For her efforts to fight genocide, Sac State alum will receive an honorary doctorate
April 13, 2023
Nearly three decades ago, Mathilde Mukantabana lost her parents, five siblings, and dozens of other family members and friends during the Rwandan genocide.
But rather than allow grief to consume her, she used it as motivation to build a more peaceful world, becoming a leader in educating others about genocide and helping its victims find hope and reconciliation.
In recognition of her extraordinary work, Mukantabana, a Sac State alumna who now serves as Rwanda’s ambassador to the United States, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from her alma mater during Commencement in May.
“Much of what I have accomplished professionally has grown from my connection to Sacramento State." -- Mathilde Mukantabana, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters recipient
She and three other honorary doctorate and President’s Medal recipients will be honored at a reception on April 14.
Mukantabana was a young wife and mother, had earned master’s degrees in History and Social Work from Sac State, and was teaching history at Cosumnes River College when her family was killed in 1994 during planned attacks by armed militias against the Tutsi people.
In response, she dedicated herself to teaching others about her homeland and helping its people recover from the tragedy.
Mukantabana helped found Friends of Rwanda Association, a nonprofit relief organization that, under her leadership, raised funds from across the U.S. to establish a vocational school for children whose parents had been murdered. She also created a social work program at the National University of Rwanda.
In 2013, she was appointed Rwanda’s ambassador to the United States. Five years later, she was a featured speaker at Sac State’s International Genocide Conference.
“Much of what I have accomplished professionally has grown from my connection to Sacramento State,” Mukantabana said. “The Social Work program deepened my understanding of how to build effective programs in Rwanda, and (Sac State) colleagues supported my efforts to bring international scholars to this campus.”
In his letter nominating Mukantabana for the honorary doctorate, University Foundation board member Sonney Chong called her “the very embodiment of the hope, the promise, and the ideals manifested in the California State University system.”
Despite her responsibilities in the nation’s capital and abroad, Mukantabana has maintained close ties to her alma mater, Chong said, helping to plan and attending international conferences at Sac State as well as at Cosumnes River College.
“By modeling personal courage, by speaking out against those who would divide us, and by sharing the means by which we can overcome our differences, Ambassador Mukantabana embodies a life of leadership and service to students and the community,” said Chong.
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