“Live life in the moment and make the best of what you have. Whatever situation you’re in today, can only get better tomorrow.”

Marie GakubaIf you met Marie on an average day, you would get to know a warm, caring person with a beautiful smile, but there is even more you would learn. Marie strives to make a difference in the world by educating those around her and advocating for children. Marie is a dual major in political science and international affairs, and when asked what motivates her, Marie explains, “It makes me happy to know that I’ve helped someone. Knowing that I’ve made a difference just makes my day.” Marie came to the United States from Rwanda during her senior year of high school to join her adoptive family, who were also from Rwanda. Marie lost the majority of her biological family during the genocide and was adopted by her current family shortly after. Unfortunately, her new parents couldn’t take Marie with them to the United States until she was formally adopted. This meant she was separated from them for many years. Once Marie came here, she had to adapt to a new language and culture, in addition to starting the college application process.

Marie chose UNH because she liked the setting and wanted to remain close to her family in Nashua, New Hampshire. During orientation, Marie signed up for the Connect Program at UNH, which is a week of activities for underrepresented groups of first year students. Marie’s involvement with Connect served as the starting block to her involvement at UNH. She made a strong connection with the former Connect Coordinator, Thelma Sanga, who Marie describes as someone whose laughter you could hear as soon as you stepped into Hood House. Because of this relationship, Marie then went on to become a Connect Mentor, an upper-class student serving as a counselor to new Connect participants. In addition to Connect, Marie is a Peer Advisor at Hood House, where she helps students choose classes and lends a supportive ear to undeclared students. Marie also keeps herself busy by dancing, and any type of dancing will do! Marie has participated in Sisters in Step, a traveling traditional Rwandan dance troupe, and an Indian dance group.

Along with dancing, Marie travels to schools and communities, speaking about her personal experience in Rwanda and promoting awareness about the many conflicts in Darfur. When asked what she would like to do after graduation, Marie would love to work for a non-profit organization helping children across the world. UNICEF is one of her top picks. Currently, Marie is also applying to Brandeis for a graduate degree in their Sustainable International Development program. The program seems like a great fit for her, and in her words, Marie says, “I couldn’t have designed a more perfect degree for myself.” Visiting Brandeis, she felt surrounded by energized, active people like herself who want to make great change in the world.

When asked what advice she would offer to first year students, Marie encourages everyone to try something new, even if it scares you. If there is an activity on campus you’d really like to go to, grab a friend or two, and “bring your comfort zone with you!” UNH truly has it all; you just might have to look for what you want. If you approach everything with a positive attitude, the benefits will pay off, especially with professors. They can tell if you are just trying to get by, so take a minute or two to talk to them after class and get to know them.

Meeting Marie, you will quickly see why so many people on campus think so highly of her. Larry Brickner-Wood is one of those people. Larry runs the Campus Ministry at the Waysmeet Center where Marie lives, and says she is one of the most amazing people he has ever met. Larry describes Marie as someone who is extremely humble, yet has overcome obstacles many of us could never begin to comprehend. Her story before and during her time at UNH is an inspiration to everyone.

Marie’s dedication and positive attitude is infects everyone she meets here at UNH and in the community. By constantly pushing herself to try new things and bringing a positive attitude to everything she attempts, Marie has excelled in creating a unique and meaningful story for herself. A lot of people say that they want to make a change, but in Marie’s case, her drive and compassion are already paying dividends.  There’s no predicting what she’ll accomplish once she graduates – meaningful and lasting change will no doubt be a part of it.

2013-2014 Honorees
2013 - 2014 CYOS Honorees: seated Zak Ahmad-Kahloon, Emily Dickman, Nyomi Guzman, Annie Crossman, standing Lauren McCandless, Kathryn Sattora, Timothy Marquis, Sid Nigam, Evan Beals, Peter Wilkinson
“Students are the focus of everything we do.”

Dept of Residential Life
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Durham, NH 03824
last updated 04/28/2014
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Department of Residential Life
University of New Hampshire
Phone (603) 862-2268