Fabrice Kitungano

Fabrice Kitungano

Fabrice Kitungano is an electrical engineering major from Rockford, IL

Hometown: Rockford, IL

Year: Expected graduation: 2025

What scholarships did you receive and why did you receive them? How has the financial support impacted your experience at NIU?
I received several scholarships during my time at NIU, notably the Rockford Promise Scholarship, which is awarded to students who have completed four years of high school at Rockford Public Schools, and the merit scholarship, which recognized my excellence in academics. These scholarships have been invaluable, allowing me to dedicate myself more to my studies and community engagement. I have been able to channel my energy into academic pursuits and service initiatives, enriching my overall experience at NIU.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you pursuing that as a major, or have you taken another path?
Growing up, my aspirations were shaped by the environment around me. Raised in circumstances where access to basic amenities like electricity was a luxury, I encountered firsthand the challenges of such deprivation. However, it was within these limitations that I discovered a profound sense of innovation. In finding solutions to these everyday hurdles, I earned the moniker "l'ingénieur," which is French for "the engineer." The title was bestowed upon me by my parents and relatives who marveled at my resourcefulness and problem-solving abilities. From that pivotal moment, my ambition crystallized: I wanted to be an inventor, a driving force of positive change through technological innovation. The prospect of contributing to society's advancement through the creation of groundbreaking technologies became my ultimate goal. Fast forward to the present, and I find myself pursuing a major in electrical engineering. This academic path aligns seamlessly with my childhood dream, offering me the opportunity to delve deep into the realms of technology and engineering.

What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study?
My major is electrical engineering, and my minor is political science. I decided to pursue electrical engineering because I envision myself playing a pivotal role in the development and implementation of electrical technologies, devices and systems. Specifically, I am drawn to areas such as control systems, artificial intelligence and sustainable power systems, with a keen interest in wearable technologies that have the potential to positively impact and advance the quality of life for humanity, while promoting sustainability. My choice to minor in political science stems from a deep-seated passion for societal service and advocacy. I believe that understanding how political institutions function, how power is distributed and exercised, and how societies make collective decisions is crucial for effecting positive change on a broader scale. By combining my technical expertise in electrical engineering with a nuanced understanding of political dynamics and policy processes, I aim to leverage my skills toward addressing complex societal challenges and contributing to the creation of a more equitable and sustainable world. My electrical engineering major and political science minor represent a synergistic combination that will equip me with both the technical prowess and the socio-political awareness necessary to make meaningful contributions toward building a better future for all.

What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
Something I found pleasantly surprising about my experience at NIU is the university's diverse blend of community vibes, empowerment initiatives and STEM activities. These elements have contributed to a nurturing and inclusive learning environment that has fueled my passion for engineering and leadership. As a result, I've been able to discover more of my full potential.

How have you connected with other students to study for classes, meet new people or form new friendships?
I have connected with other students to study for classes and form new friendships by actively engaging in leadership roles within on-campus organizations. Additionally, I foster connections through attending volunteering events, participating in professional development workshops, and being hosted as a student panelist or speaker at various career acceleration and advocacy events in and beyond the community.

Are you involved in any student organizations, mentoring programs or extra-curricular activities? If so, which ones? How have they added to your experience as a Huskie?
I am actively engaged in several student organizations, mentoring programs and extracurricular activities, with one notable involvement being the National Society of Black Engineers. Additionally, I've taken on a leadership role as the founder of a nonprofit, youth-led program aimed at empowering African youths and fostering the next generation of African leaders. Outside of my academic pursuits, I leverage my platform as a YouTuber to inspire individuals of all ages to strive for academic excellence, unlock their inner potential and achieve their goals through my educational and motivational video content. These experiences have provided me with opportunities to proudly represent NIU and showcase my Huskie pride. Whether hosting professional, academic or personal development workshops with students from various universities, I've discovered the extent of my capabilities while positively inspiring and serving both the Huskie community and beyond.

What NIU offices, departments or resources have helped you feel safe, supported and successful? And how?
During my time at NIU, I've found several offices, departments and resources invaluable in fostering my sense of safety, support and success. Among the top three are the MAC (Mathematics Assistance Center), the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (CEET) Learning Center, the Braven (UNIV 301) course and the University Honors Program. The MAC and CEET Learning Center have been instrumental in my academic journey, providing tutoring services where I can tackle challenging mathematical problems under the guidance of knowledgeable tutors. These sessions have not only boosted my confidence in learning new concepts, but have also sharpened my problem-solving skills.

Participation in the Braven (UNIV 301) course has been instrumental in my professional and academic development. Through this program, I've gained a deeper understanding of my career path and learned valuable strategies for securing internships and career acceleration opportunities. The connections with mentors and knowledgeable individuals facilitated by Braven have been invaluable in my growth. Additionally, the University Honors Program has been an essential resource, offering individualized academic development workshops, study areas equipped with necessary materials, and various opportunities for personal and academic growth. Overall, these resources and programs have played a crucial role in my feeling of safety, support and success at NIU.

What Honors Program opportunities or support have helped you get closer to your academic or career goals so far?
The Honors Program has played a crucial role in advancing my academic and career aspirations through various opportunities and support mechanisms. Engaging in one-on-one meetings with my Honors advisor has provided invaluable guidance tailored to my specific goals. Additionally, participating in a range of Honors academic and personal development workshops, including leadership boot camps, has equipped me with essential skills for both academic excellence and professional growth. Lastly, receiving constructive feedback from the program has been instrumental in driving my improvement and success.

What do you enjoy the most about the Honors Program?
What I enjoy the most about the Honors Program is the opportunity to connect with fellow high-achieving students, fostering a sense of community and collaboration. I value the feedback and guidance provided by Honors advisors, which has been instrumental in shaping my academic journey and pursuing career opportunities. Additionally, I appreciate the diverse array of opportunities available through the program, allowing me to explore and apply for experiences that align with my interests and goals.

Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? What course did they teach?
Professor Lihn Nguyen, who taught my Chemistry 110 course, has not only imparted academic knowledge, but also inspired me through her various campaigns and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) events. Her personal story of overcoming challenges and founding her community encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and serve my community with passion and purpose. Finally, Professor John Shelton has been an unwavering source of guidance and encouragement in my journey. As the engineering project team leader for NIU’s National Society of Black Engineers, I have greatly benefited from Professor Shelton's mentorship and support during challenging times.

How have you benefited by attending class regularly?
Attending classes regularly has been instrumental in my academic success and problem-solving abilities. Regular class attendance allows me to engage with important course materials, enabling me to excel in my studies. By actively participating in lectures, I gain valuable insights into key concepts and learn the proper approaches for analyzing and discussing problem-solving strategies with my classmates. Additionally, being present in class provides me with the opportunity to interact with peers, ask questions for clarification and foster a supportive learning environment. This consistent engagement has not only boosted my academic confidence, but also equipped me with the skills and knowledge necessary to perform well on assignments and tests.

Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?
My favorite spot in the community is the DeKalb Nature Trail. It serves as a sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of college life, allowing me to disconnect and reconnect with myself. This serene environment provides the perfect backdrop for reflection on my academic, personal and professional journey, offering moments of relaxation and rejuvenation. I find solace in this peaceful surrounding and often enjoy taking long runs along the trail, further enhancing my connection to nature and providing a refreshing escape from my daily academic, work and personal routines.

What advice would you give to a student who is researching colleges to apply to?
Some advice I would give to a student researching colleges to apply to is to envision themselves as part of each university's community. Consider whether the university's resources, community events and opportunities align with their passions and aspirations. Evaluate how the university can support their personal and academic growth and whether it offers the environment needed to become the leader they envision themselves becoming.

Why is a college education important to you?
For me, a college education is important as it provides a unique learning opportunity. Unlike elementary and high school, college enables me to learn from esteemed professors, fostering my passion for both engineering and leadership. It serves as a stepping stone toward realizing my visions and goals.

What strategies do you use to manage your time between the responsibilities of school, work, friends and family?
To effectively manage my time between the responsibilities of school, work, friends and family, I rely on structured planning methods. I begin by creating a semester schedule and organizing a calendar with detailed daily to-do lists. My semester schedule and calendar allocate specific time blocks for studying, breaks, work commitments, meals, family interactions, project workshops and leisure activities, ensuring a well-rounded balance throughout the week. By adhering to these time management systems, I am able to achieve a stress-free equilibrium without compromising on any aspect of my life, allowing me to engage in school, work, family and social activities while maintaining the spontaneity and excitement of college life.

How do you stay informed about events and services that are available on campus?
To stay informed about events and services available on campus, I utilize various channels. I regularly check NIU’s social media platforms, my organizations’ news and my student email account for updates on the university’s condition, as well as research, internship, volunteering and STEM opportunities. Additionally, I keep an eye out for flyers posted around the Engineering Building and across campus, which provide information about upcoming events and services. These methods ensure that I remain up to date and well informed about the diverse range of opportunities available within the campus community.

What do you do to relax or recharge?
To relax and recharge, I find solace in working on my engineering robots, such as Project Robo JunkBot and Distance-Sensor, and sketching schematics of engineering projects that inspire and serve others. Immersed in these projects, I feel fulfilled, relaxed and energized as I problem-solve and unleash my imagination onto the pages of my drawing book. Furthermore, I am a nature enthusiast, and I rejuvenate by taking leisurely walks on warm, sunny days. There's a special joy in feeling the sun's warmth on my skin, breathing in the fresh aroma of nature and engaging in heartfelt conversations while sharing laughter with friends. Combining these activities (working on engineering projects and enjoying nature's beauty), allows me to fully recharge and find balance in my life.

Please tell us about your job and hobbies.
In my job and hobbies, I immerse myself in the world of robotics and leadership, driven by a desire for positive change and a sustainable future. My hobbies primarily revolve around creating impactful engineering projects aimed at inspiring young people to become engineers and problem-solvers. I actively volunteer and showcase these projects at STEM events, both within NIU, such as at STEM and STEAM Fest, and beyond the community, at events like Maker-Faire, Noche de Ciencias and Engineer’s Week (E-Week). Furthermore, I possess a passion for leadership, which I channel into initiatives aimed at serving both my school and the African community. My dedication to leadership has also afforded me the opportunity to represent NIU at various student panels and events. NIU serves as an ideal platform for me to showcase my passions and creativity, allowing me to inspire others and give back to the community in meaningful ways.

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