Publication Date

The 50th anniversary of women’s arrival at Union features a year-long celebration of women and their contributions to the College, their communities and the world.

Mary Omobolanle Olushoga ’06 majored in sociology before earning an M.S. from CUNY/Baruch College, School of Public Affairs. She was also a SUNY/ University at Albany Public Policy Fellow at the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society, Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy. Now assistant vice president and senior business advisor of Excelsior Growth Fund, Mary manages and oversees the J.P. Morgan Chase Entrepreneur of Color fund. She is also president and CEO of African Women Power (AWP) Network, which she founded in 2012. In this role, Mary launched and organized the first-ever African Women in Tech conference in Lagos (in collaboration with Google and Flutterwave) to encourage more women and girls to go into STEM fields. She also launched the AWP Network Agropreneur project for women farmers and the award-winning AWP Network Dream Initiative for secondary school and college students. The recipient of numerous international and national awards, she has shared her expertise on women entrepreneurs at events around the world and is a contributor to the Huffington Post, GE Ideas Laboratory, The Guardian Nigeria and others.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?

The rewarding aspect of my career is contributing to the community and economic development landscape in the Bronx (where I first moved to when I came to the United States) and my work with women in Nigeria.

Who inspired/inspires you, both professionally and personally?

My mother. She is a leader in her own right. She is a very focused and hardworking woman.

What advice would you offer today’s women students, not just at Union, but across the country?

I often think about something I call the F.O.C.U.S. methodology; let’s just say I created this. It allows me to focus on what is important.

F – focus on family

O – find opportunities

C – accumulate assets of cash & collateral

U – when you find out what you really stand for, adore, honor, respect and love yourself. Everything starts within and with self.

S – be content and satisfied with what you accomplish as you move along life’s journey

Speak up. Be bold. Live your life. Make mistakes. Learn from these mistakes and move on quickly. Also don’t forget that when you are young is the best time to try out new things, travel to new places and see the world.

What was your most formative experience at Union?

Union allowed me to solidify my leadership skills and abilities. One of my favorite memories: While I was a sophomore, I was in my dorm. The phone rings and its George Tiggle ’98, who worked in Admissions (RIP - 2019). He calls to ask if I could meet him and Teran Tedal ’05 at Reamer Campus Center. I arrive and George Tiggle says, “I’ve created the bylaws and registered the student group, now we need a leader. I want you to lead the Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir. I trust your leadership abilities and I know you can do it.” Little moments like that really made a difference for me. At the time, I was a new immigrant – what a transition. I had just come from Lagos, Nigeria to the Bronx, New York. And now I was in a new environment at Union College, where I was involved in the African and Latino Alliance of Students, was president of the National Society of Black Engineers, Student Forum vice president, and a dancer, choreographer, actor, singer and performer. I toured with the Jazz Band and performed at the Burlington Jazz Festival in Vermont. I also spent three years as research assistant to Associate Professor of Sociology Deidre Hill Butler. Union was really that place to flourish. I am forever grateful to the College for creating such a fantastic learning environment.

We'd love to hear about your Union experience. Please email us makingourmark@union.edu. Photos are welcome, too.
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