Leadership Through Experience: Amirah S. Ndam Njoya ’17 Amirah S. Ndam Njoya ‘17 believes leadership, travelling, service, and scholarship are all vital parts of the W&L experience.
“From my first day on campus until now, I have grown and become a stronger and confident person.”
Q: How did you first hear about the Johnson Scholarship?
I saw it on the Common Application. I was basically applying for all the scholarships I could find, and I stumbled upon the Johnson Scholarship. Actually, I think it is my sister who pointed it out to me.
Q: Why did you ultimately choose W&L?
I chose W&L because of the small classroom settings, the amazing study abroad opportunities, and primarily because of the Johnson Scholarship. Coming from Cameroon in Central Africa, I couldn’t believe that I could receive a full scholarship to college in the United States. I remember those first few days after I received my acceptance letter, I constantly checked my email to see if all of this was really true. I could not believe that I could go to college without having to pay anything. It was only when I got to campus in August 2013 for international student orientation week that I realized that it was real. I can never say how thankful I am for this opportunity as it has really changed my life.
Q: How has Johnson affected your views on leadership and integrity — or on academics?
Being a Johnson pushed me to take leadership positions and step out of my comfort zone, whether it was becoming a leader in different organizations or traveling the world and spending the semester in a different country and living with people I barely know. From my first day on campus until now, I have grown and become a stronger and confident person. I have grown to really love and appreciate the world and every moment of life.
Q: What is your favorite story about your W&L experience, if you had to pick one?
My favorite W&L experience was during my intro to geology class when we went in a cave not far from Lexington. The cave was cold, quiet, and at one point we all had to crawl underwater to get to the other side! It was quite an experience!
Q: What extracurricular are you involved in right now that you are extra passionate about?
During the summer of 2015, Jenna Biegel ’17 and I were awarded a grant through the Center for International Education and Endeavor Grant. We conducted research in rural, agricultural and urban regions of Western Cameroon. My partner and I planned a summer program with children at the village of Mandekene, and tested different sources of drinking water quality in rural Madenkene, agricultural Koutaba, and urban Foumban.
In collaboration with the Foumban municipality, we were also able to contribute to the rehabilitation of the Mandekene school building where our summer camp took place. The work included cementing the floor and plastering the walls. In addition, we donated bookshelves and 40 fruit trees to the school, so that they could plant and sell the fruits for revenue to the school.
During the fall term of 2014, the Student Association of International Leadership (SAIL) nominated my project proposal for the Maternity School of Foumban. SAIL bought an ultrasound machine for a maternity in Foumban, Cameroon. We fundraised $1,000. The ultrasound is now in use at the maternity.
Q: What leadership experiences do you think have shaped your experience at W&L?
I served as president of the African Society from 2014 to 2015. I helped coordinate social events to promote the African culture, most notably African cuisine, on campus. Every fall term we have Taste of Africa, an amazing event where everyone, African or not, cooks an African dish. Everyone is invited to the dinner and the event usually ends with a lot of dancing. In African Society, I also planned and directed “Emerging Economies and Turbulences in Africa Week.” That included documentary viewings, debates, a cultural evening and a 5k run fundraiser for the Wellbody Alliance in Sierra Leone for Ebola orphans. We raised about $800.
As the president of Ladies Club on campus, we coordinate social events including Breast Cancer Awareness week and Fairy Glam Mother Project to donate prom dresses and makeup for underprivileged high school girls in the Rockbridge County.
My work-study is at the Staniar Gallery in Wilson Hall. I help Clover Archer, the gallery director, prepare and display artwork for gallery shows, maintain the gallery’s digital archive, and meet and work with exhibiting artists.
Outside of Campus Activities, when I am in Cameroon, I volunteer at the Foumban Municipality and I am working on a museum in Foumban, curating and archiving the museum’s collections.
Q: How has the Johnson Scholarship added to your college experience?
The Johnson Scholarship allowed me to study abroad in Bath, England, during Summer 2015 for the Advance Study in England program; in Aix-en-Provence, France, at the Marchutz School of Fine Arts fall term 2015; and a Spring Term abroad in Italy, Drawing in Italy—2016.
Most importantly, the summer grant from the Johnson Scholarship helped me fund during my junior summer a six-week program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design Career Discovery program that I got into. During those six weeks, I learned about urban planning and I realized that I really want to do urban planning in the future. Without the summer grant that funded my tuition and my room and board, it would have been very difficult for me to finance the program. I am extremely grateful for the Johnson Scholarship as it allowed me to do many things that I would not have been able to do without it. The scholarship truly allowed me to explore not only parts of the world, but what I would like to continue doing after graduation.
Q: What is your favorite campus tradition or piece of history?
Liberty Ruins. The ruins are beautiful at sunrise. I love jogging behind campus early in the morning right after the first rays of the sun have stretched across the sky. What’s even more beautiful is the deer that calmly cross the road in the early morning light.
Q: If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to “first day on campus” you?
Close your eyes, take four long deep breaths. Everything will be all right.
Q: If someone asked you “why choose W&L,” what is the one reason you would tell them?
Choose W&L and you will get amazing professors who are passionate about their respective fields and about teaching and making you love their subjects. You will also get small classrooms, genuine trust in your community, and the chance to live in a beautiful, quiet and picturesque town.
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A little more about Amirah
Global Politics and Studio Art, with a minor in Creative Writing
– President of Ladies Club (2014-present)
– President of African Society (2014-2015)
When I’m in Cameroon I work at my parent’s coffee shop and coffee plantation. I also help nonprofit originations or the town hall of Foumban, Cameroon.
Why did you choose your major?
I like art and I like politics so I decided to merge the two together for a double major in global politics and studio art! In the future, I would really like to become an urban planner.
What professor has inspired you?
All my professors are inspiring. It’s very hard to choose.
What’s your personal motto?
“Be the change you want to see in the world” — Ghandi
What’s your favorite song right now?
“Wayeina” by Oumou Sangare
Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Southern Inn, Classic Southern Pecan Pie
Graduate School. Masters in Urban Planning
Favorite W&L memory:
Fireworks at the Freshmen Carnival
Drawing in Italy—Spring Term abroad in Italy
Favorite W&L event:
Taste of Africa by African Society
Favorite campus landmark:
Liberty Hall Ruins
What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I am terrified of squirrels.
Why did you choose W&L?
Because it’s a small school in a small town, and it has exceptional professors.