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Courage and goals drive student

Mark Ogbugo seated at blue table on the UNF campus.

Mark Ogbugo learned many lessons from his parents, perhaps the most consequential coming from his father shortly before he died a decade ago.


“You have to be courageous,” his father told him.


To Ogbugo, that meant dream big, set lofty goals and maintain high standards.


Dreaming big led Ogbugo to leave his native Nigeria for America in late 2013 and study mechanical engineering at the University of North Florida.


Slated to graduate this spring, he set lofty goals to finish the demanding engineering program in four years. He did it while never taking a semester off (even summers), working four internships and pursuing leadership opportunities, like student government.


Maintaining high standards earned him critical financial aid, including the Mayor John A. Delaney Endowed Scholarship — named for UNF’s president — that he has received each year since 2014.


“One has to be extremely driven and passionate, because if you’re not really driven, you can’t really juggle everything,” he said.


Becoming a mechanical engineer was a natural career choice for Ogbugo, who said he has always been creative, good in math and physics, and able to visualize what he was designing.


Plus, he could easily fix things.


Because Nigeria’s power supply was inconsistent, his family would use generators, and when they would go out, within five minutes, he had them fixed. “I would just touch one or two things, and they were back running,” Ogbugo said.


His dream of attending college in the U.S. dates back to when he was about 12. Ogbugo’s parents stressed the importance of education, both in words and by example. He said his mother, a counselor, has a master’s degree, and his father, who was a businessman and a pastor, had several degrees. His brothers are studying computer science and information technology. And Ogbugo hopes to begin UNF’s GlobalMBA program later this year.


Finding the right university was important to Ogbugo, who researched several schools but only applied to UNF. He was drawn to it because of small class sizes and the fact that professors are invested in their students.


“They put their students first; they’re always available,” he said.


As a way of giving back to UNF, Ogbugo served as a senator for two semesters.


“I believe it is not just what an organization or a school can do for you, but also what you can do for the school and the organization,” he said.


Ogbugo is hopeful his mother will be able to attend graduation on April 27 — a day that reflects his ability to be courageous and marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of the man who taught him that lesson.