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Katie Hamann

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Highlands University Psychology Graduate Student from Cameroon Excels

Las Vegas, NM - Psychology graduate student Sheri Nsamenang is one of three sisters to make the international trek from the Republic of Cameroon in western Africa to attend Highlands University. 

Nsamenang’s older sister, Kila, graduated from Highlands' with a bachelor’s degree in biology and is in a master’s program at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. Her younger sister, Vitavi, is a junior studying computer science at Highlands.

Nsamenang, 22, completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Highlands and is a teaching assistant for a graduate data analysis and statistics course. She will complete her master’s degree in clinical psychology in spring 2009.

“I want to pursue my doctorate in clinical psychology and have started researching colleges,”  Nsamenang said. “My professional goal is to do research and work in a clinical setting. I’d especially like to work with UNICEF or any international humanitarian aid organization.”

Nsamenang’s master’s research thesis is titled, “Forgiveness Across Cultures: Interdependence and its Effect on Forgiveness.” She presented her preliminary findings in July at the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development 20th Biennial Conference at the University of Wurzburg, Germany.

Nsamenang has a quiet composure and poise beyond her years, which no doubt came in handy when speaking about her research before such a large and distinguished academic gathering.  

“I became interested in doing research on forgiveness because my adviser at Highlands is psychology professor Ian Williamson and forgiveness his one of his areas of research,” Nsamenang said. “Research has shown that morality and ethics play a role in forgiveness and I wanted to see if culture played a role.”

Nsamenang’s research compared forgiveness in Cameroon’s interdependent culture and the United States’ more independent culture. Her two sample groups included people from Las Vegas, New Mexico, and Bamenda, Cameroon.  Her research tool was a written questionnaire.

Nsamenang is still analyzing her results, including the detailed narrative portions of the questionnaire. 

“One preliminary finding is that there is some universality between both cultures,” Nsamenang said.  “For example, in both cultures empathy was important in forgiveness and just thinking about forgiveness made people anxious.  And, people in both cultures want to forgive to help maintain relationships.”

Nsamenang hypothesized that close social networks influence forgiveness. She said her findings supported this with Cameroonians who live in a more communal culture being statistically more likely to forgive than Americans who live more independently. 

“The thing that sets Sheri apart is her motivation to succeed,” said her adviser, Williamson. “Her research on forgiveness will definitely be submitted for publication.”

Williamson said that when Nsamenang first came to Highlands she immediately stood out for her quick grasp of statistical concepts.

Nsamenang moved to Las Vegas in 2003 to attend Highlands.

“People in Las Vegas are very friendly and accept international students,” Nsamenang said. “It’s a small place and I can focus on my studies.  I don’t have a car and I like it that I can walk most places.”

There are 49 Cameroonian students at Highlands and Nsamenang always looks forward to getting together with them to mark celebrations and share Cameroonian dishes.

“I like to cook a traditional dish called Kati Kati, which is grilled and stewed chicken eaten with stewed spinach and fufu corn --- corn flour,” Nsamenang said. “My favorite American food is anything with  Portobello mushrooms.  I’m not picky and eat about anything.”
Nsamenang grew up in a Catholic family and goes to Immaculate Conception Church in Las Vegas, singing in the student choir when she can.  She and Vitavi are active in the Newman Center on campus.

“I feel that my faith has molded me from when I was a child,” Nsamenang said.  “It gives me comfort that I can pray to and connect with a supreme being whenever I want.”

Gloria Brown-Lopez is the coordinator for the retention and intervention program at
Highlands and is also the adviser for the Newman Center.

“Sheri’s an incredible young lady and her determination and humbleness say a lot about her character,” Brown-Lopez said. “She’s an excellent role model for all young women, not just women of color.”

The Nsamenang family learned about Highlands University when her father Bame, a professor at the University of Yaoundé in Cameroon, attended an academic conference at Highlands. The family found that Highlands offered the opportunity for a much more affordable, quality college education for their children than other U.S. colleges they researched.

Nsamenang  grew up in Bamenda, a city in the southwest province of Cameroon.  Her father is back home, along with her mother, Bridget, who is a social worker, and two more younger siblings, a sister, Rita, and a brother, Yurinyuy.   

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