Undergraduate Xaviera Azodoh '25 Empowers Future Generations in STEM
Xaviera Azodoh '25, was born in California, but calls elsewhere home. She spent the first 13 years of her life growing up in Nigeria and was accustomed to a completely different lifestyle than many other American citizens are used to.
Now an undergraduate in the University of California, Davis Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Azodoh is focused on blazing a trail for those who will follow her through involvement in organizations like Ujima Girls in a Robotics Leadership Project.
Adjusting to a New Way of Life
At the age of 13, Azodoh moved alone back to California to finish high school in a Christian boarding school in Santa Cruz.
“I was meant to go into my junior year of high school because the education system back home is way different and faster,” she said.
In addition to the jump in grades, it was shocking not to have other Nigerian people around to interact with each day. In addition, Azodoh's high school was predominantly Asian American, and she found herself trying to fit in with multiple cultures at once.
Even temperature and the metric system were utterly novel to her. At 13, it was “too late for them to teach me about inches and Fahrenheit,” and she was left to figure out new concepts like that on her own.
By the time she had reached college, Azodoh felt that she sometimes lost touch with the culture of her country of ancestry. She praised her siblings and the Nigerian Society Association at UC Davis for helping her remember where she is from.
Spreading Empathy and Awareness
The engineering student now hopes sharing her experiences will promote awareness for other international students who may be experiencing culture shock at UC Davis.
Azodoh is the outreach chair of an international student organization called iLife. Aside from setting up community events, she is a friendly face who supports international students who may be feeling out of place in an American university.
“We might cook an international meal together or go grocery shopping because a lot of them don't have cars,” she explained.
Many of these students do not have any family around, so Azodoh’s support is important. Her own cultural transition gives her the experience to empathize and adapt to others through similar transitions.
Azodoh also works with Ujima GIRL, a project funded by the National Science Foundation that addresses the significant challenges of inclusion and equity for Black/African American middle school and high school girls in STEM education. Undergraduates like Azodoh run the camp as counselors and provide guidance for younger students.
Exposure to robotics, engineering and other STEM applications and leadership at a young age and in a culturally-relevant environment helps African American girls see the possibility of a future in a career in STEM, something that can be difficult for them in a field with a lack of diverse representation.
Azodoh believes that once girls see other African American women in STEM fields, it will empower them to pursue these passions.
Advice for the Next Generation
When asked what advice she would give to girls like those she mentors in Ujima GIRL, Azodoh said, “I've always felt I had to prove myself. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall. There's such a strong thing about determination that can get you anywhere – even if it seems like the silliest thing.”
"As long as you work hard, and you put your mind and your heart into [what you do], it's going to be okay.”