Moves to the U.S.

Olivert moves to Chicago in June and enrolls at Truman in August.


Graduates from Truman

Olivert transfers to UIC, then studies at Emory University.


Begins working as a research coordinator

She now works at NorthShore University Health System in Evanston.

In 2016, Olivert Mbah’s life changed forever. That June, she moved to the U.S. from Cameroon. By August, she was a student at Harry S Truman College.

“Truman is very foundational to who I am today,” she said. “I was new to the U.S., so you can say everything I know now, I learned when I was a student [at Truman].”

She chose the college because her brother had attended Truman, it was affordable, it was close to her Bowmansville home, and she felt that heading straight to a four-year university would have been too overwhelming for her.

Truman was home to a lot of firsts for Olivert. She got her first job in the U.S. tutoring at the Math Center at Truman, she got research experience, and she met instructors who are still having an impact on her life today: Dr. Raymund Torralba and Dr. Charles Abrams.

Olivert loved Dr. Torralba’s small class sizes. They allowed him to develop personal relationships with all his students, including Olivert. She says their relationship has been instrumental to her success. In fact, she credits Dr. Torralba with writing the recommendation letters that helped her transfer from Truman to UIC and, later, to Emory University.

Additionally, Dr. Abrams provided a safe space for Olivert. During her last semester at Truman, Olivert lost her sister. She will never forget the compassion Dr. Abrams showed her during their organic chemistry class.

“There would be days when I was just weeping in class,” she said. “He was very gracious and told me to take as much time as I needed. It was very comforting to have all the safe spaces being a student at Truman.”

Truman not only helped Olivert get acclimated to a new country and assisted her while she was grieving, but it allowed her to thrive. She developed relationships with professors that helped her later in her academic career, and, as a One Million Degrees scholar, Olivert unlocked professional development, mentorship, tutoring, and financial support to help her earn her degree.

Olivert graduated with an associate of science from Truman and transferred to UIC. There, she graduated with a bachelor of science in biochemistry before enrolling in a grad program at Emory University. Thanks to the Emory Merit Scholarship, a large part of Olivert’s tuition was covered.

At Emory, Olivert got the opportunity to dive into even more research. She participated in a graduate assistant research assistantship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She also completed her Applied Practicum Experience with the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia to understand oral health issues in pregnant women. This helped influence her research project, which explored how stress and depressive symptoms affect the oral health of Black pregnant women in Georgia.

In the future, Olivert dreams of becoming a public health dentist. Earlier this year, she was awarded the American Public Health Association’s 2023 Anthony Westwater Jong Memorial Population Oral Health Pre-Professional Student Award, which will help her achieve that goal. With the award comes $1,200, an invite to present her work at the American Public Health Association meeting, a mentor, and access to activities to advance Olivert’s professional development.

The lessons Olivert learned in her Truman classes still resonate. They helped her graduate from Emory University in May 2023 with her master’s in public health in epidemiology. Olivert now works as a research coordinator with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NorthShore University Health System in Evanston.

“Every day, I see how being a student at Truman paved the way for me,” Olivert said. “Even in my master’s program, even at my job, I think, ‘You learned this at Truman!’”

And every day Olivert is grateful that she chose Truman College, a college that’s still changing her life, even after graduation.