Buena Vista University

BVU Student to Intern With Author Who Survived Rwandan Genocide

Oct. 3, 2012

Buena Vista University student, Sonia Mugabo, will get the opportunity of a lifetime when she interns in New York City alongside someone she has always admired, Rwandan author and fellow genocide survivor, Immaculée Ilibagiza. 

“It means so much to know that I will be helping such a phenomenal woman,” says Sonia, a senior graphic design and visual communication major from Kigali, Rwanda. “Immaculée is a true hero to me because as a Rwandan, it is inspiring to see a woman so strong share such a moving message of peace building and forgiveness.”

Ilibagiza, who has received a number of humanitarian awards and honors, is regarded as one of the world’s leading speakers on peace, faith, and forgiveness. She is the author of the award-winning book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, and spoke at an Academic and Cultural Events Series (ACES) event at BVU on Sept. 25 about her experiences as a survivor of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

During the time Ilibagiza was visiting BVU, she and Sonia shared stories of the Rwandan genocide with one another, and discussed forgiveness and the current political conditions in Rwanda. Sonia also spoke with Ilibagiza about the possibility of an internship after Dr. Andrea Breemer Frantz, associate professor of digital media, encouraged her to do so.

“One night as I was thinking about Sonia’s desire to find a rewarding internship, all of the pieces of our conversations sort of coalesced and I realized she had a unique opportunity to ‘pitch’ an internship to the woman she admired so much when Ms. Ilibagiza came to campus,” says Frantz. “Sometimes students need to just take a risk and be assertive enough to create their own opportunities.”

As a result, Sonia will be interning during January at Ilibagiza’s office headquarters in New York City where she will assist with public relations, design, photography, writing, and managing social media.

“Immaculée’s message of forgiveness is very brave and strong,” says Sonia, who was four years old at the time of the genocide and had members of her extended family killed. “I’m so glad Dr. Frantz encouraged me to talk to Immaculée because I feel like I will learn so much.” 

Frantz is also enthusiastic about Sonia’s upcoming internship with Ilibagiza. “I hope Sonia learns about new professional possibilities, makes connections with people from whom she can learn, is able to produce some things that aptly reflect her skills, and most of all, that she has fun doing it all,” she says.

“What I am looking forward to the most is getting hands-on experience working in the public relations and design fields and really getting to know Immaculée,” adds Sonia, whose long-term plans include moving back to Rwanda and starting her own design company. “It is my dream to move to New York City after graduation, and I’m sure working with Immaculée will open new doors for other possible job opportunities.”   

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