Making a Difference Through Public Service

“Service is my passion,” said Diana Akumu, a graduate student studying public administration at Rutgers–Camden.

Akumu, a native of Asumbi, Kenya, has made an impact on campus and beyond despite being in the United States for just a few years. She came to Rutgers–Camden after having attended law school and working for several years in Nairobi in business and banking. She was familiar with the university because her brother-in-law had attended Rutgers Law School; she came for a tour with her sister in the summer of 2019.

After her visit, she hoped to attend Rutgers–Camden, but COVID-19 had other plans. Pandemic travel restrictions led her to apply to other schools in England and Australia, and she was accepted to and even visited a program in England, but she still hoped to come to Rutgers. “Rutgers ranked higher, it has a strong alumni network, and outstanding faculty. Plus, Dr. McGuire, the graduate programs director, was and still is very supportive.” Her persistence to come to New Jersey eventually paid off and Akumu enrolled at Rutgers–Camden last year.

In addition to her coursework, she is participating as an intern in the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) under Secretary Brian Bridges. Tasked to the Licensure, Policy, and Legislative Affairs teams, she assists in policy analysis and drafting OSHE broadcasts; she also attends state board meetings and licensure site visits. She finds the work interesting and knows her time there will support her in whatever she chooses to do when she graduates. “The secretary is very supportive of the office’s interns and fellows,” said Akumu. “He regularly checks in with us and gives us career advice.”

Akumu has been active and engaged on campus since she arrived in 2021, serving initially as a resident services coordinator, and now working as a resident assistant for two floors of student housing on the Camden campus. The role requires some patience and the occasional late night, but Akumu wouldn’t trade the chance to support her fellow students for a few extra hours of sleep. “My residents are amazing and make my work a lot easier,” said Akumu. “They are also busy students, mostly law students, or science or business majors. The job can be challenging but very rewarding. Service is my passion.”

She hasn’t decided what she may do after she earns her master’s in public administration, but really enjoys higher education and the policy work she has done through her internship with the state. In the meantime, she is happy to continue thriving and giving back to the Rutgers–Camden community. “It is a small campus, which makes it easy to network with people from different walks of life,” said Akumu. “I have had the opportunity to work with outstanding faculty as a part of my program and I’ve made many new friends. Plus, I get to see my family because they live nearby.”

Creative Design: Beatris Santos
Photography: Ron Downes Jr.

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