Typical January day in Minnesota: 20 degrees.
Typical January day in Cameroon: 92 degrees.
No wonder UND junior Malika Achingale Barbie Odera shivered when she recalled her 2017 move from Cameroon to Brooklyn Park, Minn.
“It was a shock, coming from a very hot and humid country,” Malika said with a laugh, remembering her first Minnesota winter. “You think you can wear just one jacket and be good. But the cold is still penetrating!”
Luckily, Malika discovered that it isn’t always that cold, and that dressing in layers isn’t the only secret to warmth in the North Country. Another is finding a place where people care about you and help you grow.
And that, she said, is the kind of warmth she has encountered at UND.
“My professors are very accessible; they’re so easy to approach,” she said.
“Even President (Andy) Armacost, you always see him. He walks up to you and says ‘Hi.’
“That shows how everyone is involved and active, and it makes you really happy to be at UND.”
The University’s concern also shows up in other ways, Malika said. For example, “I really like how UND is always sharing opportunities with students through newsletters, emails, and so on.
“They are always listing opportunities for students,” including activities such as career fairs, she said. At the fairs, “there are lots of great employers; and that’s UND, working hard and providing resources for students to succeed.”
One such resource told Malika of a prestigious research internship, sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Thanks to Malika’s drive and her UND coursework, she landed the internship and spent this past summer in the 10-week paid program.
In her extracurricular activities, Malika now has found herself embodying the University’s slogan: Leaders in Action. “I was searching for an organization that is not only inclusive of every student — even our C students — but actually trains you how to be a leader,” she said.
That’s when she discovered the National Society of Leadership and Success, America’s largest leadership honor society.
“It’s a wonderful organization with the same mission as UND,” Malika said. “That mission is to build leaders who make a better world.”
And because the University lacked a chapter, “I was like, UND needs one.”
So she started it. With the University’s support, Malika is founder and president of the new NSLS chapter at UND.
I really like how UND is always sharing opportunities with students through newsletters, emails, and so on.
A UND Honors Program student who’s double-majoring in psychology and criminal justice, Malika says she “absolutely loves” those departments. “And when freshmen tell me they’re majoring in psychology or criminal justice, I say those are great choices, because the professors are very good and the programs themselves are amazing.”
Now, she’s gearing her coursework toward her chosen career: counseling juvenile offenders. “Especially the minorities who don’t have as many opportunities, or who don’t have the family or other support to navigate the criminal justice system,” she said.
In other words, Malika’s goal is to pay it forward — to pass along to others some of the support her own family, her Cameroon background and UND have given her. That’s North Country warmth, Malika Achingale Barbie Odera-style.