25 Ducks: Polly Irungu is an independent photographer, activist and ambassador

Polly Irungu

Posted by Chelsea Wicks on Thursday, May. 8 at 8:00 am.

Age: 19
Year: Class of 2016
Major: Journalism and International Studies
Dream job: Photographer for the National Geographic

 Why are you at the UO?

I selected the University of Oregon because I was fortunate enough to receive the Diversity Excellence Scholarship which covers a majority of my tuition.

How do you want to change the world?

Before I can change the world I must work on myself. Everyday I strive to be a better person than the day before. I try to accomplish a new goal each day because I am firm believer in the Lou Holtz quote, “If what you did yesterday seems big, you haven’t done anything today.” I want to be able inspire others with my ambition and work ethic so that they can see anything is possible if they put there mind to it and are not afraid of setbacks. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for my faith, family and strong circle of friends. I hope to change the world by first being a positive light to my community and then continue it to wherever I am led too. Eventually, I would like to go back to my roots in Kenya and perhaps continue the non-profit foundation my parents have set up.

What has been the best part of your college experience?

Man, that is tough to say! I am very lucky to have a great overall college experience thus far. I love meeting new people, networking, and being a part of unique opportunities. I think one of my favorite experiences so far is being crowned as Miss Black Oregon. I first heard about this opportunity through the Black Student Union and decided to step out of my comfort zone and go after this opportunity. As Miss Black Oregon US Ambassador, I have a platform that I can use to help bring change in the community. The mission of this organization is to enlighten, empower and encourage all people but specifically women of color. I was crowned in November and will be having this title for a whole year. This summer I will be competing in the National pageant for the hopes of being Miss Black US Ambassador.

What are you proud to have been a part of at UO?

My work took a new leap after being recently invited to the 55th annual Grammy Awards to help photograph with Fashion News Wire. At the Grammys, I was able to photograph and help interview stars like Beyonce, Nelly, Frank Ocean etc. In spring 2013, the UO’s Mills International Center choose six of my pictures that I took during my recent trip to Kenya for an international display. This summer, I had three photos selected for the Creative Rising exhibit in New York. Last year, I entered the annual UO Campus Copy photo contest and received third place. My artwork is being displayed at the bottom level of the EMU for an entire year. In the fall, I was hired as a web intern for GoDucks.com. I have been able to gain valuable photo and video skills. I applied those skills to the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Martin Luther King, Jr. Video Contest and won first place in the video category.

What groups are you associated with on campus? 
During my time at UO, I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with Dell, PAC 12 Networks, Envision Magazine, Daily Emerald, The Pit Crew, CEO Network, National Association of Black Journalists, The Black Student Union, Asian Pacific American Student Union, Black Student Union, Black Women of Achievement and African Students Association. I am also a recipient of the UO’s Diversity Excellence Scholarship. In December, I was crowned as Miss Black Oregon US Ambassador and will hold this title for a year.
What are some of your goals after you earn your degree? 

After graduation, I want to spend some time traveling and volunteering. I may also apply for the PeaceCorps. Later, I want to work in the art scene in Los Angeles and photograph for a major magazine or network. I am open to any opportunities that may come my way. I am also thinking about opening my own advertising and marketing business. After Los Angeles, I will move back to Kenya and immerse myself in Kenya’s creative scene. I want to teach the younger generation these valuable life and career skills. I believe that it is important to bring others up with you while you are on the ladder of success. Many people often forget where they come from and if it were not for my unique culture I would not be where I am today.