Ruddy Abam is representing UAA’s Class of 2015 as this Fall’s Commencement speaker. Abam’s years of hard work have finally paid off as she will graduate with a major in Justice and minors in both psychology and political science. Abam is a unique and strong individual dedicated to education, social justice and her community, making her a valuable voice for her class. Throughout her life, Abam has experienced dynamic changes and obstacles forcing her to become responsible and self-motivated early on, beginning with her move to the U.S. from Cameroon where she was born and raised.
“I was about 14 or 15… It was a win and a loss,” said Abam. “I got a better educational experience but I was far away from home and family. I experienced a lot of conflicts… I wasn’t a citizen for a majority of the time, so I had to deal with that.”
Abam initially went out of state for college, but came back looking for an institution that felt like a community and a home – something she didn’t find in the Lower 48.
“I just got really interested in a lot of things going on at UAA. When you get that sort of connection with an institution it’s easier for you to feel like you belong. I worked on campus, I worked in clubs and various organizations and I realized that UAA was a good fit for me, and I say that knowing what other schools are like.” Abam said. “I feel like every student needs to find someone like a mentor that they see something in to inspire them. When I was in Louisiana I didn’t have that. One thing I noticed was that people didn’t take me seriously because I was black.”
Abam said that she felt like sometimes professors ignored her or discredited her efforts, but this only fueled her desire to achieve.
“There’s students always trying to be involved with their teachers, always coming to them with questions and trying to learn, I was that student,” said Abam. “I thought, ‘I’m going to try really hard to make people realize that I’m not a cookie cutter student.'”
Abam worked three jobs since the age of 15 to support herself and her education, as well as supporting her father through health problems. She accomplished this all while being extremely active in UAA’s community.
“People say that [they’ve had to work multiple jobs at a time] but people really don’t know what that means. I used to work in the morning, in the afternoon and in the night. And in between that, I used to fit my classes in there and take five classes a semester.”
While dealing with these challenges, Abam continued to strive to succeed above and beyond her peers. Abam held many leadership positions throughout her career at UAA. She served on the Board for Cultural Awareness, on UAA’s student-interactive judicial board, helped coordinate Campus Kick-Off, did recruitment work, orientation work, helped students get acclimated and was on the Honors Panel with the Honors College advocating for the college. Abam said that she was chosen as commencement speaker because of her passion and her commitment to success.
“One of the things that inspired me to apply for Commencement speaker were the people that I have met who are struggling. I took a class my sophomore year and there was a student who brought her kid to school and the kid would sit outside, and she would check on him and everything, and sometimes ask if the professor if he could sit in class with her. That’s remarkable. That’s amazing that she would bring her child to school because she’s that dedicated to higher education. It’s people like that, that drive me intellectually, culturally and socially. They are phenomenal people.”
Abam strives to recognize and appreciate the people who, like herself, were forced to overcome institutional and situational challenges in order to succeed. “I’m humble enough to realize that it’s not about me, it’s about everyone,” Abam said.
“My message would be to thank yourself for your ability to stick through it. Life doesn’t give you everything, you have to continue to work for it. You know what’s it like to struggle, and you are excellent. Continue to use that excellence and make your success happen. You are resilient, and your resiliency will continue to aid you in your pursuits in life. Appreciate your support system and yourself, because that’s how you achieve you dreams.”
UAA has helped promising individuals grow into passionate and driven citizens of the world, Abam being a prime example. Abam said that the message she hopes to promote at commencement is one of gratefulness, reflection and inspiration.