Taking that step outside of my comfort zone has definitely helped me grow. That’s something I was looking for when I came to Bucknell.

Effiem Obasi sits in a theater.
Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

For as long as Effiem Obasi '20 can remember, she's wanted to make a difference in the world. However, she says, her desire to do good lacked focus — until she came to Bucknell and honed her passion for change into the clear goal of bringing health care and health education to underserved populations.

A Posse Scholar from Los Angeles, Obasi's eyes were first opened to inequality when she observed the differences among public schools in her home city.

"I noticed that something was happening at a structural level," she says. "It never really made sense to me. Why does my school look like this? Why are we struggling to get books, when if you go to Beverly Hills, it's completely different?"

Improving educational opportunities for all is still a cause close to Obasi's heart, but coursework, research projects undertaken with faculty, and study and service trips abroad have made public health her primary focus.

While she came to Bucknell planning to be a physician, Obasi, a psychology major with minors in biology and public policy, says taking courses in different disciplines, including economics and sociology, has enabled her to envision a future in which she has a broader impact on large populations of health-care recipients. Research collaborations with faculty on issues related to trauma treatment and prevention and female prison inmates' emotional health further cemented Obasi's desire to affect change at the institutional level.

One pivotal experience was Obasi's participation in Bucknell in South Africa, a study-abroad course that explores the legacy of apartheid through the lens of social entrepreneurship and community development, in part by pairing students with social services agencies in Cape Town. Assigned to an organization combating the AIDS epidemic, Obasi helped the group advertise its mission and leverage donations from local businesses.

Obasi is also a junior fellow with the Social Justice Residential College and has led the organization of an annual Solidarity March, which promotes greater cooperation between Bucknell- and Lewisburg-based activists and social justice organizations.

Obasi, a first-generation Nigerian-American who calls her heritage "a very big part" of her identity, notes that she faced challenges moving from an urban area to a campus in rural Pennsylvania. However, becoming involved in organizations such as the African Student Association at Bucknell, the Black Student Union, the T.E.A.M. Peer Mentor Program and the Committee on Campus and Student Life helped her connect with other students who share similar experiences, while working to continue bettering the University for everyone in the Bucknell community.

"I came here not sure where I belonged on campus," Obasi says. "But as I started to join different organizations, it's helped me understand that I want to contribute to the student experience."

She adds, "Taking that step outside of my comfort zone has definitely helped me grow. That's something I was looking for when I came to Bucknell."

Effiem is from Los Angeles.

Posted November 2018