Las Vegas, N.M. — Outstanding Highlands University graduate Joshua Tata of Cameroon will earn his U.S. citizenship through a military service program.
Tata is part of the U.S. MAVNI Program, or Military Accessions Vital to National Interest. One element of the program recruits experts in select foreign languages and cultures.
Tata is fluent in French, English and his tribal language of Limbum. The 28 year old was born in Bamenda, Cameroon in West Central Africa.
“America is a very great nation, and I consider it a tremendous honor and privilege to serve in the U.S. Army,” Tata said. “I feel so fortunate to have this U.S. citizenship opportunity, and I value it enormously. Citizenship is a dream come true and gives me joy. It also makes my family very proud.”
Tata earned a 3.93 GPA in computer science and 3.7 GPA in math during his four years as a double major at Highlands. He graduated in December 2012 with a bachelor’s degree.
While at Highlands, Tata completed internships with the New Mexico Department of Information Technology, Geneses Computers in Las Vegas, and the university’s IT department.
During his last semester, Tata worked full time as a systems analyst with Santa Fe County while carrying a 21-credit course load.
Then he heard about the MAVNI Program.
“Growing up in Cameroon, I was always interested in being a soldier. As an international student, the MAVNI Program gives me the unusual opportunity to serve America in the Army,” Tata said.
He was accepted to the highly selective program and in June completed 10 weeks of U.S. Army basic training at Ft. Jackson in Columbia, S.C. He is based at Ft. Eustis in Newport News, Va., where he will complete a 14-week Advanced Individual Training Program to be a mechanic for the Army’s legendary Kiowa helicopters.
Tata’s U.S. citizenship will be finalized later this summer, and he will serve at least six years of active duty in the U.S. Army. Looking ahead, he said he is interested in pursuing the Warrant Officer Training Program and attending flight school to become an Army helicopter pilot.
As a Highlands student, Tata also distinguished himself as a computer science and math tutor. His adviser was Hossein Tahani, chair of the Computer and Mathematical Sciences Department.
“Joshua was a very serious, dedicated and exceptional student,” Tahani said. “He has uncommon intelligence and demonstrated great potential as a computer scientist.
“I was always impressed with Joshua’s integrity and strong character. He’s also a very caring and kind person. He will make an outstanding U.S. citizen and soldier, and our country is very lucky to have him as both,” Tahani said.
Tata said he appreciated the expertise and help his computer science and math professors provided at Highlands.
“I could approach my professors at any time with questions, especially Dr. Tahani, who would even take calls from me on evenings and weekends. My Highlands professors motivated me to be the best I can be,” Tata said.
Outside the classroom, Tata took a leadership role as an international student ambassador, acting as a liaison between the students and the administration.
“As an international student, you have an extra duty to observe American culture and learn the do’s and don’ts. It was very eye opening. I met many nice people at Highlands and also through my church, Las Vegas Christian Center,” Tata said.