July 28, 2023

JSI Scholar: Gilles Ghislain Tanke Seulio

Tell us about your story

I was born and raised in Cameroon, located west central Africa. I am the second of six children and was raised by a single mother who fought her entire life to provide us with everything we needed to be successful. During my educational journey, despite facing various health issues, I fought to earn my high school diploma as early as I could. Even though I was very young, it was always clear to me that my time frame to be educated was narrow, because of my mother’s limited financial resources. At the age of fourteen, I was the first in my family to graduate from high school. Unfortunately, my fears quickly became reality, as my mother was not able to financially see me through to higher education. I took off two years and worked two jobs, day and night, saving money for university. These experiences impacted my core values. I believe that education is a basic need and that people, regardless of social, cultural and economic background, should have equal access to education. Education should be free.

What path did you take when you first started college?

When I first started college, I went for an associate degree in communication studies. At the same time, I was involved in student government, where I served as Vice President, was a member of the presidential committee

What made you consider a career in public policy/public service/international affairs?

When the time came for me to return to school, I decided I needed to venture out and be exposed to different cultures, which led me to come to the US to further my education. Unfortunately, I encountered the same system here as I did back home: one that favors people with more access to financial resources. Realizing that nothing will change unless people organize, speak up and speak out, I developed an interest in leadership, public service and community organizing.

Who inspires you to think about public service?

No one person inspired me to think about public service, but an event did. I remember being in my second year of high school in Douala, Cameroon, we were taken exams in the month of February. Out of nowhere, the school’s security came in rushing asking all students to leave the school immediately and go back home. As I was running back home, not knowing what was happening, I heard gun shots coming for a far distance. I can still feel how terrified and lost I felt at that exact moment. We spent an entire week confined in our homes, because what started as a riot had escalated into an armed conflict which caused people their lives and the destruction of buildings. Ever since, I began being interested in politics, in public service.

What are you most excited about the JSI program at UW?

I enjoy learning, and growing through the process of learning. I am eagerly looking forward to meeting new people and learning from them. One thing I have learned from the experience in Fellowships, is the importance of the necessity for aspiring public servants to challenge their way of thinking, to be surrounded by people not only with different backgrounds, but different ideologies and learn through interacting with them.