By Nash Wills, Staff Writer
With the current merger situation in full swing, change, it seems, has become both a rapid and integral part of daily life here at Thunderbird. In fact, if one doesn’t take the time to remember what brought them here in the first place, they may be doomed to miss out on all of the beautiful opportunities that exist on campus. This realization struck me during my recent conversation with Cedric Yumba, who reminded me that “you know, at Thunderbird, we see things differently.” Not only do we see things differently, but, as Cedric pointedly reminded me, “it’s such a privilege to be connected to the Thunderbird network.” A privilege indeed. Always remember, it’s not the place, it’s the people, and it’s important to take the time to listen to all of the amazing stories that our students here on campus have to tell.
If you have ever had the pleasure of speaking with Cedric around campus you wouldn’t soon forget him. In the short time that I have known him I can already feel his positive energy and can-do attitude. He is the type of person with whom I always feel better about things after speaking with him.
Cedric is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and is the eldest of nine siblings. His father works for the government as an engineer for the public transportation system and thus he grew up on the go, constantly moving from place to place (a seemingly consistent T-bird characteristic). At the age of 11 Cedric moved off on his own to the city of Lekasi where he attended secondary school and his first year of university. Having had the taste for exploration and adventure ingrained into him at an early age, he had always dreamed of going to an English-speaking university outside of the DRC. His dream would come true a year later when, through pure industriousness, he was accepted into a yearlong initiation program for business school at a university in Johannesburg.
School in South Africa would be tough though—especially for someone who couldn’t speak a word of English and who had never left his home country. Through determination and sheer bravery Cedric was able to pick up on the language over time, eventually passing the foundation program and earning a spot in the business school where he would graduate three years later in 2012. Not only did he graduate from university, but he also finished school as the top ranked SAP student and was involved in numerous NGOs throughout the country. Whenever I asked him the secret to his success, whether it be hard work or natural intelligence, he told me that “there is no one smarter than the other, only those who work harder.” After graduation, Cedric went on to start his own side business, a consulting firm, and stayed on at the university as a teaching assistant. It was while in university though that his eventual journey to Thunderbird began.
From Africa to Glendale
Being an extremely affable person, and eventually following in his own footsteps here at Thunderbird, Cedric worked as a campus ambassador while at university in Johannesburg. During 2011 and 2012 Thunderbird ran a winterim program in South Africa with one of the stops along the study being Cedric’s university. Being that he was a campus ambassador, and possibly with fate playing a role, it was Thunderbird students who first came to him. While giving a tour of his school, Cedric was able to meet a group of Thunderbirds along with Dr. Babarinde—a current professor—and was amazed from first impressions at the global presence emanated by the group. Over the next year, Cedric continued to maintain contact with a couple of the students and in 2013 Net Impact ran a mentoring program that would eventually lead into the South Africa winterim. By happenstance, or luck as Cedric would call it, his mentor turned out to be an amazing, now-alumni named Esther. Esther took Cedric’s situation and goals personally and believed that he would make a good Thunderbird. She encouraged him to apply in 2013 but he was unable to get into school the first time around due to the foreign nature of the GMAT exam in Africa. All hope was not lost though.
At the end of May of the following year, Esther contacted Cedric again and informed him that because of the recent merger with Arizona State University, the GMAT was no longer required and that he should consider reapplying. Although the application deadline was already a month past, he wrote the admissions office, telling them his story. They listened, gave him a chance, he applied and was accepted in late June. Acceptance into school was just the beginning of his journey.
The Alumni Network
The Thunderbird global alumni network was integral in getting Cedric to campus for two reasons: scholarships and a United States VISA, both of which are stories within themselves.
Cedric is currently one of seven recipients of the SHARE scholarship, the most prestigious of Thunderbird scholarships. For those who do not know, this is extremely rare because for every year prior to 2015, only six people have been given the SHARE scholarship. It all began in early August when Sherstin Rice began lobbying the admissions board, asking if they would consider giving a seventh scholarship to Cedric. With only three days left until the recipients were to be presented to the board, Cedric was informed on a Thursday that he would be interviewing for the scholarship on Friday, with the board to be informed on Saturday. Having to get his life in order before moving to the United States, Cedric found himself inside a Johannesburg hospital, having blood tests done when the time for his interview came around. Whether it was destiny or just bad luck, the WiFi happened to be malfunctioning inside the hospital that day. Thinking quickly, and knowing that “it was the last chance I had,” Cedric ran outside into the parking lot with his ipad and proceeded to conduct the hour and a half interview. He later told me that he believed that the spontaneity of the situation allowed for him to zone in and focus on “one of the most important interviews of my life.” The next day it was decided that seven scholarships, rather than six would be given in 2015.
Foundations this year started on August 12. Cedric was originally told that the earliest possible appointment that he could get for a visa was September 1—this was before the Thunderbird alumni network got involved. With Esther working hard for him, she was able to tap into the network, contacting an alumnus who works in the U.S. foreign services department, who then contacted another T-bird who works in the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, who then contacted another T-bird who works in the public relations department at the Embassy in the DRC. This person was able to move Cedric’s interview to August 18. Lacking the necessary funds to get a quick plane ride to Kinshasa, the alumni network started a crowd-funding program that raised $3,000 in about a week. Cedric used that money to fly to Kinshasa where he had his visa meeting and was soon approved for travel. Having to leave town quickly though in order to get to school in enough time in order to meet eligibility requirements (his visa meeting was at 3:00 p.m. and his plane left at 8:00 p.m. that same day), Cedric had to go straight to the airport from the embassy, with Esther buying his plane ticket for him with the crowd-funding money all while he was in the taxi. Finally, after a long journey that began four years ago, Cedric made it to Glendale on the 25th of August and can now be found working just as hard as ever on the Thunderbird campus.
Images courtesy of Cedric’s Facebook Page and premiumtimesng.com