Ngaruiya family supports undergraduate student research at UNL

The Ngaruiya family, including UNL alumnae and sisters Christine Ngaruiya, M.D., (left) and Katherine Ngaruiya, Ph.D., (right) together with their parents, Peter and Phyllis Ngaruiya, (center) established a fund to provide annual research awards to undergraduate students at UNL. Awards will be made to students with an international background whose research relates to STEM.
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By Jessica Moore

The new Ngaruiya Family Fund for Undergraduate Research at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is founded on five virtues: blended international experiences, cultural adaptation, courage, leaps of faith in pursuit of dreams and the importance of connections – specifically mentorship.

The Ngaruiya family, including UNL alumnae and sisters Christine Ngaruiya, M.D., and Katherine Ngaruiya, Ph.D., established the fund at the University of Nebraska Foundation to provide one or more annual research awards to undergraduate students at the university. They initiated the fund with a gift of $2,500 with plans for future contributions.

The fund supports students who are conducting research in the areas of STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — who have an international background and understand the value of mentorships.

Drs. Christine and Katherine Ngaruiya were born in Omaha, Nebraska, where their Kenyan parents, Phyllis and Peter Ngaruiya, found a sense of community and career success. The family eventually returned to Kenya, and after Christine and Katherine graduated from high school they returned to Nebraska to attend UNL, graduating in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

Recipients of the Ngaruiya award will be selected by the International Student and Scholar Office which was also a resource for the Ngaruiya sisters while at UNL.

According to Karen Cagley, director of the International Student and Scholar Office, international students typically have limited options for financial support as they do not qualify for federal financial aid such as Pell Grants or federal loans, and there are a limited number of scholarships available. She explained that most undergraduate international students are primarily supported by their families, so receiving a privately funded award such as that from the Ngaruiya Family Fund will give more international students support to do the research they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

“This gift from Christine and Katherine will provide a great opportunity for international students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to pursue their research in STEM and gain connections with successful alumni of the university,” Cagley said. “We really appreciate this gift, and we’re proud of Christine’s and Katherine’s accomplishments.”

Through the fund, the Ngaruiya family hopes to also support mentor relationships between students and faculty. One of the requirements for the scholarship is that recipients have a faculty member who is guiding them through their planned research.

Christine Ngaruiya describes the mentorship that she and her sister received at UNL as invaluable.

“My mentors became like a second set of aunties and uncles and gave so much of themselves just to see me succeed,” Christine Ngaruiya said. “My sister also had incredible experiences with truly dedicated individuals. We wanted to build on that and give back in some form or fashion, to contribute to other mentees like myself and my sister who could potentially be guided by similarly devoted mentors.”

Julia Mcquillan, Willa Cather Professor and chair of the Department of Sociology, mentored Christine Ngaruiya during her undergraduate years, assisting her with her research project. She said that this new fund will allow advancement in university research and provide students with proper recognition and support for their work.

“I love that Christine, Katherine and their family are giving back and thinking about the next generation,” Mcquillan said. “They structured something that is thoughtful to support student success and faculty success by bringing together faculty with international students.”

Christine Ngaruiya described the research award as the perfect way to honor their own mentors as well as their parents who sacrificed a lot to help their daughters achieve success. She credits those she met at the University of Nebraska for helping her become the person she is today.

“I would not be the physician I am today. I would not be the researcher I am today. I certainly wouldn’t be the mentor that I am today that they so aptly modeled,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the growth that comes from the future recipients of this award. I’m excited to see where they will go, who they will affect and what they’ll do.”

Christine Ngaruiya is an assistant professor at Yale University in the Section of Global Health and International Emergency Medicine in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She was a pre-medical student at UNL, studying sociology and psychology. She received a Doctor of Medicine degree at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Katherine Ngaruiya is the owner of Kakati Consulting Group which specializes in career development, fundraising and evaluation services for nonprofits and educational institutions. She studied women’s studies and sociology for her undergraduate degree and received a master’s degree in counseling from UNL. She completed a doctorate degree in public administration from North Carolina State University.

To contribute to the Ngaruiya Family Fund for Undergraduate Research and help to advance diversity in STEM, give online at nufoundation.org/fund/01151880. All contributions are tax deductible to the full extent of the law. For more information about giving, contact Steve Allen, director of development, at steve.allen@nufoundation.org or 402-458-1140.

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