From leading orientation during a pandemic to interning at Google, senior Kevin Nwogu has made the most of his time at UGA. A servant leader, he created his own scholarship for high school students from his Stone Mountain high school. He’s done it all through the help of a “tribe of loving people that have surrounded” him and “been more than anything I could ask for.”
UGA Involvement (current and past):
What are your top UGA highlights?
- I met and took a picture with Mary Frances Early, the first African American to earn a degree from the University of Georgia. It was such a humbling experience to see her humility and grace. She spoke to students and shared her experience attending the university at a time when students of color were not always welcomed. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and I’m forever grateful for the opportunities she helped to pave for me and the thousands of other Black students who have walked through the doors of UGA.
- I had the amazing and life-changing opportunity to serve as a 2020 orientation leader. My team and I got to help welcome first-year students through virtual orientation sessions and transfer students in January 2021 through optional in-person sessions. It wasn’t the summer or the year that any of us could have predicted, but I learned the importance of doing your best every day in whatever way that looks like. Some days will be easier, some days will be harder, but we can only control what we can control. So, if someone asks me “would I have said ‘yes’ to the job knowing what the summer would be like beforehand?” my answer is yes a thousand times over because that summer helped make me who I am, gave me the family I have now, and allowed the Lord to use me exactly as He had planned when I said “yes” to Orientation.
- Attending LSAMP Summer Bridge the summer before my freshman year in 2018. The intensive three-week program provides minority students interested in STEM with the opportunity to attend mock STEM classes and learn about UGA. I got to spend the summer in Myers Hall with about 15 other incoming students and we had the time of our lives. When we weren’t going on tours to different campus sites or attending workshops, we had water balloon wars, field days, prank days, game nights, karaoke sessions, birthday celebrations, dance competitions, rap battles, and so much more. Those three weeks are filled with memories I will remember forever and gave me a group of friends to go into freshman year that I’m still close to today going into my final year of college.
What is your favorite class you’ve taken at UGA?
My favorite class I’ve taken by far has been “Working with College Students” taught by the amazing Katie Burr my sophomore year. I had just recently added my minor in student affairs and was excited to dive into all the lessons and pedagogy. The class was a small group of about 11 students held in Memorial Hall. Rather than desks, we sat at a long table. We discussed identity development of students, the obstacles that “nontraditional” (i.e., veterans, transfers, parents) students may face, the impact of social identities on a student’s experience, and so much more. It allowed me to learn more about the experiences of my peers whom I didn’t relate to in every way. Empathy is what it taught us, and I think we can never learn too much of that. My classmates shared their own stories confidently and vulnerably, challenging me to be more open with my own.
How did you choose your major?
I came into UGA initially as a computer science major, but after barely passing my first computer science class and spending hours upon hours coding, I could tell that it wasn’t a field I would enjoy. Changing my major wasn’t something I had planned. How would I even tell my African parents I wanted to change my major to something that wasn’t STEM related? My first mentor in college, Raymond Phillips, whom I connected with through the UGA Mentor Program (my favorite campus resource) graduated from UGA with a degree in computer science and an MBA. He has helped me in so many ways throughout my time in college and I’m forever grateful for him. His experience in the business field, however, gave me insight into a path that I did want to take. Raymond helped me connect with other alumni and students in the Terry College of Business, schedule an appointment with my advisor, and look through career opportunities. My parents supported me in the decision, but ultimately, I was happy that I made the decision that I felt would be best for me.
How did you decide to come to UGA?
Surprisingly, UGA was originally not my first choice when looking at colleges. My older sister, Laura, was a student here and after going to the same school our entire lives, part of me wanted to go out on my own and no longer be “Laura’s little brother.” After many visits to UGA however, whether it was picking up my sister for Thanksgiving break or attending many of the UGA Admissions events, I fell in love with the beautiful campus scenery, the spirited traditions, the seemingly endless opportunities, and most importantly — the people who made me feel welcome before I even got here. Programs such as GAAME (Georgia African American Male Experience) Weekend and the LSAMP Summer Bridge Program solidified my decision even more, providing me with a solid community of students who looked like me, which was very important as a Black student coming to a predominantly white institution. It was all a part of God’s perfectly aligned mission to bring to me UGA to walk into the purpose He had for me here.
What has surprised you about UGA or defied your expectations?
The people I have met here at UGA have defied my expectations. The tribe of loving people that have surrounded me, from friends, roommates, mentors, faculty and alumni, have been more than anything I could ask for. From throwing me surprise birthday parties, giving me rides around town before I got a car, helping me through major changes, praying for me during tough seasons, going on adventures and trips with me like ziplining or skydiving, to hyping me up anytime UGA put my picture somewhere, my cup has overflowed from love. I always receive the question: “Why did you choose to come to UGA?” and I can answer that, but I think the real question is: “Why did you choose to stay at UGA?” and I can full-heartedly say it is because of my community and support system.
What obstacles have you had to overcome?
My family is from the Igbo tribe of Nigeria. Immigrating to the United States in 1995, my parents worked tirelessly to ensure my sister and I had every opportunity possible. Though adapting to the American customs, my parents did their best to instill in us the traditions and values of our Nigerian culture. We make sure to visit Nigeria every two to three years to spend time with our extended family, as only a few of us live in America. I can’t fluently speak or understand the Igbo language, and deep down, I’ve still always felt a disconnect from my Nigerian heritage.
I also sometimes felt as if I’ve never completely fit into Black culture. I’ve struggled with feelings of not being “Black enough” or “Nigerian enough.” However, during my time at UGA, I’ve begun to embrace the intersections of my race and my culture. I’ve also been able to share my story and find friends who’ve felt similar sentiments of not being “enough.” Ultimately, it helps me with empathy and to be an unconditional listener to those who may also feel like they’re not enough. We’re enough.
This summer, I currently serve as a gTech gCare BOLD intern at Google. The BOLD (Building Opportunities for Leadership and Development) Internship Program is designed to expose historically underrepresented students in technology to career opportunities in the industry. In my position, I learn how to provide support and business solutions for small businesses utilizing Google Ads to help maintain and grow their company. I can connect with other like-minded and talented interns from around the U.S. and I receive mentorship from industry leaders and full-time Googlers on how to make an impact on the world in and outside the company. One big takeaway that I’ve learned from the internship already is the importance of being patient, malleable and open-minded. There are so many things to learn, and I have to be willing to ask questions, put myself out there, and also give myself grace in the learning process.
What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?
My passion lies in paying it forward by helping other students find their way to college. In 2019, after my freshman year of college, I created the Servant Leader Scholarship to help provide financial relief to graduating seniors from my alma mater Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain while also providing them with mentorship, professional/academic/personal development, and opportunities to serve within the community through the scholars program. Since 2019, the program has granted $500 to five students going to schools from FAMU, Georgia Tech, and even UGA. This year I received a grant from the Giving Voice to the Voiceless endowment at UGA to host a summer day retreat for the scholars this summer. The hope is for this retreat to be annual while the students move through their time in college. Charlayne Hunter-Gault (one of the first African American students to attend UGA) and her husband, Ron Gault, established the Giving Voice to the Voiceless endowment to recognize and financially support compelling student projects that amplify marginalized voices, advance social justice, and promote global understanding.
Servant leadership is the leadership I most closely identifies with. This style of leadership prioritizes serving others and focuses on enriching the lives of other individuals. I have also noticed the difficulties many students — including myself — face when finding funds to put towards their college tuition. I believe college plays a pivotal role in the development and growth of young students. While the Servant Leader Scholarship will not cover a student’s entire tuition, I have learned that anything helps when trying to pay for college. My hope for the scholars in the program is that the scholarship will inspire them to continue their journey towards higher education as well as remind them to pour back into the communities that have helped them get to where they are now. I’m excited to see how the program continues to grow.
What are your plans for after graduation?
My plans after graduation would be to transition to a full-time role with Google (God willing), continuing to help more small businesses and other companies. I hope to continue the work with my scholars’ program, building it up and supporting the students and the school, and learn more about ways I can get involved in the nonprofit sector to support even more high school and college students. But these are just my ideas anyway. Who really knows what will happen a year from now? I’m going wherever the man upstairs leads me and trusting Him all the way.
I #CommitTo: imperfectly learning, listening, loving and leading.