The Charger Blog

New Graduate: ‘Stay Powered On’

As Toyin Folorunso ’24 M.S. reflects on his time as a graduate student at the University of New Haven and considers the future, he offers inspiration and advice to his fellow graduates.

May 15, 2024

By Toyin Folorunso ’24 M.S.

Toyin Folorunso ’24 M.S. celebrates his graduation.
Toyin Folorunso ’24 M.S. celebrates his graduation.

I am an international student from Nigeria, a country in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a treasured privilege to be a Commencement speaker here today, and I want to extend my gratitude to the University for this opportunity.

As we stand here at this significant moment in our lives, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and excitement. I am also filled with an influx of memories, from my first week in this country, until this very moment. Today, marks the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. As an international student, I cannot help but think back to the first day I stepped onto the University of New Haven campus. I did not know what the journey ahead had in store for me.

While planning to attend my first-ever class at the Orange Campus, the home of Pompea College of Business, I missed my bus in Downtown New Haven that day and I was very confused. My confusion was not just because I missed my bus. It stemmed from an introduction to a new culture that was completely different from what I was used to. Life is a journey, and experience, they say, is the best teacher.

‘Each one of us has traveled a unique path’

A couple of weeks further into the semester, I faced another challenge when I began to crave food from Africa, my roots. I tried to distract myself from this craving, but I just could not. So, one beautiful day, I set out on a journey to satisfy my craving. This time around, I did not miss the bus. But guess what? I did miss my bus stop. I did not notice that I had missed my stop until over an hour into that journey. But I did not give up. With increased determination and resilience, I got on another bus to continue my journey. Some other passengers on board were kind enough to help me navigate the journey and locate my stop. The process seemed too long and stressful for a meal of Jollof Rice and Pondo Yam. However, at that point, the food was secondary to me. My determination to find success was more important.

Toyin Folorunso ’24 M.S. on campus.
Toyin Folorunso ’24 M.S. on campus.

For many of us here, just like me, the journey might not have been smooth. In fact, it might have been a journey filled with mistakes, filled with loneliness, filled with always trying to navigate your way. But look at us now. Look at us today. Look at where we are!

May I remind everyone seated here today, that each one of us has traveled a unique path to arrive at this distinct achievement. From managing rigorous academic learning to meeting assignment deadlines to studying so hard for our midterm and final exams, we persevered and showed great determination. Today, we stand together with our heads high, coupled with our shared experiences and achievements here at the prestigious University of New Haven.

‘This is not the end’

Throughout our time here, we have all faced various challenges that have shaped us into the individuals we are now. As for me, my experiences volunteering as an Orientation Leader and Campus Connector with the Office of Graduate and International Student Life; serving as an ambassador for the University in 2023; participating in the President’s Public Service Fellow program at City Seed; working with Students Affairs as a Graduate Assistant; and being the President of one of the fastest-growing Recognized Students Organization on campus, the, African Graduate Student Association (AGSA) have been instrumental in shaping my time as a Charger – and in helping me develop invaluable skills such as professionalism, leadership, teamwork, and communication.

This is not the end. It is only the beginning. As we step out into the world, we must not forget that we are a community of changemakers who are ready to make a difference. We carry with us the knowledge, skills, and experiences gained during our time at the University of New Haven to power our destinies, as we join a network of more than 68,000 alumni of this great university, armed with determination, courage, and a thirst for a new adventure.

Toyin Folorunso ’24 M.S. in Maxcy Hall.
Toyin Folorunso ’24 M.S. in Maxcy Hall.

Henry Adams once said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” And Mustafa Kemal said, “A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.”

These sentiments capture what our professors represent. Not only have they watered us from their wealth of knowledge, but they have also made one of the greatest contributions to humanity by investing in us through their teachings.

‘The best is yet to come’

My fellow graduates, as we embark on this new chapter, let us remember the values that have guided us thus far: integrity, compassion, and empathy. Let us strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others, let us remember to always lead with kindness and humility, and let us never lose sight of our dreams. If the kind people on that second bus (from the story I shared earlier) had not helped me on that day, I might have missed my stop AGAIN! Let us remember to be a guide, just as we have been guided by others.

And, lastly, my fellow graduates, as we bid farewell to this chapter of our lives and look forward to new adventures that await us, let us remember that the journey is just as important as the destination. My fellow graduates, let us cherish the memories we have created, the relationships we have built, and the lessons we have learned from our professors and mentors along the way. Congratulations, Class of 2024. Today, we celebrate not only our accomplishments but also the limitless potential that lies within each of us.

As we spread our wings and soar into the world of the unknown, please remember that the best is yet to come. Never forget the “Power On” poem from the University, which says, “There is power in you waiting to be tapped, a voice to be amplified, and a vision to unlock.” Please keep that power alive. Stay Powered On!

Remember, we are the ambassadors of this great University.
Thank you, and God bless!

Toyin Folorunso ’24 M.S., a new graduate of the University’s graduate program in finance and financial analytics, was a finalist to serve as a student speaker at Commencement. The content above is based on the speech he delivered as part of the competitive process to select the student Commencement speakers.