James Rujimora's recent Order of Pegasus induction recognizes his years of student and community leadership.

BY EVAN CHIOVARI | May 1, 2024

James Rujimora inducted into the Order of Pegasus.James Rujimora, a doctoral student in the Counselor Education program, has just been inducted into the Order of Pegasus.

For James Rujimora, work and passion are one and the same. Today, he has reason to celebrate.

Rujimora, a counselor education doctoral student in the College of Community Innovation and Education, was recently inducted into the Order of Pegasus. This is UCF’s most prestigious award, given to students with the highest levels of passion, dedication and achievement.

Although honored to join the Order of Pegasus, he says the recognition is less about the award itself and more a reflection of the connections and impact he cultivated through UCF. Those include his mentors —Melissa Zeligman, Viki Kelchner and Laurie O. Campbell. Beyond UCF, Rujimora also cultivated collaborative research partnerships with faculty worldwide. Through their mentorship and support, he also collaborated and co-authored over 15 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 40 conference presentations and three book chapters at UCF.

“It’s more about the relationships I’ve created and how my mentors have guided and supported me,” he says. “They have taught me everything I know, and that knowledge will help me serve the many communities I am a part of.”

Rujimora plans to graduate in Spring 2024. He says he initially chose the counselor education PhD program to serve his community.

“When I found out there was a whole degree dedicated to training the next generation of mental health counselors to be ethical and professional, I jumped at the opportunity,” he says. “I wanted to give back to the people who had changed me.”

Rujimora was also inspired by Camp Boggy Creek, a SeriousFun Children’s Network camp for children with chronic medical illnesses. While working there as a mental health counselor, he researched caregiver stress and presented a study to the American Camp Association. This led to his doctoral dissertation, which focuses on trauma in parents and guardians of chronically ill children.

“It was really meaningful to blend my two worlds — to use the skills I learned in the counselor education program with a population I care about,” he says.

Mental health is not Rujimora’s only field of research. For his graduate assistantship, he analyzes the performance metrics of STEM students at Hispanic-serving institutions such as UCF. He has authored multiple papers on this subject in top academic journals. Additionally, he has served on the Student Conduct Board for the past two years.

“I really enjoy the process of not only holding students accountable through meaningful and developmental conversations but also showing what it means to be a UCF student and a citizen of the larger community,” he says.

Going forward, Rujimora will focus on his role at Camp Boggy Creek. As the organization’s director of behavioral health and wellness, he ensures the camp continues to address the mental health needs of campers and their families.

For anyone considering a career in mental health, Rujimora has one piece of advice: Take care of yourself first.

“Whether you’re a counselor, a psychologist, or anything else, it’s important to take care of yourself first,” he says. “You can’t help other people if you’re not helping yourself first.”