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Puamuh T. Ghogomu II Named Distinguished Alumnus
Waubonsee Community College has named Puamuh T. Ghogomu II its 2016 Distinguished Alumnus. Ghogomu, of Evanston, is currently Senior Counsel in the Employment Law department at Walgreens.
The 1998 graduate of Waubonsee serves as a role model for the many students who come to the college looking to pursue their college degree while adapting to a new country.
His journey through higher education and into his career began at a young age and in a situation many would find intimidating: At just 16-years-old, he moved to the United States from Cameroon and – already a high school graduate – needed to find a way to pursue his higher education and adapt to life in a new country.
Although he was born in Houston, Texas, Ghogomu spent much of his childhood in Cameroon. His father, a native of Cameroon, was an attorney for a subsidiary of Shell Oil. When political and economic instability struck the country in 1994, Ghogomu’s mother and siblings moved to be near his grandparents in Montgomery, Ill., while he and his father stayed behind in Cameroon so that he could complete his high school education. Ghogomu returned to the United States to be with his family at the age of 16, and was challenged by the adjustment to life in a new country. Not yet ready to move away for college, he enrolled at Waubonsee, where he was active in sports, student government, clubs and graduated with academic honors.
While a student at Waubonsee, Puamuh joined the African Cultural Alliance and Latinos Unidos. He became a student ambassador and student senator, ran cross country and played soccer and tennis. He was named a National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Academic All-American and also won one of Waubonsee’s top athletic awards, the Vermilion and Gold Award. He graduated with honors.
He said that the volume of resources and extracurricular options at Waubonsee was a new concept for him, because options such as those in Cameroon were fairly limited.
“Once I got more acclimated, I wanted to get involved in things that caught my interest,” he said, adding he joined student government, the soccer team and student organizations. “These were opportunities I wasn’t used to having, and I wanted to take advantage as much as I could.”
He received his Associate in Science from Waubonsee in 1998, and went on to earn his Bachelor of Science in biology from University of Illinois, and later his Juris Doctorate and Master’s Degree in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
It was through an internship during his studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that he completed an internship with Walgreens in their Employee Relations department. Upon completion of his law degree, Puamuh was hired by Littler Mendelson, the nation’s largest employment and labor law firm where he worked for two years before returning to Walgreens where he is now Senior Counsel. Among his many responsibilities in his current role, Puamuh provides legal guidance to all levels of management regarding compliance with relevant state and federal laws related to employment and labor matters, and represents the company in employment matters pending before federal, state, and local agencies including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor.
Puamuh is a strong supporter of community colleges and serves on the Oakton Community College Educational Foundation Board of Directors.
He said that ultimately, his experience at Waubonsee not only eased his transition to a new culture and country, but gave him confidence academically and socially, which prepared him to go on to the University of Illinois. Even today, Ghogomu speaks fondly of his Waubonsee faculty members, saying that many of them were encouraging, engaging, and/or mentored him.
His advice to current students is to take advantage of all the activities and resources available.
“Everyone has different interests but what I really liked about Waubonsee was that it was academically rigorous, it provided a setting that encouraged engagement with faculty, and there was such a wide variety of student clubs and organizations that I could get involved in,” he said. “For someone new to the United States, just trying to get their feet wet and getting to know people, joining a club is a great way to break down barriers because you know you have similar interests.”
Ghogomu has kept in close contact with Dr. Melinda Tejada, Waubonsee Vice President of Student Development.
“Puamuh represents the many students who make Waubonsee their first choice for education and the amazing places a quality educational experience can take you,” she said.
He said that being recognized by Waubonsee is humbling.
“It’s unexpected and that’s motivation for me to keep doing more and to give back where I can,” he said.