Kenyan student embodies promise of global education

Morrine Omolo of Kikuyu, Kenya is this year's Pinnacle Winner for the Metropolitan Campus.

By Kenna Caprio

When Morrine Omolo, 24, talks on the phone with her sister, she tries to express both Kenyan and American perspectives.

"My friend once told me it's very bad to have one side of the story because, then you only have one side of the story," says the Kikuyu, Kenya native wisely.

Omolo, a graduating senior and biochemistry major, has been selected as this year's Student Pinnacle Award recipient for Fairleigh Dickinson University's Metropolitan Campus. While on campus, Omolo recognized how to successfully blend her Kenyan roots with American culture.

"A lot of people in Africa think America is heaven. They don't know that coming to America doesn't make you rich. They see Manhattan, Las Vegas, California but not the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, North and South Dakota," she says. "They don't know that there are people here who go without food."

She continues, "whether you're in Kenya or America, it's the hard work that counts." And work hard she does. First at securing a scholarship from Zawadi Africa, a non-governmental office that sponsors African women to study in the United States, and then every moment since arriving on FDU's campus. Since starting at the University, Omolo has worked in the Undergraduate Admissions Office and for University College's Dean Patti Mills, volunteered at a nearby hospital in the oncology wing, interned with Metropolitan Neurosurgeons at Englewood and the Office of Global Learning, mentored a sophomore student and joined the pre-health professionals club on campus.

"Fairleigh Dickinson University has been a good home it will be really strange when I graduate," she says. Omolo lived on campus all four years of her undergraduate education, never leaving for holidays or the summer, instead staying straight through. Her post-graduation plans are to work for a year to make enough money to go home and see her family. Then she wants to go to graduate school.

"The opportunities are there, but as you grow older you realize, when you say 'yes' to something, you say 'no' to something else and it's kind of scary but exciting," she says speaking about the future.

She's unsure of whether or not she will use her biochemistry degree to work in a lab. "The more time I spend in the lab, the more I think it doesn't suit my personality," says Omolo. "The lab confines me; I like to be out there."

And out there she is, serving as a senator in the Student Government Association, having taken on the difficult job of working as a liaison between students and outside companies on campus. She is, effectively, the middlewoman in her role as Auxiliary Services Committee of University Services senator.

One of the biggest issues she tackled as part of the SGA relates to concerns students had with Gourmet Dining, which provides food service on both of Fairleigh Dickinson University's campuses.

Students on the Metropolitan Campus had a hard time with dinner ending at 8:30 p.m., says Omolo, since some took classes ending at 10 p.m.

Eventually, after discussions between Gourmet Dining and other campus facilitators, including Omolo and Assistant Vice-President for Administration Bob Valenti, changes were implemented. The new director at Gourmet Dining shifted dining hall workers around, cafeteria walls were painted and a rice cooker and new wok stations purchased.

Omolo ran for a second term as an SGA senator she says, because she started something and "wanted to see it through."

"I try imaging what the other person would say or want to hear," says Omolo of acting as a facilitator. In one instance, some students complained about cold coffee. Omolo asked when they arrived for breakfast. The answer was around 10 a.m. She told students that the coffee had been hot for those eating at 7 a.m. and reminded them that they could use the microwave to reheat the coffee. She also noted that some people like iced coffee.

Sometimes situations like these give Omolo pause, reminding her of some of the differences between Kenya and America.

"There were days when we had fuel and no food or food and no fuel," she says of her life in Kenya. Though the dining hall situation does not compare to some of her personal experiences, Omolo still realizes the importance of these kinds of changes for the campus community.

"I made a promise to myself that I would remain and be Morrine whenever I wasn't out being a spokesperson," for the students, she says. Not only has Omolo remained herself, but, rather impressively has become even more globally aware and educated during her years at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

The Pinnacle Award is the highest honor the University bestows on a graduating student. One student from each campus who has demonstrated academic excellence, public service and commitment to the University is honored. Winners will address their fellow graduates and the assembled audience at Commencement.

This year's graduation ceremony, at which approximately 2,600 degrees will be given out, takes places on Tuesday, May 15 at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J. and features Newark Mayor Cory Booker as the commencement speaker.

Feature Story from the FDU Newsroom

FDU Office of Public Relations

   (Metropolitan Campus Office)
Dickinson Hall, Room 3365, H-DH3-1, Teaneck, NJ 07666

Dina Schipper,
Director of Public Relations
Fax: 201-692-7019

Kenna Caprio,
Communications Writer
Fax: 201-692-7019

Helen Grill,
Senior General Clerk
Fax: 201-692-7019

FDU Office of Public Relations

   (College at Florham Office)
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Scott Giglio,
Assistant Director of Public Relations
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Daniel Landau,
Public Relations Assistant
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