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“It’s really powerful to produce knowledge and tell people something new.”
This profile will appear as part of the Summer 2014 Columbia College Today’s Senior Snapshots feature.
The 2012 Ivy League Heptagonal Indoor Track and Field Championships occupy a special place in Marvellous Iheukwumere CC ’14’s memories. The sprinter captured the first of her seven Ivy League titles at the event, hosted that year by Cornell, as she prevailed in the 200-meter dash and helped Columbia win the indoor championships for the first time.
“No matter where I am in life, that will always be something I helped accomplish at Columbia,” says Iheukwumere, who was 9 when her family moved from her native Nigeria to Austin, Texas.
As a sophomore, Iheukwumere was named the 2012 Armory College Athlete of the Year for her indoor performance. As a junior, she won all the sprint titles in both the indoor and outdoor Ivy League championships and, at the NYU Team Challenge in January, won the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.46, breaking her own school record. She also received the 2014 Scholar Athlete Award and 2014 Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar Award.
Excelling in track and field while carrying a full academic load required a balancing act, but Iheukwumere welcomed the challenge when she chose the College. “I wasn’t interested in going to a school where my experience would just be centered on sports,” she says. “I wanted to expand my academic horizons.”
A psychology major, Iheukwumere received a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, awarded each spring to up to five sophomores from underrepresented backgrounds to prepare them for Ph.D. studies. For the remainder of their college career, fellows receive financial support and research training and engage with faculty. The fellowship allowed Iheukwumere to study the relationship between use of the drug ecstasy and cigarette smoking. She found a mentor in Associate Professor of Psychology Carl Hart, the program’s faculty coordinator. “It was a great experience,” says Iheukwumere. “It’s really powerful to produce knowledge and tell people something new.”
Eager to inspire others to pursue higher education, Iheukwumere mentored middle school students through Level the Field, a nonprofit started by Erica Woda ’04 that connects youth in Washington Heights and East Somerville, Mass., with student-athletes from Columbia and Tufts. For six weeks each fall during her first three years, Iheukwumere visited the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School once a week to help students establish goals and teach them time management strategies and other skills. In turn, the students “taught me to continue to dream,” says Iheukwumere, who as a senior recruited and trained fellow Columbians to serve as mentors for Level the Field.
Iheukwumere has pondered a career in the sports industry. Last summer, as an intern in the NBA’s facilities and crisis management department, the Miami Heat fan helped devise security plans for various events, including the NBA Draft. After graduation, she will work full-time at the NBA in one of its Associate Programs as well as focus on running with the goal of representing either the United States or Nigeria in the 2016 Olympics. “I don’t see that I’m done yet,” Iheukwumere says of her running. “I really want to push my potential and get to the ultimate stage of competing.”
Nathalie Alonso CC ’08, from Queens, is a freelance journalist and an editorial producer for LasMayores.com, Major League Baseball’s official Spanish language website. She writes “Student Spotlight” for Columbia College Today.