ECON & GVPT graduate Rahila Olanrewaju delivered the Spring commencement address to the BSOS Class of 2020
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, and raised in Rockville, Maryland, this BSOS student has made a lasting mark on the University community. Rahila Olanrewaju graduated May 22 as a Banneker Key scholar with majors in economics and government and politics and a minor in African Studies. During her time at the University, Olanrewaju served on the BSOS Dean’s Student Advisory Council, as Vice President of Academic Affairs for the Student Government Association, held several roles as a Research Assistant, and founded the African Languages Association.
Olanrewaju cites her greatest accomplishment at UMD as her work with the Department of African American Studies (AFAM) to develop a new minor in African Studies, the University’s first academic program of its kind. In her role as a representative on the Dean’s Student Advisory Council, Olanrewaju collaborated with College and Department administration to develop the curriculum design and requirements.
“As a Nigerian-born American, I spent my K-12 years yearning to learn more about Africa, with the hope of one day returning to my home country and improving access to basic services,” she said. “Given the large body of Africans and African enthusiasts on campus, I quickly recognized that I was not the only student with this yearning, and as a sophomore, I set about the journey of developing targeted academic programs focused on the continent.”
In addition to her work in establishing the African Studies minor, Olanrewaju is the Founder and Head of Operations for the Financial Literacy Outreach and Training Program (FLOAT). The program, run through the Department of Economics, trains undergraduate students to teach personal finance skills to middle school students during the spring semester. Olanrewaju says she began the FLOAT program to reach students who were coming from low-income or immigrant backgrounds.
“I remember how overwhelmed my mother felt navigating the U.S. job market and the numerous financial decisions that had to be made, and how uncertain I felt planning for college,” Olanrewaju said. “My hope is that educating students about personal finances in their youth will provide students with the foundation for remaining financially astute and becoming changemakers in their families and communities at large.
Olanrewaju led the first-year implementation of the FLOAT program, helped manage their budget of over $20,000, and remains the organization’s Head of Operations.
Olanrewaju says these projects, and more, all had the same focus in mind — advancing the interests of underserved populations at the University and surrounding community.
“BSOS encourages entrepreneurial endeavors focused on social good, so as a BSOS student, I never had to look too far for guidance and inspiration. I've been blessed to collaborate with some of the most dedicated faculty and students.”
During quarantine, Olanrewaju has continued her work to better the community. She has spent much of her time working on a passion project called Comparative Advantage which will provide students with career services, internship and job listings, and tips on how to navigate the job market.
“I've always been passionate about workforce development,” she said. “ I started this project to help students who don't have access to the same kind of support and guidance that's been integral to my success.”
Following commencement, Olanrewaju will be joining Deloitte’s New York office as a Strategy & Operations Business Analyst.