This Q&A is part of the story series Voices of Drake that highlights the diversity, ambition, and passion of the incredible people who make up our campus community. In recognition and celebration of Black History Month, we will be sharing a collection of interviews to spotlight Black voices in our community. This week’s story introduces senior Munachi Okuagu, who is studying artificial intelligence, LPS, and data analytics.

Tell us about yourself.
My name is Munachi Okuagu. I am from Overland Park, Kansas. I am a senior studying artificial intelligence, LPS, and data analytics. I am the current Student Body Treasurer, President of the African Caribbean Student Association, and I also get to work as a Crew Scholars Success Coordinator. A little bit about my life outside of school: I am one of four sisters, and I enjoy learning about new cultures whether that be through reading, cooking, crafting or traveling.

What does Black History Month mean to you?
For me, Black History month is about the remembrance of hardships that Black Americans faced in the past and the present. More importantly, it is about celebrating Black joy, Black success, and Black wellness as a whole. This is a month where I embrace the multifaceted beauty that is Black culture and Black presence.

Why did you choose to attend Drake?
I chose Drake because of the academic opportunity and the overall growth potential of the University. Hearing from real students how they feel comfortable asking their professor questions and feeling confident to engage in the material during class. The aspect of Drake that sold me is the Crew Scholars Program, when I saw that Drake was the only University that has this well cultivated program dedicated to students of color and their success. Drake having and maintaining the Crew Scholars program shows the University’s dedication to fostering a diverse community where students like me feel welcome.

What is your favorite thing about Drake?
One thing that I enjoy about Drake is how independent students are when it comes to running organizations and making decisions about the University. Drake gives us the means and the opportunity to define our leadership. This is a skill that I carry not only in my everyday life but I utilize those skills in my professional career as well.

In what ways have you grown since coming to Drake?
I have grown more in my confidence in the academic setting. In classrooms I am given the space to ask questions and take the time to learn the material. I have also grown to understand the importance of taking risks when it comes to whether or not I feel qualified for a position or to speak out on something—I will never know unless I try it and I will never know if it was right or wrong until I ask that question. Through Drake, I’ve learned the importance of just trying new things and living with no regrets.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?
After graduation, I will be working as a data scientist at Discover Financial Services in Chicago. This is a two-year analytics rotation where I get to learn about the financial industry while also expanding my technical skills.

Who has been some of your important mentors during your time at Drake?
Throughout my academic career, there have been several faculty and staff members who have shaped my academics. Two individuals I would like to highlight are Professor Jennifer Harvey and Professor Chris Porter. I feel very fortunate to have had such a strong support system as I embarked on my academic career at Drake, and it would not have been possible without the ongoing support from both Professor Porter and Professor Harvey.

Are you involved in any student organizations, groups, or community service work? Tell us about those experiences.
I am involved in Student Senate, Crew Scholars, and the African Caribbean Student Association. All of those organizations have allowed me to grow as a confident leader. I have had opportunities to use my voice to make real time change for my community and that would not have been made possible without those leadership roles.

What do you hope is accomplished during this month of celebration and recognition?
I hope that throughout the month I see people show up to support the Black community, not just the students at Drake but the greater community and local business as well. I hope that people take the time to educate themselves on what may be unknown for them and to not continue to live in ignorance. Lastly, I hope there is plenty of celebration and Black joy throughout this month because this should be a month of remembrance and celebration.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life, and what lessons did that person teach you?
The biggest influence in my life is my older sister, in the way she carries herself both personally and professionally she is my daily reminder to always be the best version of myself. She teaches me the value of discernment and how to use my ability of judgement to make good decisions that will help me grow into a better person. This allows me to stay true to who I am and keep my morals in line with my values.

How do you like to spend your free time? Tell us about your hobbies and interests.
In my spare time, I enjoy playing tennis, racquetball, reading, playing chess, or doing a puzzle. I most importantly love spending quality time with my friends and family any chance I have.

What advice would you give to a student coming to Drake?
You are the one who defines your Drake experience. College really is the time to explore who you are and who you want to be—use your time to build the foundation of the person that you will be able to look back at and be proud of.