Olive Mukabalisa Named Outstanding Graduate

Olive MukabalisaMaster's Student was Survivor of Rwanda Genocide

ST. LOUIS, May 13, 2013 - In 1994, during the Rwandan genocide, Olive Mukabalisa was a 5-year-old living in a refugee camp in her own country. She lost her father, mother and a brother to the genocide.

On Saturday, 19 year later, Mukabalisa was 8,000 miles away from the horror of her childhood; she is a remarkable Webster University student leader who joined the 1,000-plus graduates that took part in Webster University's 94th Commencement ceremony at The MUNY in Forest Park.

Mukabalisa received a master's degree in international relations. She also was recently named the Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate Student in honor of her outstanding leadership and in recognition of her distinguished contributions to Webster. Additionally, she will be honored later this month by a St. Louis non-profit for her work toward increasing understanding of the Rwandan conflict.

“Olive has been a strong leader on our campus since she was an undergraduate here,” said Bethany Keller, assistant director of Webster's Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs. “She came to Webster from Rwanda and has overcome significant personal obstacles to pursue her higher education. She is a passionate advocate for international students on our campus as well as for her home country of Rwanda. She is a true ambassador for the values of our institution.” 

At Webster, Mukabalisa's contributions include:

  • University Center Board Member
  • Treasurer for international Students Association
  • Graduate Senate Representative on the Student Government Association
  • Student Intern, International Institute of St. Louis, helping new immigrants to adjust to life in the U.S.
  • Student Intern, Jewish Holocaust Museum, doing research on the Rwandan Genocide and reviewing the country's history and present-day situation in recovering from the past
  • Member, Webster University Working Group on Diversity Issues
  • Member, Human Dignity Club

Katie Knetzer, assistant director of Housing and Residential Life at Webster, agrees. “Olive is a modest and quite leader,” she said. “She sets a strong example for other students through her volunteer work, her student employment and her student organization involvement.”

Mukabalisa plans to work in St. Louis for the next year, and then perhaps attend law school.

“Olive has an incredible passion for human rights and social justice, and she invests her time, energy and talents in bringing attention to issues around the worlk and in searching for solutions,” Knetzer said. “I recently spoke to Olive about her plans for the future, and she said that she hoes to someday work at the United Nations. Olive is the epitome of a global citizen.” 

At the end of this month, Mukabalisa will receive an award from HateBrakers, a local non-profit organization dedicated to combating various forms of discrimination, racism and human rights violations.

Webster University's graduate degree-seeking student population represents the largest number of individuals of diverse backgrounds among all traditional, non-profit U.S. higher education institutions, according to a 2011 survey published in “Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.” The “Top 100 Degree Producers” survey for 2011 is the only national report of graduate degrees earned by African American, Hispanic, Asian American and American Indian students by U.S. colleges and universities.