Alumna pays it forward because "opportunity changes everything"
This story was written by Laura Newcomer for the Rutgers University Alumni Association.
Chioma Igwebuike, who graduated from Rutgers Business School in 2017, grew up in the heart of Newark, where talent abounds but too often access and opportunity do not. While in high school, she seized the chance to participate in the All Stars Project of New Jersey, an area nonprofit that provides personal and professional development opportunities for young people from underserved communities. Inspired by the project to enroll in Rutgers Business School’s Business Student Transition at Rutgers (B-STAR) Program, Igwebuike went on to graduate from Rutgers Business School and land a job at Goldman Sachs. Now, she’s determined to pay it forward.
“B-STAR was so instrumental to my college success, because I got an opportunity to take college-level courses the summer before my freshman year in different subjects at the business school,” Igwebuike said. “I also had the opportunity to build a cohort of other diverse students.” B-STAR’s highly competitive, six-week summer academic and residential coursework is designed to support high-performing and high-potential incoming students and ease the transition from high school to college. The program allowed Igwebuike to connect with faculty at the business school very early in her academic career and to develop relationships that served her for the duration of her time at Rutgers.
Just as she’d leapt at the chance to participate in the All Stars Project and B-STAR, Igwebuike seized every opportunity that came her way at Rutgers. While completing her accounting degree, she served as vice president of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), where she developed events to attract more members to the group and more recruiters to the school. She also interned at Goldman Sachs, working during the day and taking classes in the evenings.
“I don’t know if I would have gotten that experience if I was at a different school,” she said. “In general, my experience at Rutgers was great. It’s a school that I’m always recommending high school students to apply to.”
Despite her full-time job at Goldman Sachs, where she’s leveraged her accounting degree to excel at data analytics, Igwebuike still spends a lot of time with high schoolers and other young people. She sits on the All Stars Project’s alumni council and serves as a mentor for the nonprofit’s Development School for Youth, which provides professional development opportunities, access to the business world, and mentorship for young people age 16 to 21. The program has been lauded by the likes of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Igwebuike sees it as an important tool for expanding access to academic and professional opportunities.
“I grew up in the inner city. As happy as I am that I’ve been able to achieve the things that I’ve been able to achieve, where I’m from, that’s not the norm for a lot of people,” she said. “I think sometimes when it comes to success, it’s not really [about] talent, sometimes it’s just [a matter of] access and opportunity.” Igwebuike says she feels fortunate that she’s had both, and she wants to give the same chance to students from her community. “I want to be able to help the next generation of students of color and students from underserved communities to get the same opportunities that I had, and I think the only way to do that is to just create that bridge and reach out.”
In addition to mentoring students through the All Stars Project, Igwebuike also regularly makes time to speak on informational panels for Rutgers students who are looking for career guidance or are interested in a career at Goldman Sachs. She regularly participates in NABA’s on-campus conference, as well as preconference activities, to coach students through making the most of their time at the conference. And she frequently receives emails and LinkedIn requests from Rutgers students wanting to learn from her success. Igwebuike is always happy to answer questions from students and to connect them with professional development and mentorship opportunities.
“I think mentoring is really important, because I’ve benefitted from a lot of mentoring and people taking the time to give me advice and share their experiences,” she said. “I see it as my duty to pay it forward and advise as many students as I can. Giving someone an opportunity? It changes everything.”
This story was reposted with the permission of the Rutgers University Alumni Association.
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