There is a famous speech that even if we have never listened to it, we know what it’s about. A speech about a dream – a vision. And in expressing that dream fully, it changed the world and left it a better place for all of us.
I often think about the change makers of our history and what this world might be like if they listened to their doubt, instead of their faith. Or their worry, instead of their wonder. Or their cynicism over their belief. Because, rest assured, they felt the former. Yet they chose otherwise.
I’ve often wondered what made some people choose the latter. And what I have observed is that as people authentically meet themselves, and from that place, boldly go for their dreams – their dreams grow. They grow because of ‘who you have to become’, the character you develop in getting to your dreams – changes you. And in that change what you believe is possible for you and the world expands, and therefore your vision expands. It’s like a muscle, a capacity thing, but with regard to character.
Such boldness in pursuit of one’s dreams is what drove Minna Mumma, a budding advocate, current Master of Laws student at New York University (NYU), and a Strathmore Law School (SLS) alumna, to pause her pupilage journey in Kenya and take on an opportunity of a lifetime in ‘the city of dreams’ – New York. I had the pleasure of having a candid sit-down with this change-maker and, I must admit, it was quite the eye-opener.
On the edge of a new beginning
Meeting her for the first time, you might mistake her for a West African, a stereotype she’s had to lightheartedly quash quite a number of times. Her names are punny and her character, outgoing.
Think back to when you were a little kid. Remember when people would always bend down on a knee and inquire about what you wanted to be when you grew up? Do you remember what your answer to that question was? Well, I always told people I wanted to be a bird.
“Yes, having passions, interests, and big dreams is encouraged. But, finding what you love is only half the equation. We’re always chasing something—be it a promotion, a new pet, or a new experience. This leads to the belief that, ‘When (blank) happens, I’ll finally be happy,” starts Minna.
“My blank in this case was to join a prestigious institution where I’d immerse myself fully into my interests. I hoped for a blissful academic journey. The year is 2015 and I’m straight out of high school. My curiosity and thirst for knowledge has to be quenched somehow. In the midst of this yearning, there is also the need to be sure what career path I need to take. As is the Kenyan culture for high school graduates, computer and driving classes instantly become the way to go before making the grand decision on a career choice. So I join Strathmore University for a short computer course. I’m astounded by how much I’m loving it here!
While at it, I’m thinking ‘why not join the Law School?’. There has been this talk of it becoming a model Law School not only in the country and region, but also in the international law sphere. I enroll and start classes immediately. This is but a short snippet into my Strathmore cruise, yes, I call it a cruise. Why? You ask? While here, I really immersed myself into the spaces I loved. It felt like every new opportunity was propelling me towards something bigger, like the strokes of a swim with the gold medal in mind. I participated in innumerable moot competitions, interned at a couple of firms, graduated in 2019, joined Kenya School of Law and eventually landed a prestigious graduate scholarship at NYU through the concerted efforts of the Strathmore University Grad Prep programme and SLS.
Contributions to moot competitions
The first ever moot competition I took part in was the All Kenya Moot Court competition where my team emerged as first runners up. We also later travelled to the “City of Light” – Paris, where we did a moot on mediation, the first ever of its kind by a Strathmore moot team. I went on to participate in many more during my undergraduate journey, with one of the most memorable being the Swedish moot competition where my team scooped seventh position – making history for being the first ever African team to qualify past the round of 16.
Did I mention that I’ve got an international experience of being a moot coach? (giggles) That’s right! After graduating, I came back to my alma mater and was part of the coaching team that travelled to Miami and qualified past the round of 16. This was especially a wholesome experience as it had nostalgia written all over it owing to the fact that it was in every way similar to the Swedish one I’d taken part in a few months back.
From SU to NYU
Applying for an overseas graduate scholarship is no walk in the park. In the United States in particular, one has to go through the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) that acts as the liaison between the schools and applicants.
To cushion my application process, I reached out to the Financial Aid Office (FAO) through the Manager, Kevin Muchemi. This man is the true definition of servant leadership. My interaction with his office was quite the pleasant one. He introduced me to the University’s Grad Prep College Counselling programme that assists Strathmore graduates to apply for scholarships in Ivy League and top global universities.
The submission of my transcripts to LSAC was facilitated by the FAO office and I have to mention just how much I dreaded it being complicated especially had I been the one to do it. To put it into context, I had previously done my own application and stamped the transcripts the wrong way. In addition, the transcripts have to be original, and my personal statement was relatively not up to standard.
I felt almost like a spoilt child but a proud and lucky one to have been a Stratizen. Kevin Muchemi and Dr. Kwenjera, Dean – SLS, took care of my documents while Cecil Yongo guided me in drafting my personal statement. This gave me the confidence and satisfaction to write an essay I believe painted the real Minna – reminiscent of my application to Strathmore a few years back.
After a deep search for the International Business Regulation: Litigation and Arbitration programme, I was thrilled to find that NYU offered a stellar curriculum. I mean, I have a deep passion for the course, I love cities, I love exploring, and New York would offer me the experience I so dearly craved. The fact that Imani and Mabuti, two former stratizens, also studied here was an incentive and I couldn’t wait to join. I ended up turning down another offer from a different institution. It’s been an interesting two months. I’m enjoying every bit of it!
Don’t eliminate yourself from the race before that first step
When I chose to dream, I dreamt big, because I believed I couldn’t fail. We often suffer from self-sabotage, eliminating ourselves from races even before taking that first step. Whatever it is that you want to do, just do it. Follow your heart and be bold enough to dare achieve your dreams. I’m very keen on getting to a point in my career where I’m also able to mentor young people, particularly young female lawyers. I’d love to be in a position of influence in the legal sector that would enable me to create opportunities for them – maybe even establish a Minna Mumma & Company Advocates!
This article was written by Francis Kabutu.
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