For Tumi Olaoye, it’s all about community: the campus community she found at Western, and the global community she hopes to have an impact on some day.
Born in Nigeria, Olaoye came to Canada with her family when she was 11. Now in her fourth year of a biology specialization, she has immersed herself in campus life as a leader on both the University Students’ Council (USC) as well as the African Students’ Association (ASA), one of close to 200 cultural, sports and social clubs at Western.
But it was her summer internship with the University Health Network, researching the effects of HIV on pregnant women, that linked her to a real-world problem that was close to home and to her heart.
“Growing up in Nigeria, I often heard about the devastating impact HIV had on women, the group most impacted by HIV,” she said. “I was really interested in this work because it connected to back home. I knew the research we were doing could actually impact the women in the country I was from.”
Topping off her research experience was winning the University Health Network award for best summer-student presentation.
“That was a big achievement because it showed me I could take the technical and research skills I was learning in my biology labs at Western and apply them successfully in the professional world,” she said.
Olaoye’s university experience has also been shaped by her involvement in activities outside the classroom – tapping into her interests in finance and dance.
Her belief in the importance of financial literacy for young people led her to get involved with a USC initiative to provide free student tax clinics on campus. Today, she is the USC’s associate vice-president of finance.
Olaoye is also the culture show director for the ASA, responsible for putting on the club’s biggest event of the year.
“In my first year, the African Students’ Association had a dance team, and we rehearsed multiple choreographies, but never got to debut our culture show performance due to COVID. This year, we’re excited the culture show will take place – it will be such a great opportunity to connect students and showcase everyone’s creative talents.”
Olaoye admits her schedule is demanding, but points to the importance of finding balance, developing routines and reminding herself why she’s doing all of this. “I enjoy finding things that could be better and making them better,” she said. “I want to make a positive impact while I’m here.”
She hopes all of her ambition will lead to her ultimate goal of finding a career that will allow her to make a difference addressing global challenges.
“I want to figure out how to combine all the experiences I have gained so far and put it all to use in a career that aligns with who I am.”
Olaoye said she chose Western because it offered the well-rounded experience she wanted, and that she has grown both as a student and a leader here.
“Coming into Western I was super-shy,” she said. “I knew I was intelligent, but I really wasn’t too confident in my abilities to step up as a leader and didn’t know if I could even make a dent in this huge organization. Going through all my classes and pursuing all these extra-curriculars has really allowed me to grow and develop as a leader.”
And being the community builder that she is, Olaoye encourages other students to get involved in university life.
“A huge part of university, in addition to academics, is to really build your network, meet people who can challenge your perspective, make you think about things differently, and broaden your outlook on life,” she said.
“There’s an opportunity for everyone to find their community at Western, there’s something for everyone.”
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