Diaspora Stories:Shirley Amunya Excels at Framingham State Univercity

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When Shirley Amunya’s family moved from Kenya to the United States during her junior year of high school, she initially felt very shy due to her thick accent.

“We moved to Chicopee in Western Massachusetts,” she says. “I was coming into an area where everyone knew each other and I was the new girl from a different continent.”

Fortunately, Amuyna’s initial shyness did not prevent her from excelling academically and by her senior year she was enrolled in AP coursework and making plans for college. Amuyna toured UMass Amherst but felt overwhelmed by the size of the campus, so she decided to take a look at Framingham State.

“I liked that it was smaller and everyone was so friendly,” she says. “I kind of felt like I was home and that was a big factor for me coming here.”

Amuyna has found her voice at Framingham State, where she majors in Biology with a Pre-Med concentration.
This past summer, Amuyna spent 10 weeks performing research on Protein Biochemistry at Holy Cross as part of the highly selective National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates.

“I applied to this program because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to medical school or do research,” she says. “That experience helped me figure out that research is very interesting, but it’s not for me.”

This fall, Amuyna applied to the prestigious Teach for America Program, which has been on her radar since sophomore year, when she learned that many people take a gap year before medical school. She was selected for a two-year placement following a rigorous interview process.

“It was a little intimidating because I interviewed with a group of ten students and five or six of them were from Ivy League schools and I was thinking ‘how did I end up here?’” she says. “But I didn’t let that keep me from going for it and showing them who I am.”

After graduating in May, Amuyna will teach secondary school science to low-income students in either Springfield or Holyoke. After that, her plan is apply to medical school with the hope of one day becoming a doctor.

“Coming into college I wanted to be a cardiologist,” she says. “Now that I’m taking developmental biology, I’m starting to think fetal medicine would be interesting. I will go into it with an open mind and go from there.”

Amuyna says she has no regrets about her decision to attend Framingham State.

“I love that I can walk around campus and I may not know everyone’s name, but I know everyone’s face,” she says. “I have professors like Dr. Davis who are not only great teachers, but are invested in my wellbeing. That has really helped me.”


Framingham State University was founded in 1839 as the nation’s first public university for the education of teachers. Since that time, it has evolved into a vibrant, comprehensive liberal arts institution offering small, personalized classes on a beautiful New England campus. Today, the University enrolls more than 6,400 students with 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences and professional fields. As a public university, Framingham State prides itself on quality academic programs, affordability, and commitment to access for all qualified students.


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