Inaugural King-Morgridge Scholar Wins a Top Honor

In his first semester at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Lusayo Mwakatika stands out by winning a campus speech contest.
By Steve Barcus

What does it take to deliver a strong persuasive speech?

King–Morgridge Scholar Lusayo Mwakatika could tell you. The freshman agricultural business management major was chosen as last semester’s winner of the Communication Arts 100 (CA 100) Speech Contest.

The CA 100 Speech Contest is a long-standing tradition that occurs each semester. Teaching assistants from each of the CA 100 sections submit speeches from their top students to compete in the competition. The field is vast for the competition, especially considering that last fall more than 700 students were enrolled in CA 100. From the students selected to participate in the competition, six went to the final round, with Mwakatika receiving the top honors.

Mwakatika’s speech was a persuasive piece, encouraging his peers to join the BRIDGE (Building Relationships in Diverse Global Environments) program, coordinated by International Student Services. Hailing from Malawi, Mwakatika joined BRIDGE last fall as a way to meet fellow students, acclimate to campus and the U.S., and build friendships. It affords U.S students with those same opportunities to connect with Badgers from around the world.

However, soon after joining BRIDGE, Mwakatika noticed a need for more American student to take part in the program.

“When I was in BRIDGE, I frequently heard from international students about the need for more American students to join the program,” Mwakatika said. “Many international students have been put on a wait list to join because there aren’t enough American students in the program.”

After Mwakatika’s speech was nominated as a contest entry, he doubled down on his preparation to make sure he would be able to compete with other top candidates.

“I practiced extensively to be sure I could stand out through my delivery,” Mwakatika said. “I also researched and watched speeches from some of the world’s greatest speakers such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, and Barack Obama.”

Mwakatika’s speech also included points that would appeal to American students, such as increasing American business interests in countries around the world, an increasing need for American students to have a global awareness, and also touting the potential relationships that could be built with international students.

“I was really surprised to be selected for the competition,” Mwakatika said. “I was even more surprised to be selected as the winner.”

First cohort of the King-Morgridge Program

The CA 100 speech contest is not the first time Mwakatika has stood out among his peers.

Mwakatika is part of the first cohort of the King-Morgridge Scholars Program. The program, which was made possible through the generosity of the King and Morgridge families, endows six scholarships each year to enterprising, creative young adults committed to poverty alleviation. Participants are selected from countries in Africa, Latin America, South and Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean.

“Applying was intimidating since I knew only six people would be selected,” Mwakatika said. “Knowing Africa has 54 countries and millions of students, only six people was intimidating for me. The thing that kept me believing I had a chance was the encouragement from my advisor.”

Now beginning his second semester, Mwakatika has embraced campus activities, meeting fellow students and faculty. In addition to BRIDGE, he has joined several organizations such as the African Students Association, Model U.N., and Agriculture Business Students Association. He looks forward to meeting and learning from UW–Madison faculty, alumni, and other experts in business and agriculture.

“One of the things I am really looking forward to is getting an internship to learn more about the agriculture in Wisconsin, especially given the state’s reputation,” Mwakatika said. “This is important because in Malawi, we are still developing our agriculture sector. Wisconsin’s agriculture sector is well developed, so there is much to learn.”

This article appeared, in slightly different form, on the website of the International Division of UW—Madison. It is published here with permission.