Kaba Kayembe's Great SAU Story


Scene Magazine | Spring 2021

Kaba Kayembe got right to the point.

"I don't like to be portrayed as a success story," Kayembe '06, '08 MBA said at the outset of a recent visit to the SAU campus he called home for several years after leaving the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo.

OK. Premise accepted. Kayembe's story is a fairly typical St. Ambrose story.

Which, of course, in all the important ways, makes it a success. (Sorry, Kaba.)

Today, he is a happy husband to fellow alum Gina (Vacarro) Kayemebe '06, and a proud father of two active, young sons. He has a blossoming career in portfolio and program management and gives back to his community as vice president on the library board.

It all started at SAU.

"This place was everything for me," he said. "I made this place home."

kaba kayembe

Kaba Kayembe '06, '08 MBA

He has a blossoming career in portfolio and program management and gives back to his community as vice president on the library board.

Kayembe arrived at SAU almost by chance, encouraged to try the small private Catholic school in the middle of the United States by his uncle, the Rev. Apo Mpanda, who was then and is still a priest in the Diocese of Davenport.

Kayambe spoke four languages, including his first, French. None of the others were English, however, so he spent a semester immersed in the English as a Second Language program at Scott Community College while living with Fr. Apo.

Soon enough, he was at home in Hayes Hall at SAU, studying Computer Information Systems and involving himself in campus culture and Campus Ministry. Beyond his undergraduate experience, the opportunity to enhance his skills with an MBA made perfect sense.

"It didn't take me long to feel at home here," Kayembe remembered, noting the open-door policy of former President Ed Rogalski, PhD, was something of which he made regular use. "There were a lot of factors. I got involved very quickly. People welcomed me as part of this community. My friends invited me to their house for Thanksgiving and Christmas. People just welcomed me with no judgment. They just wanted me to be successful at St. Ambrose. That's the story for me."

Indeed, it is a story of success, if not a success story. Ultimately, Kayembe developed in all the life-enriching ways listed in the University's mission statement. And as a result of particularly memorable service trips to Kentucky and Chicago, he is motivated to enrich the lives of others.

Hence, a trip back to campus in the dead of a pandemic-impacted winter to share his knowledge of project management software development with a fresh group of Computer Information Science majors. Likewise, his library board service in Waukee, Iowa, fits perfectly with a campus experience that included much time in the SAU Library.

"When you get out of here," he said, "you have to find a way to give back, right?"

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