What I Did This Summer: Hubert-Christian Ngabirano ’18

Ngabirano helped build and lead the inaugural Gustavus Academy for Faith, Science, and Ethics.
Posted on August 26th, 2016 by

A chemistry major from Burundi, Ngabirano ’18, was as eager as the high school fellows in the new Academy to explore science and faith. "My expectation was to learn how to accept both the scientific version of the universe and the religious version of the universe. As a mentor we did much of that before the students came. And it was tough."

“When I heard what this academy was about, I thought, this is what I’m looking for!” Ngabirano said.

A chemistry major from Burundi, Ngabirano had long considered the intersections of faith and science in his biology classes. “This has been one of the hardest topics for me to grasp,” he said. Working with high school students on such topics had a dual purpose for him: he would get to build something, and in an area he was deeply interested in himself.

Ngabirano and six other Gustavus mentors—in partnership with chaplains Siri Erickson and Brian Konkol—began in earnest in May to build the inaugural Gustavus Academy for Faith, Science, and Ethics. Ngabirano and two of the Gustie mentors tackled the curriculum component. “We came up with activities to do in the morning and the evening around the visiting professionals. For instance, if we talked about hunger, we found ways and case studies to talk about hunger.” (Food security in particular was a topic of deep interest to the high school fellows.)

“In the evening, it was about finding out who the high school fellows were—deep listening, learning to listen to each other. We had value cards. I asked them, what are your top five values and why are they your top five values?” His favorite moment was when one of his fellows, who is deeply passionate about care of foster children, created a community project that works to validate and empower the individual human potential of foster children.

Just as it was for the high school fellows, the Academy was a tremendous growth experience for Ngabirano. He had never worked with American high school students. A Gustie friend recommended one-on-one conversations to start. “I shared my own experience to help them open up. I used myself as an example: I am here in college and I still have questions about what I want to be in the future. The fellows were excited to tell me about prom. They asked me about Burundi, how I learned English. It was a mutual learning experience,” he said.

Another area of growth: most of the high school fellows were Lutheran. Ngabirano was raised in Anglican and Pentecostal churches. “I grew up in a community and culture were science is in school and never in church. And here I am at a Lutheran school where it is faith and science and we struggle with both of those ideas.”

Did he get the answers he himself was looking while helping others with the same questions? “I didn’t get all of my answers,” he said. “But at least I know there is a way to have scientists and religious people work together. It was beautiful to see how we are human beings first. We can become friends in our differences. And I was more encouraged and affirmed in my faith.”


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


One Comment

  1. Ray Sajulga says:

    Hubert surprises me with every encounter. How amazing!