Pearl River Community College instructor Said D. Otwane’s made the journey back to his alma mater, who recently hired him to begin teaching Coding Technology this fall at the Forrest County Campus.
PRCC gave Otwane, 24, a firm foundation for a teaching career, and this former Jack Kent Cooke (JKC) Foundation Transfer Scholarship recipient who graduated from PRCC (2018) with special honors, and later from Columbia University in New York (2020), meets his first class of students this week.
“I wanted to help build up and improve the institution that opened so many doors for me,” said Otwane. “I also wanted to help equip those who come after me with the tools and experiences I never got as I left PRCC. If I could make things easier for just one person, then I would have accomplished ten times more than I would have in a different role.”
Otwane is one of eight JKC recipients in eight years at PRCC, and the first to return to work at the school.
“Said isn’t just smart, he is good with people, and he has a strong work ethic,” said Dr. Terri Ruckel, former Dean of the William A. Lewis Honors Institute at PRCC & Phi Theta Kappa advisor.
“He served this campus faithfully in the multiple student organizations that he joined; he not only attended events, but he arranged them, cheered on the speakers – if he was not the one speaking, and didn’t leave until everything was back in place.”
Otwane is a native of Mombasa, Kenya. He graduated from Petal High School (2016) before choosing to attend PRCC. His mom and his aunt are PRCC graduates.
“I knew from the start that I was heading to a fantastic place,” said Otwane. “I chose PRCC because they offered me lots of scholarships. PRCC has wonderful staff and faculty. The teachers are overqualified and passionate about their work.”
Some of those teachers were Drs. Terri and Ryan Ruckel, and Doug Donohue.
“They all opened a metric ton of doors that I didn’t even know existed,” said Otwane. “They were the primary catalyst in my application to PTK, JKC, and Columbia.”
He earned a B.A. in Computer Science from Columbia. “I felt prepared for almost every course I tackled,” he said. “When I felt overwhelmed or intimidated by a course it was due to my anxiety than a lack of preparation. Every time I would take an academic course that was writing intensive, the feedback I received for my drafts would almost always be the same feedback my teachers at PRCC gave.”
Said Dr. Terri Ruckel, “Based on my continuous experiences with Said (pronounced “s ay ee d”) during the past years, I can say with confidence that he has a great passion for this college. Much of his own education has taken place in South Mississippi, and in my opinion, he will do a great job of relating to and recruiting South Mississippi students, both traditional and nontraditional.”
A president’s list scholar at PRCC, Otwane was recognized for a host of academic honors. They include:
President of the Beta Tau Gamma Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, ambassador of the William A. Lewis Honors Institute, president of the Chess Club and a member of Sigma Kappa Delta, Mu Alpha Theta, the History and Humanities Club, the Video Game Club and the Student Government Association.
His special emphasis in Coding Technology will be web development.
When asked what appeals to him about returning to PRCC to work, he said, “The level of impact that PRCC can have,” he said “Very few places give you the opportunity to change the world so frequently. Even just making a student’s day to day life better has drastic long-term positive impact.”
Article written by Chuck Abadie. Photo by Jacob Cochran.