Senga Rutebuka, a senior international relations major, has always wanted to work for the United Nations. Rutebuka got two steps closer this year by representing Union College at the United Nations Association USA Leadership Summit in June and then founding a chapter of the United Nations Association Club at Union in August.
Rutebuka was born and raised in Berrien Springs, Michigan. But when his father was named the president of Ethiopia Adventist College, Rutebuka transferred to Maxwell Adventist Academy in Kenya. There he made friends whose parents held high ranking positions in their countries’ governments, sparking his interest in international relations.
“I saw all the work they do and the positive impact they had on their country,” said Rutebuka. “That is when I decided to major in international relations to help build up developing nations.”
He chose Union College as the place to pursue this dream. “I came to Union mainly because Union’s recruiting team exposed us to all the great things about Lincoln and I really wanted to live in the capital and an actual city.”
He also believed Union’s program would put him in a great position to realize his calling.
The chance of a lifetime
When Union’s international relations program was contacted by the United Nations Association U.S. chapter in Washington about sending a representative to their 2017 leadership summit, program director Christopher Banks knew exactly who to send.
Rutebuka attended the UNA-USA 2017 Leadership Summit last June. “This was a huge three-day networking event for chapter leaders from schools representing 40 states,” recounted Rutebuka. “The first two days were presentations from high-ranking U.N. officials, policy workshops, skill building, and learning sessions on topics ranging from human rights and peacekeeping to the role of the U.N. in addressing global pandemics. On the final day of the summit, attendees visited Capitol Hill to meet face-to-face with members of Congress and their staff and petition for full U.S. funding and support for the U.N.”
In addition to the information sessions and education, Rutebuka also had the chance to be star struck. “I got to personally meet so many influential people including His Excellency Peter Thomson, the President of the U.N. General Assembly; Andrew Gilmore, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights; and Samantha Ware, a Lincoln native who acted in Hamilton and Glee.”
The trip gave Rutebuka a glimpse into his future and the value of his studies at Union. “I learned about the importance of my international relations degree,” he said. “This major blends the business, economic and political fields all into one. No other major could prepare you to take on foreign policy better. When I was at the summit, I networked with several business professionals who were willing to give me a job directly upon graduation.”
When he returned to Lincoln, Rutebuka founded the Union College chapter of the United Nations Association. The nonprofit organization works closely with the United Nations to promote U.N. goals and enhance the relationship between the member states.
The new Union College chapter has 40 members and is a part of the larger Nebraska chapter, headquartered in Lincoln. “It’s a very vibrant chapter,” said Banks, who sits on the Nebraska board. “The members do a lot of good work.” The Nebraska chapter is currently working to send clothing and school supplies to the three million refugees in Lebanon through Middle Eastern University. This is part of a larger initiative for the U.N. to assist refugees.
Rutebuka, who graduates in May, believes his experience at Union and with the United Nations Association are vital stepping stones in living out his God-given calling. “My next step is to get a law degree from Georgetown University and work towards my dream job: United States Ambassador to the United Nations.”
By Yvonne Kanyi, student writer