Umahi Agwu, San Jac's alumni spotlight.

One San Jacinto College student succeeded beyond her own expectations.

Umahi Agwu completed her grade-school education in Nigeria, where her family is from, and came to Houston to start her college journey. As a life science major with dreams of becoming a doctor, she knew there was much to accomplish before reaching that finish line.

To become more familiar with the field, she found an opportunity to shadow a doctor at an obstetrics and gynecology clinic. But Agwu’s discomfort around blood and needles proved medicine was not the practical career choice.

While helping her dad run his beauty supply company, she realized she had a knack for business instead. She joined the San Jac Investment Club, got involved with Future Business Leaders of America, and soon forged a new career path.

Mosaic mentorship boosted confidence

San Jacinto College alumna and founder of Transfer Student Association

Umahi Agwu

The Mosaic program, which supports Black students through mentorships, connected Agwu with Melanie Sanchez, integrated reading and writing professor. Having a mentor was very helpful for Agwu, as Sanchez advised her with writing essays, applying to colleges, and landing a science lab internship at Rice University and guided her through starting a student club.

“Umahi is an exemplary student,” Sanchez said. “She worked diligently to establish a student organization, the Transfer Student Association, which helps students stay on track with application deadlines and submissions to their desired four-year university after completing their studies here at San Jacinto College.”

When Sanchez first met Agwu through Mosaic, she noticed that Agwu clearly displayed academic excellence, and it was important, as her mentor, to ensure that she recognized that in herself.

“What was once a shy, bashful student has risen to be a determined, vocal leader,” Sanchez said. “Umahi is driven to make a positive impact in our community and global society, respectively. More importantly, she has proven her greatness to herself. Umahi is going to show Duke University and the world the brilliance of a scholar from San Jacinto College.”

Collecting accolades, building a future

Business professor and Phi Theta Kappa advisor Elizabeth McKinley has taught Agwu in class and beyond, working with her in the honor society.

“She has a grasp on concepts when they are presented in class, is a hard worker, and was a joy to work with in PTK,” McKinley said.

A few of Agwu’s accomplishments include serving as the PTK student vice president and being recognized as part of its All-Texas Coca-Cola Academic Team. She was one of 15 students to receive PTK’s 2023 Hites Transfer Scholarship of $10,000. Winners were selected from more than 2,700 applicants based on outstanding academic achievement, leadership, and engagement in college and community activities.

In 2022 and 2023, Agwu placed in the top 10 in the U.S. at the Future Business Leaders of America Collegiate Division’s state and national competitions.

Agwu never thought attending Duke University was possible. An acceptance letter, a campus tour with her parents, and inspiration from a Duke alumna she met during the visit proved otherwise.

She started her first semester at Duke in fall 2023 as an economics major.

“It has been going very well, a little rough at first, but definitely a great experience so far,” Agwu said. 

She started her first semester at Duke in fall 2023 as an economics major.

“It has been going very well, a little rough at first, but definitely a great experience so far,” Agwu said.

By Neesha Hosein