The search committee for a chief diversity and inclusion officer was tasked last November with identifying an innovative and inspiring leader who would work collaboratively to create a more welcoming, diverse, accessible and inclusive community. Nearly 200 talented individuals expressed…
Syracuse Scholar: Maryann Akinboyewa ’15
Maryann Akinboyewa of Bowie, Md., is a senior marketing management major in the Whitman School of Management and a writing and rhetoric major in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is a 2014-15 Remembrance Scholar and was recently chosen as a member of the American Association of University Women’s National Student Advisory Council. As a first-semester freshman, she jumped right into the student experience and has built on it ever since.
Q: How did you begin to build your student experience here at Syracuse University?
A: I joined the Office of Engagement Programs the first semester of my freshman year, and started as a volunteer for the “smART” afterschool art program. Each week, I would go out into the community to mentor middle-school students and encourage them to use art as a means of self-expression. In my sophomore year, I became the program director to the smART program. I was so excited because it was my first leadership opportunity on campus! As a volunteer, I worked one-on-one with the middle-school students I mentored. As program director, my responsibilities and expectations grew. I was now in charge of recruiting, training and supervising college student volunteers. I also managed my office’s social media accounts and created the lessons plans for the students we work with. I am now a senior and am still running the program exclusively for middle-school girls in the Syracuse area. I changed the name of the program to “REAL Girls,” to better reflect what I am trying to teach my students—which is to be their most confident, real self. Working for the Office of Engagement Programs has been critical to my development at Syracuse University as it has made me a more confident, capable leader. I look forward to finishing off my senior year just as I started my freshman year, with the Office of Engagement Programs!
In my sophomore year, I landed my first internship in Syracuse, as a communications assistant in the Division of Student Affairs. It was such a rewarding experience and one of the first times I truly felt integrated into everything going on on campus. I loved being part of the planning process for events happening across campus for students. My supervisor sought out a number of exciting projects for me to work on. One of my proudest moments was participating in the “What’s Being Built on South” campaign. My main role was to promote the challenge course on South Campus. It’s incredibly rewarding to have been able to watch that project come to fruition.
I joined Whitman Women in Business as the vice president of membership in my sophomore year. Women’s empowerment has become so much a part of my identity here at Syracuse. I am committed to helping women and girls everywhere enter the business world. My role with the organization includes getting undergraduate women familiar with the organization. We do everything from planning events to bringing in successful women entrepreneurs to encouraging and inspiring the members of our organization.
Q: You have developed the “Be Kind More Confident” digital media brand. What is its purpose and how is it making an impact?
A: “Be Kind More Confident,” my Honors capstone project, is a digital media brand launching in Spring 2015. I’ve seen many of my friends and women I admire struggle with low self-esteem, social anxieties and lack of confidence and I always wonder why. Women have so much to offer the world and I truly believe we do not give ourselves enough credit.
This past summer, I lived and worked in Uganda for a women’s empowerment organization. I worked with Ugandan women helping them create their own sustainable businesses. The women there were so confident, dignified and determined to succeed. My experiences abroad really inspired me to go forward and create “Be Kind More Confident.” I can’t share the exact details of the project yet, but watch for the launch next spring.
This project has been in my heart for a while. I’ve grown a lot over the past three years and I am excited to share my journey with other women. It’s my hope that “Be Kind More Confident” will help restore self-esteem and confidence in women everywhere.
Q: You are a 2014-15 Remembrance Scholar. What has that experience been like?
A: Becoming a Remembrance Scholar was such a rewarding experience. I am proud of myself and my 34 fellow Remembrance Scholars for the work we have done this past semester and will continue to do this year.
I am still in awe of how incredible my fellow scholars are. They are role models of not only academic excellence, but also continuous service. Together, we’re campus leaders, world-changers, entrepreneurs and doers. Each of us learned the importance of thinking beyond ourselves because to represent someone else is no easy feat.
I had the pleasure of representing Kesha Weedon this year. Kesha was a social work student passionate about music, children and family. She’s more than just a “victim,” she’s a member of Syracuse University. I will always remember the history of Pan Am 103 and Kesha, and her family and I look optimistically towards the future. I will continue to act forward in the name of Kesha Weedon by showing kindness and respect for others.
Q: You were recently selected for the American Association of University Women’s National Student Advisory Council. What does this entail and how is it helping you make an impact on the Syracuse University campus?
A: As a National Student Advisory Council member to AAUW, I have been tasked with promoting gender equity at Syracuse University. I hope to get more women involved with the organization. In addition, I will be in charge of organizing Equal Pay Day activities at Syracuse University and creating an action project that tackles women’s issues. I will also participate in the planning of AAUW’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders at the University of Maryland in May 2015.