After graduating from Southwestern Michigan College on May 4 with his associate in science degree, Abednego T. Saah heads for Ann Arbor.
Saah, who wants to be a doctor, was accepted for the Community College Summer Research Fellowship Program sponsored by UROP, the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program at the University of Michigan.
UROP Director Michelle D. Ferrez, Ed.D., received more than 300 applications and could accept only 45-50 students. The program starts May 28, the day after Memorial Day.
“I’m excited to meet students from different backgrounds,” he said, “and advancing myself in a research program. This is my first research program to ever be in.”
SMC President Dr. David Mathews wrote Saah a recommendation letter. “He did a great favor, recommending me. First I give thanks to God, secondly I say thanks to him.”
Saah, from the West African nation of Liberia, will work 30-36 hours per week on a biomedical research project, attending professional educational workshops every Tuesday from 4 to 5:30 p.m. and presenting at UROP’s July 31 Summer Research Symposium. Three stipends are paid after the program’s third, sixth and ninth weeks. He will be assigned a veteran community college transfer student to serve as a peer mentor to help him find housing.
“When I first came to the United States I settled for 10 months in Niles, where I have relatives,” said Saah, who lives on SMC’s Dowagiac campus. His “green card,” or lawful permanent resident card, allows him to live and work in the United States.
“So far, so good,” he said. “Southwestern Michigan College prioritizes student success. It is a great place and I’ve met people who’ve lived different lives. Most especially, the faculty is willing to work with students to be successful.” Saah, whose homeland is 85-percent Christian, has also been very active at SMC in the Bible Club.
Of Michigan’s moody weather, he said, “Winters are terrifying for someone coming from the tropics. I had never seen snow before. I hope to get adjusted to cold weather. I’m still here.”
“It would be my pleasure, and I would be very glad and excited,” to be accepted by U of M after this summer. “I will also try to get in Western Michigan University,” he said.
“My dad was very excited and joyous” by his acceptance. “He said, ‘Son, keep up the good work and you’ll definitely succeed.’ My mom is very glad as well.” Saah, second in a family of six sons, said his father has a degree in agriculture and forestry.
His parents “didn’t expect me to be home this summer. They expect me to get myself educated and to obtain my medical degree. I came into this country Oct. 9, 2016. This fall will be three years” since he’s been home. “I don’t know what the future holds,” he said.
“I love to be busy,” Saah said, bracing for an academically intense summer. “If you’re busy, you can make yourself more efficient and proficient in doing things. If you’re not busy, you can let yourself get distracted by things that are not necessary. It is my pleasure and honor to have this opportunity to get myself where I want to be.”