(May 6, 2016) -- Meet Charles Chikelu. From a young age, this UTSA multidisciplinary studies major and child of two nations has heeded the call to service.
Born in the state of Enugu, Nigeria, Chikelu and his family migrated to the U.S. in 2000. The move was a dramatic shift for the then 11-year-old. Though he was excited to see what his new home and life in Silver Spring, Md. would be like, the transition wasn't without its challenges.
"I had to start fifth grade as an English-as-a-Second-Language student," said Chikelu, now 26. "English and classes were initially a bit of a challenge for me. But I didn't let that deter me in the slightest."
Chikelu passed his ESL classes and went on to excel in school. He became a confident and outgoing student, and even developed a predisposition for service and leadership in his community. By his junior year of high school, he realized that he wanted to translate that penchant into a career. He joined the U.S. Army shortly thereafter.
"From early on, I knew that I wasn't interested in a traditional path through life," Chikelu said. "I was able to attend school in the U.S. and benefitted greatly from the experience and from being a citizen. Through the military, I saw an opportunity to give back to my country."
In the Army, Chikelu traveled the world working in different capacities. Eventually, he found himself at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio. There, he worked as a surgical technologist. That opportunity taught him a lot about medicine. He enjoyed helping surgeons in the operating room.
Working at BAMC also gave Chikelu the opportunity to help the less fortunate. He traveled to Honduras with his surgical team to provide free and low-cost medical services to its underserved citizens.
"People would often wait an entire year for the services we offered," Chikelu said. "I knew that helping people is what I was meant to do, but I also wanted to inspire others to help. The military was my way of doing that."
When Chikelu decided it was time to earn his college degree, he applied for an officer's program in the military that would allow him to attend school while serving as an active duty soldier. The first-generation student wanted a top-tier university that would sharpen his leadership skills and support his connection to the military.
After conducting an exhaustive search, he enrolled at UTSA because of its strong Army ROTC program. As a Roadrunner and ROTC member, he established himself as a widely respected leader by the cadets under his command.
"I am trying to inspire our cadets to be the best version of themselves that they can be," said Chikelu, who quickly rose in the ranks of the program and now oversees its planning and management as an Army Cadet executive officer. "I believe that the best way to be a good leader is to serve those you lead."
After Chikelu graduates this May, he will move on to a career as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army's Military Intelligence Corps, an appointment granted to him by the President of United States. He's looking forward to the role and says that his time at UTSA has helped him become the kind of leader he wants to be.
"The experiences that I have had at UTSA have changed my perspective on life and helped me become a better leader," he said. "I've learned to understand the world better and grow into a more mature version of myself. I'm excited to take these lessons with me into my military career."
Do you know a fascinating UTSA student who is planning to graduate in May 2016? Share that story with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
View more commencement spotlights at the UTSA Commencement website.
President Taylor Eighmy is inviting all UTSA faculty and staff to "Tacos With Taylor." Take the opportunity to introduce yourself to the President at any one of these casual meet and greets.
Frio Street Building, Food Court Commons Area, Downtown Campus
Celebrate 40 years of BestFest, an annual event hosted by Roadrunner Productions as a part of UTSA Homecoming festivities. The event will feature a carnival, food and drink booths, a golf cart parade, firework and live music from Anthem.
Brackenridge Lot 1, Main Campus
Celebrate homecoming as the Roadrunners take on Rice. Come early for the Spirit Walk, tailgating, games, music and food. Stick around for a halftime show with SOSA and the crowning of Mr. and Ms. UTSA.
Alamodome, 100 Montana St., Downtown San Antonio
The Leadership Storytelling Homecoming Brunch brings together UTSA alumni and students to share a delicious meal as well as a roundtable conversation about how experiences in college carry us forward on unique leadership journeys.
University Center, Denman Room (UC 2.01.28), Main Campus
The conference is dedicated to sharing recent knowledge and experiences gained in the area of Big Data by researchers in academia, industry and the government sectors within the areas of business, national security, infrastructure, healthcare and visualization. The conference fee is $45 and includes breakfast, lunch & parking. Free for students and non-academic government employees. Register here: https://www.regonline.com/UTSAdataconference2017.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom (HUC 1.104), Main Campus
Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, via webcast, will examine America’s economic, political and security relations with China during CHINA Town Hall, an 80-city live discussion and Q&A on China and Sino-American relations.
Building Building, Richard Liu Auditorium (BB 2.01.02), Main Campus
The African American Studies program proudly presents William "Cruz" Shaw, San Antonio City Councilman and UTSA Alumnus. Event is free and open to the public.
University Center, Retama Auditorium (UC 2.02.02), Main Campus
The graduate fair is an opportunity for the UTSA student body and local San Antonio community to learn about graduate education opportunities. The event is free and open to the public.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom (1.104), Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
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