Two UO students selected for special Michelle Obama event

Semeredin Kundin (left) and Ellis Mimms

Two University of Oregon students have been chosen to fly to Washington, D.C. in conjunction with a livestreamed event with former first lady Michelle Obama.

The event, a discussion of Obama’s memoir, “Becoming,” takes place Tuesday, Nov. 9, at 10 a.m. The trip is happening with the support of the Division of Undergraduate Education and Student Success, Division of Student Life, Division of Equity and Inclusion, and McNair Scholars Program,

Semeredin Kundin will represent the university by participating in the conversation, while senior Ellis Mimms will join the limited audience. Both students will have the opportunity to connect with alumni, graduate programs and other professionals while there.

The event selection committee received nominations for 22 exceptional students. Kundin’s and Mimms’ nominations stood out for their leadership qualities, involvement with the UO Black student community, passion for collective action and ability to communicate with groups representing diverse identities, socio-economic and educational backgrounds, reviewers said.

Kundin is a fourth-year student from Portland. He is majoring in political science and planning, public policy and management. Outside of classes, he was the vice president of the Associated Students of the University of Oregon and is a co-director of the Black Male Alliance; a Wayne Morse Scholar, which provides students the opportunity to further explore their interest in leadership, public affairs and community engagement; and a McNair Scholar, which prepares first-generation and underrepresented undergraduate students for doctoral studies.

After graduation, Kundin plans to attend graduate school in either law or public policy.

“Michelle Obama’s memoir, ‘Becoming,’ emphasizes the importance of lived experience and highlights key themes such as resilience, persistence and acceptance,” Kundin said. “As someone who relies heavily on their lived experiences to help guide them, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to converse and hear more about how she continues to reflect and apply her experiences to her life while representing our campus community to the best of my ability.”

Mimms, a senior, is from St. Louis, Missouri, and grew up in San Francisco, California. He is majoring in physics and minoring in Black studies. Also co-director of Black Male Alliance and a McNair scholar, he is in addition the student lead for outreach and leadership for the Black Cultural Center, the chair of the Alliance for Black Student Organizations and a member of FisherGroup, an undergraduate research group in the Department of Physics.

After graduation, Mimms plans to attend a doctoral program for astrophysics and become an astrophysicist and astronomer, a field which he said is lacking Black representation.

"I first want to thank the University of Oregon for allowing me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Mimms said. “I think the most exciting part about this entire opportunity is that while I will physically be there, I am not the only one that will be going. I am bringing my village with me; the people and places in my life that have knowingly and unknowingly poured into me and shaped me will be there also.”

The UO is among 22 universities that were invited by Penguin Random House to participate in “BECOMING: Michelle Obama in Conversation,” where the former first lady will discuss themes from her best-selling memoir. During the conversation, Yara Shahidi, a producer, actress and change-maker best known for her starring roles in the acclaimed television series “Black-ish” and “Grown-ish” and currently a student at Harvard University, will serve as moderator.

Taking place at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland, the event will be livestreamed for members of the UO community to watch and recorded by the BET television network for a televised special at a later date.

Students, staff and faculty members are invited to join a watch party sponsored by the Division of Undergraduate Education and Student Success in the Erb Memorial Union’s Redwood Auditorium. A pre-party will begin at 9 a.m. featuring UO President Michael Schill, Provost and Senior Vice President Patrick Phillips, and Vice-Provost Kimberly Johnson, among other campus leaders. It will be also live-streamed for campus members that can't make it to the event and available on YouTube.

Guests should register for the event via a Qualtrics form by noon on Monday, Nov. 8. Registering guests will receive a copy of “Becoming” when they arrive at the watch party. Campus members can also watch in the EMU O Lounge without registering or watch on their own by signing up through an online form from Random Penguin House.

Afterwards, a fireside chat with Kundin, Mimms, Phillips, Courtney Cox and other nominees, sponsored by the Black Cultural Center, will take place Nov. 15 at 5:30 p.m. Guests can register for the event via a Qualtrics form.

 —By Kaitlyn Jimenez, University Communications