A native Tanzanian, Ben, 25, is a senior transfer at The University of Montevallo. He is pursuing a business management degree with a music performance minor. In two years at UM, he has been involved with Phi Chi Theta or PCT (SCOB Business Fraternity), the university’s band (concert and jazz band), Baptist Campus Ministries and the Falcon Scholars program with the Shelby County Arts Council. He has also been involved in community outreach programs off campus. He held music workshops with his partner and professor, AJ, in Tanzania, Africa, this summer as a call to action for artists and musicians who have a scarcity of sufficient tangible and intangible resources.

How did you choose to come to the University of Montevallo?

There’s actually a story behind this. I had heard about the University of Montevallo and also had UAB in the back of my mind. Central Alabama Community College has a great program (SSS) that encourages students to tour various universities at the program’s expense. We toured AUM and UAB respectively then finally came to the University of Montevallo. The moment I stepped foot on the Montevallo campus, I knew exactly “where I belonged.” Not only did I have scholarship opportunities, but was also drawn to the size, programs and history of education quality. Business and music were my choices because of my interest and influences in business and passion for music.

What past experiences do you feel have helped you in these fields?

I believe that business influences were from my upbringing and ambition to flourish economically. My parents used to tell me in Swahili, “Mwanangu, uchukie sana umaskini,” which translates to: “Hate poverty with all your heart my son.” I would hear this echo throughout my childhood and sometimes still do up to date. On the music side, I chose music too because it had and has been a part of who I am for the longest time. From banging on desks in high school to beatboxing then performing, music subconsciously developed and became a part of Ben.

What are your plans after you graduate from UM?

My plans have been developing and changing over the years, but I believe that I have a calling to be an advocate to support and represent the Tanzanian music industry and community as a whole. Starting a program to help music artists develop their craft and prosper economically is my plan. It is in the works, but I believe that after I have established a clear plan and with financial support, this end goal would come into fruition.

What are a few things you have learned while at UM?

I have established a better discipline in general. Things like time, task and social management are very significant. As an international student I’ve also developed flexibility and prompt acclimation to the Montevallo culture. The culture consists of College Night and different sides that determine which “tribe is the vibe,” and knowledge on other activities. On top of that, meeting new people has developed my social skills which have influenced my personality.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time in college?

One of my favorite memories at UM is College Night! As a PV representative, I had the opportunity this year to play with the Purple Side orchestra as their drummer/percussionist. I was learning and seeing the back end of musical/play orchestration, which I had never done or been a part of. In the midst of it all, there was plenty of adrenaline during the competition. What an honor it was for me to bring a foreign ambience to the PV table (all 8,300 miles of it).

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I’m not really sure what my priority choice would be, but I’ve heard some great things about Venice, Italy. Some of the roadways have canals and I don’t know about y’all, but I’d love to be in a boat that is literally floating over land. The scenery is also very pleasing to the eye.

Who do you admire, and why?

I admire the people that I’ve had an impactful reciprocal influence with. My parents and family come to mind as an example when I think of admiration. They are an epitome of role models and people who walk the talk on a daily basis. The Tanzanian community recognizes them for their societal contribution (religious leadership, outreach ministries to the orphans and widows, youth mentorship). It was a blessing to experience all of these qualities firsthand from mom and dad. Lastly, I also view the impacts as mostly positive, but consider the “negatives” as a part of my learning and growing process.

What do you love about Montevallo?

I appreciate the fact that UM focuses on giving quality education with an intimate learning environment. Teacher-student relationships are phenomenal and a joy to experience especially as an international. Furthermore, I have seen the staff on campus go the extra mile to make sure students experience a great college life. Programs like The Learning Enrichment Center, Student Careers & Counselling, The Solution Center, Cafeteria services and all the office admin services have developed my love for Montevallo.