Fortune Favors the Bold: Camille Rice’s Inspirational Success Story
Meet Camille Athena Rice, a Kochoff Scholarship recipient and CASL junior who represents the relentless nature that our university embodies
By Abpreet Kaur
D-SIP Intern, COB junior
From her beginnings at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor to her uphill battle on the campus of Oakland Community College to finding hope again at University of Michigan-Dearborn, Camille Athena Rice decided she would not let adversity keep her down for long.
In the wake of a back accident that left her disabled during her time at UM-Ann Arbor, Rice found herself at a crossroads. She was depressed and disengaged with life. After some time, she picked herself back up and began attending Oakland Community College. Here she found her confidence was slowly returning, and her grades began reflecting this new found resurgence.
But there was still something missing.
“It has always been about the University of Michigan. It has been home for me,” she said. Rice felt that a part of her was lost even after returning back to college as a sophomore at Oakland Community College.
A Surprise before the Semester
Camille found her way back home when one day she decided to attend UM-Dearborn’s transfer night. She remembers falling in love immediately. She hadn’t visited a University of Michigan campus or building for the past three years since her freshman-year accident and immediately felt a calm welcome.
“This is it. This is the place where I belong,” she said. She felt optimistic about college again and hasn’t regretted her decision ever since.
Rice recalled the stress before the start of her first semester here at UM-Dearborn. “I was panicking a couple of days before classes started, worried about how I would ever get the money to pay for college.” Before, at Oakland Community College, Camille had paid for all of her classes out of pocket by working full-time in the summer.
But, little did she know, she was about to get a much-deserved break when a UM-Dearborn financial aid officer informed her that she had been awarded a Kochoff Pathway to Success Scholarship.
This scholarship program was founded by long-time supporters of the university, Arthur and Mary Kochoff, who held the strong conviction that education has the power to transform lives. This was especially true for Camille. “I would not have been able to do anything without this scholarship,” she said. “It has meant everything to me.” She’s especially thankful for the guidance of Dennis Underwood, Kochoff Scholar advisor, and Amy Finley, Director of the Office of Student Success.
Luckily, she didn't have to put her education on hold, and she flourished within her newfound opportunity here. Her current double-major in International Studies and French, with a focus in Communications, has kept her very busy. Her schedule, as she mentions, might be “cringe-worthy,” but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Studying French has a deeper meaning than most can see. Aside from her love of the language, Rice’s brother, Johnathan, has always wanted to learn French. However, due to his moderate form of Autism, no one really knew how to effectively teach it to him. So, Rice tries to impart her knowledge onto her brother any way she can.
“Color doesn’t matter. Embrace differences. Embrace culture. Embrace disability. Embrace people.”
UM-Dearborn strives to prepare its students to be versatile; not just be critical thinkers, but also doers–those who allow themselves to stretch their wings as far as they wish. Rice achieves this by not boxing herself in and reaching out to her fellow peers any chance she gets.
“I can be someone's best friend if they give me the chance to be. I want to make sure I love on somebody when they most need it,” she said.
Aside from being a dedicated student and a compassionate “people-person,” Camille is also active in many extracurricular activities. She is a member of the Black Student Union, Event Coordinator for the National Society of Leadership and Success, the Vice President of the French Club and the President of Toastmaster's International, a non-profit focused on leadership and communication skills.
Her love for school and involvement in the community stems from her ability to believe in its impact. “Everything I am involved in, I am involved in because I believe in it, and I believe in what it stands for,” she said.
Another organization that Camille believes has been a part of her transformational change on campus is Talent Gateway. The Talent Gateway provides students with self-driven opportunities to leverage their personal, professional and academic experiences to develop competencies that employers seek, such as critical thinking, creativity and innovation.
Camille became a Talent Gateway Maize Designation winner as a part of her Talent Gateway experience in the fall of 2016. “I have never won such a big competition like this one in my life,” she said. “I got to meet Twyla Tharp, a world-renowned choreographer and dancer. I also won a laptop, but for me, it wasn’t about a laptop. It was all about the experience I had with the organization.”
Rice hopes that everyone has a chance to experience the major growth that she has had through Talent Gateway. “Talent Gateway helped build me professionally, providing a smooth transition as a transfer student,” she said, adding that she is also thankful for the program because it allowed her to meet new people and form meaningful connections.