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‘I’m hoping the world will be my oyster’

Where are they now: Gloire Rubambiza, a former refugee turned computer science graduate student

Comstock Park — Gloire Rubambiza has come a long way since eating doughnuts and learning how to code in the IT program at the Kent Career Technical Center. 

The 2014 graduate of Comstock Park High School was a refugee from Africa who completed all of his high school credits in two years to graduate with his class with a near-perfect grade point average. With his resiliency, adaptability and drive, it’s no surprise that Gloire is now a PhD student in computer science at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

“I chose Cornell for the research. I feel I could do impactful research and still feel a part of the community,” said Gloire, who has been at Cornell for nearly three years.

Gloire’s favorite high school memories
• District championship in soccer during his junior year
• Competing in the 2013 Michigan History Day research competition at GVSU and Saginaw Valley State University
• Induction, service and friendships (including best friend Cody Sunderlin) though National Honor Society
• Driving his first car to school on senior picture day
• Homecoming, prom, senior trip to Cedar Point and graduation night

Gloire was featured in a School News Network “Grads with Grit” profile in 2014. He grew up in a war zone in the Democratic Republic of Congo and moved to Kampala, Uganda, before being sponsored by Zion Lutheran Church and landing in Comstock Park in 2012. 

Now 26, Gloire earned a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University, majoring in computer science with a minor in math. While at GVSU he regularly stopped by to visit CPHS. He credits math teacher Dave Staublin, with his self-directed style of learning and energetic personality, with helping Gloire gain a better appreciation of math during high school. 

Gloire Rubambiza at a weekend hike at Taughannock Falls State Park in 2018 (courtesy)

Current Research

Gloire always knew he wanted to go to graduate school and was accepted at about half of the 15 schools he applied to. At Cornell, his work combines computer science with information science; he describes it as a mix of the social and computer sciences. He’ll be in the program there for another two or three years. 

“I enjoy the flexibility that being in academia gives me,” said Gloire. “I can pursue my own research questions and I’m exposed to high-quality research at Cornell.”

Gloire is interested in designing, building, deploying and evaluating the technical and societal impact of computing systems on environments with limited resources. He is currently working on a hardware/software platform for digital agriculture and a socio-technical approach to anticipating the impact of high-bandwidth farm networking.

In addition to his research, Gloire has written extended abstracts for several publications and taught classes as a teaching assistant in computer programming and computer system organization.

The university also gives Gloire the flexibility to build the community he desires. He is part of the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association and takes part in gatherings with computer science faculty and students. 

A photo from Gloire Rubambiza’s high school graduation night lock-in party with friend Cody in 2014 (courtesy)

Eyes on the Future

A possible future job title for Gloire might be professor of computer science or information science — hopefully at a highly rated institution, he said. He envisions a position where he does his own research along with teaching, grant writing and advising. 

On the industry side, he would like to work at a top research lab such as Microsoft, Google or Facebook. He feels the pull of California, since he knows people there.

“If I had my pick, it would be the University of California Berkeley or the University of Washington in Seattle,” he said. He’s also open to Michigan State University or the University of Michigan.

“I’m hoping the world will be my oyster.”

In five years Gloire could be advising his first graduate student and teaching a class on the social impact of computing systems. In 10 years, he envisions himself in the review process for promotion to tenured associate professor. 

If he decides to go the industry route, he hopes that in five years he’ll be an engineering manager or lead research staff.

He would also like to teach in his native Africa as a visiting professor to help influence the next generations of computer scientists there.

“A lot of African problems need African solutions,” Gloire said.

Despite having a new address in New York, Comstock Park is still home for Gloire. Even during the pandemic he has taken the time to visit family and friends by traveling back to Michigan. In early August he enjoyed dinner with his high school friends Cody, Chris and Kyezi at Applebee’s on Lake Michigan Drive, where he worked while an undergraduate at GVSU.

“They form my grounding, and I usually go back not only for a reminder of why I am doing the PhD, but also for their unconditional support, even when the topics I’m studying might be foreign to them,” he said.

CONNECT

Gloire Rubambiza’s website

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Karen Gentry
Karen Gentry
Karen Gentry covers Comstock Park. She is from Evansville, Indiana and St. Joseph, Mich. and a graduate of Lake Michigan Catholic High School and Central Michigan University. She moved to the Grand Rapids area in the mid-1980s and has been a resident of Comstock Park since 2002. She understands the complexity, rewards and challenges of the teaching profession as she has five years of experience as a high school teacher at River Valley High School in Three Oaks, Mich. and St. Stephen High School in Saginaw. As a reporter for the Advance Newspapers and Mlive she covered Sparta, Kent City and Northview schools. She is happy to be reunited with some of her journalism colleagues and writing about Comstock Park Public Schools for the School News Network. Read Karen's full bio

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