.edu/faculty/maryam-z-farzanegan/.
“I love what Professor Farzanegan stands for,” she said. “Even after years of working in war zones, natural disaster regions and seeing some of the worst of humanity, she is still so hopeful for a better world.”
While her ultimate goal is medical school, Ohiomoba wants to explore her interest in policy through by at a non-governmental organization or public health agency in Los Angeles. She intends to conduct independent research in Nigeria in the upcoming years and teach women with low socioeconomic backgrounds how to reduce risks that occur during pregnancy.
To learn more about more courses and the variety of degree programs offered at the USC Keck School of Medicine, refer to their website: http://keck.usc.edu/
Admiration for Africa
While Ohiomoba moved from Nigeria when she was young, Ohiomoba continues to share her love for her home country.
“What I love about Joy,” said Mireya Saldaña, “is she is always sharing her culture.”
Saldaña is the Gates Millennial Scholar campus engagement manager for Southern California and supervises about 1,000 Gates Scholars enrolled in over a dozen institutions in the area. Salanda connects with individual recipients on a daily basis through social media in addition to several campus visits throughout the year. However, she built a personal relationship with Ohiomoba on a weeklong volunteer trip to Houston with 60 other Gates Scholars to build outdoor classrooms and a food pantry.
“During breaks, Joy would play Nigerian and other African music,” Saldaña recalled. “You see her and you just have to smile. She’s so positive.”
Ohiomoba’s family immigrated in 2004 and have a home in Redondo Beach. However, she always finds ways to embrace her Nigerian culture through wearing traditional Nigerian clothing, eating authentic meals, or speaking the native language of Igbo. Ohiomoba founded the Pan African Student Association at USC. PASA’s mission is “to have Africa seen, heard and celebrated on campus.” This past April, Ohiomoba enjoyed watching the organization’s second AfroSCentric cultural showcase fill the Ronald Tutor Campus Center ballroom.
Combing Latino and Greek cultures
Christian Carrión is also a Gates Scholar who graduated in USC’s class of 2017. Like Ohiomoba, he has made the most of his USC experience. Currently, he serves at the president of the Multicultural Greek Council and previously served as president of Lambda Upsilon Lambda fraternity. He also had positions in student government in the Diversity Affairs department and on the executive board of the Latino Student Assembly. During the summers, he has interned in a multitude of cities, ranging from San Francisco to Hong Kong. Additionally, he has participated in service trips to both Honduras and Australia. After receiving his diploma, Carrion will enroll in an extra semester to complete his electives. Next fall, he will study at the University of Manchester in England.
Carrión grew up in South Bronx and as a child of Educadoran immigrants with humble beginnings. His father is a custodian at an apartment complex and his mom is a hair sylist. Both of his parents have little knowledge of English.
While his parents are extremely proud of their son’s accomplishments, Carrión is just as grateful for them. “Yes, and I’m proud of them, too. I think they did a good job raising us,” said Carrión Carrión and his three younger siblings were first-generation college students.
Campus involvement and volunteer work is an important requirement for Gates Scholars.
“From those to whom much is given, much is expected,” Microsoft founder Bill Gates famously said in his 2007 Harvard commencement address, quoting his own mother quoting the gospel of Luke.
Out of approximately 20,000 applicants, 1,000 students are selected as Gates Scholars every year. The scholarship funds all undergraduate expenses, including room and board and can be renewed each year.
Recipients are selected from families with low socioeconomic backgrounds and among four ethnic groups: Asian Pacific Islanders, African-American, American Indian and Latino.
The Gates Millennium Scholarship (GMS) program also covers the cost of up to five years of graduate school in seven fields of study where minorities are underrepresented: math, engineering, science, computer science, public health, library and information science, and education. Ohiomoba is one of the many Gates Scholars at USC who chose to continue their education by enrolling in a master’s program.
Along with her GMS, Ohiomoba is also the recipient of a $10,000 Milken Foundation scholarship among other noteworthy awards. Carrión was the proud recipient of the Posse Foundation Leadership Scholarship in addition to his GMS.
Even with funding from multiple scholarships, both students took on part-time jobs and internships while in college, as well as excelled in leadership positions in student government and service organizations.
“Gates Scholars know how privileged and lucky they are,” Saldaña said. “They’re very conscientious and they always make the effort to pay it forward.”
Remembering their time at USC
Even with funding for room and board, Carrion made the decision to spend his sophomore year living in Flour Tower as a residential adviser.
“I wanted to help out somebody who was homesick their first year,” he said.
Thinking about the past four years, he said, “I like all the choices I made, even the bad ones.”
Carrión became overwhelmed with multiple leadership positions and fell behind in his schoolwork. However, he still supports his decisions. Carrion realized, “but I don’t regret that. I love putting myself in a situation where I’m out of my comfort zone.”
Ohiomoba spent three years working with USC biologist Sergey Nuzhdin, analyzing the impact of drosophila in the expression and evolution of yeast phenotypes. During the summers, she participated in the USC Summer Programs as a residential advisor and mentored ambitious high school students. To learn more about the USC Summer Programs and other opportunites for high school students to get involved with USC, check out their website at http://summerprograms.usc.edu/.
She served the community surrounding USC by teaching Spanish-speaking preschoolers, tutored foster children in quantitative and comprehensive skills, led classes focused on ethics and human rights to students at the local high school and continued her volunteer work in Madrid during her semester abroad by giving English lessons to children with hearing disabilties. She also actively participated in the USC Keck Student Ambassadors, USC Helenes and the Saved by Grace Choir, in addition to many other extracurriculars.
To learn more about the multitude of student organizations and extracurricular opportunities at USC, go to the Campus Activities website: https://campusactivities.usc.edu/organizations/.
While it’s not necessary, many Gates Scholars find part-time jobs and use the extra funds to send financial help to their families back home.
“All these students are leaders,” Saldaña said. “It’s a burden and a gift. They put a lot of weight on their own shoulders.”
GMS and USC
Since it was established in 1999, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program has given out more than $1 billion to 20,000 low-income students. USC has been a partner school since the scholarship program started. Out of the first class of Gates Scholars, Fifty-two recipients joined the Trojan Family. The university continues to be a major supporter of GMS. This past year, USC was the home to 99 Gates Scholar— 72 undergraduates and 27 graduate students. Sixteen recently walked in May. 99.2 percent of GMS Trojan graduate with a bachelor degree.
Across the Nation, USC ranks:
- Second in GMS-funded scholars earning master’s (81) and doctoral (16) degrees
• Fourth in scholars receiving the most funding ($19.6 million since 2000)
• Fifth in most current GMS scholars (99)
• Eighth in bachelor’s degrees earned (179)