Wellesley College Senior Chikoti Mibenge Is Named
One of Glamour Magazine’s Top 10 College Women

For immediate release:
Sept. 8, 2006
Arlie Corday

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- Wellesley College senior Chikoti Mibenge, 24, a native of Zambia, has been named one of Glamour magazine's Top Ten College Women of 2006, it was announced today by Editor-in-Chief Cindi Leive.

Mibenge, who lost both parents to AIDS, is being recognized for her commitment to AIDS/HIV research and education. At Wellesley College, she is majoring in biological chemistry, and works as an intern at the Partners AIDS Research Center in Charlestown, Mass.

Four months after she finished high school, she lost her mother to AIDS. Her father had earlier succumbed to the disease; her youngest brother also has HIV. Like most Africans, the family couldn’t afford treatment.

Over the past five years, Mibenge has focused making a future for herself, with the hope of helping her ailing brother and two other siblings as well. Thanks to her connection to the Partners AIDS Research Center, she has been able to help her brother get the drugs he needs to survive.

She eventually came to the decision to make fighting AIDS her life’s work. While waiting for a cure, she plans to work toward making AIDS drugs available to all Africans. She looks forward to the day when she may become an AIDS doctor—and have a family of her own. In winning the Glamour contest, she also hopes more people will think about helping with the AIDS epidemic.

“When people think of Africa, they think it is hopeless,” Mibenge said. “By telling this story, it will have an effect of showing them there are ways of turning your situation around and making a change in both people who are and people who are not affected by it. My goal in life is to have people change their way of thinking, even for just a moment.”

Mibenge came to Wellesley four years ago after graduating from the United World College (UWC) in Italy. As a Davis United World College Scholar, she has had full scholarships to both the UWC and Wellesley.

At Wellesley, Mibenge works closely with biological science professor and advisor Mary Allen, who wrote her recommendation for the Glamour honor.

“Chikoti’s enthusiasm for all that she does, along with her wonderful smile, make working with her a pure delight,” Allen said. “She actively participates in both the classroom and lab; last spring she was in my seminar and always could be counted on to add something important to the discussion.”

Wellesley Dean of Admission Jennifer Desjarlais first met Mibenge at the UWC in Italy. By chance, Mibenge’s job at the school library brought her into contact with Desjarlais, and the rest is history.

“After she had shared her personal story and the influence these experiences had on her decision to attend a UWC and then college in the U.S., I was moved by her perspective,” Desjarlais said. “As she recounted the experience of becoming an AIDS orphan as a teenager, the tremendous family responsibilities she faced and her recognition that it was her responsibility to take advantage of opportunities in a life filled with tragedy, I couldn’t help but be moved by her self-possession. She didn’t—and doesn’t, still—speak with any longing or regret; rather, her hope and optimism are evident. Where others in similar circumstances would see obstacles, Chikoti has seen possibility and a future full of opportunity.”

At one time, Mibenge could not have imagined working on AIDS research. “I wanted nothing to do with HIV,” she recalls. “It was too painful. But with time, I realized I can’t just run away from something because of my past. I got over that and decided to do something about it instead.”

In its 49th year, Glamour’s Top 10 College Women Awards spotlights 10 college women from across the United States with an annual competition that recognizes leadership on campus, involvement in the community, excellence in their field of study, as well as their unique, inspiring goals. Each winner receives a cash prize, a trip to New York, opportunities to meet with top professionals in a variety of fields and national recognition in the magazine. Other awardees have included Martha Stewart, actress JoBeth Williams and Dallas Mayor Laura S. Miller.

The 10 winners will be profiled in an editorial feature in Glamour’s October 2006 issue, which arrives on newsstands nationally Sept. 12, and honored during a special luncheon awards ceremony Friday, Sept. 8. Speaking at the ceremony will be Glamour editors and executives; Carol Hamilton, president of L’Oréal Paris; and Eve Ensler, activist, performer and award-winning playwright.

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 68 countries. For more information, go to www.wellesley.edu.