Graduate Student Spotlight: M.M. Chumbow

Published: March 3, 2023 Author: Hunter Farno

Mary-Magdalene Chumbow, known by her friends as M.M., is an international graduate student at Ohio University. A fourth-year doctoral candidate in the School of Media Arts and Studies, Chumbow is set to graduate this spring.

Chumbow said her path to OHIO started with a speedy application process.

I like to say that OHIO chose me,” she said. “I had applied to several other schools in Europe, but OHIO was the only one that got back to me in record time with an acceptance letter accompanied by an offer to fund my studies here.”

Because she was granted this funding, Chumbow could go through her Ph.D. program without any student loans. This allowed her to focus on her studies, and she believes the professors in this program have been a vital part of her journey. She said they have served as mentors and are always willing to answer questions, brainstorm, and even just be a friend to her in times of need. Going through the pandemic as an international student who is also here with a child, this supportive climate was beneficial to Chumbow.

Chumbow came to Ohio University for her master’s program in 2017 and enjoyed it so much that she decided to stay for her Ph.D. She is completing her Ph.D. virtually, which allows her to finish her studies in Ohio while not actually living here. Chumbow is currently working with an education nonprofit organization in Colorado as a public relations and communications manager. She hopes that this experience will help her, as she plans to dedicate her time communicating for social change.

She is currently studying the practice of female circumcision, with a focus on Kenyan communities. Though Chumbow is not Kenyan by birth, she grew up in that country and said she wanted to better understand the practice.

I want to understand how women who have undergone female circumcision, perceive the practice, and how they navigate being in a world where female circumcision is now deemed illegal in many countries,” she said. “With about two million Kenyan women and girls alive today having undergone one form or the other of female circumcision, it is important to understand the practice from these women’s perspective, and not take away any form of agency from them with our own perceptions of a practice that we do not have to ever experience personally.”

Chumbow said her advice for aspiring graduate students is to be brave and persistent.

Do not be afraid; you are not an imposter… you deserve to be where you want to be. Apply for that program, contact that professor, and do whatever you know you have to do to attain your dreams. And even when things do not seem to be going as they should, keep going. Trust me. Things will all eventually make sense.”