Convocation Spotlight: Unyime Oguta

Graduate learns the power of prevention while working with community groups.

20 November 2023

Unyime Oguta’s interest in public health began early in her academic journey. “In my undergraduate program, where I learned many chronic diseases are preventable through diet and lifestyle modifications, I became curious about what it would look like to influence human behaviour from a preventative health approach.”  

On Nov. 21, Unyime will receive her Master of Public Health degree and continue to apply the skills and knowledge she gained from her program to her work in strategic planning and evaluation.

We spoke to Unyime about how her background in nutritional science informs her work, empowering communities and what she envisions for her dream job.

What initially drew you to this area of study?

My passion for preventative health and giving people tools to support themselves to lead healthy lives.

Was there a particular event that took place that sparked your interest in preventative health?

It was a culmination of events. I spent a few years volunteering with community organizations responsible for food security and nutrition, including as a community nutrition educator and public health volunteer with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. That work involved facilitating nutrition classes with mothers, low-income and immigrant groups, people in the correctional system and other groups within the city. Those experiences gave me first-hand knowledge of the impact of preventative health efforts on different program participants, especially their approach to nutrition and exercise. The information and skills shared with the participants empowered them to make better lifestyle choices.

What achievement, accomplishment or moment are you most proud of from your time in the program?

Leveraging my leadership and evaluation skills to partner with a diverse group of students and professionals. We were tasked with completing a capping project in the Leadership & Professional Practice course to support a low-resource community organization. I was able to bring knowledge from my professional background to help my team plan the project, build rapport with the organization and deliver a product that the organization was very happy to use to address their challenge.

How did you stay motivated and who helped you keep going when things got tough?

Navigating the volume of required readings while working full time and raising a family was a challenge. I kept my eyes on the bigger picture and why I wanted to do this in the first place. My family kept me going, especially my husband. He stepped in to help with our household chores so I could catch extra time to rest and study on the weekends. 

What have you learned about yourself and how will you use this going forward?

I am good at building partnerships and breaking down complex issues to create quick wins. I will continue to hone this skill in my career, especially when I'm leading teams.

How did your undergraduate degree in human nutritional science influence your studies and approach to public health?

Human nutritional sciences gave me an opportunity to learn from and partner with individuals and groups involved in community-based interventions, services and programs. Through the experience, I discovered my love for facilitation, program development and health promotion —  it is why I chose health promotion as my area of focus.

What’s the best decision you made as a grad student? 

I set aside two hours early in the morning, three to four times a week, for schoolwork. I worked full time in addition to other responsibilities while getting my degree, and that time gave me the opportunity to work on assignments before my family got up and I had to get ready for work. It also helped me stay disciplined and focused.

What advice would you give to a student thinking of entering this program of study/specialization?

Have fun, be grounded in your ‘why’ and challenge some of the beliefs you have about health and wellness.

What’s your dream job?

I don’t know what the job would be called, but I do know it would be a role where I get to use my coaching, facilitation and strategic planning skills in health promotion while working with policy makers.