Heller MS Commencement Speaker: Temitope Odunleye, MS'15

Temitope Odunleye, 2015 MS Commencement Speaker

“Class starts at 9...!”

... Yes, MS graduates will never forget that! Whenever you walked into class late, you got that remark from the straight face of Professor Fournier, whose stern looks betray his joyful and gentle personality. We had to be reminded that time was of the essence and even 5 minutes past 9:00 am for Professor Fournier’s class was not acceptable. Time management lesson 101...!

Today we celebrate the birth of another cohort of “Ambassadors of Social Justice,” drawn from all over the globe: young men and women whose beauty and strength lies in their diversity and commitments that have found a fertile ground to bloom and flourish in the Heller school. I am so proud to be one of them.

I have through my journey so far, proved to kith and kin that given the right opportunity, the girl child has got great potential to make a global impact.

Did I say opportunity? Yes, opportunity—one of life’s precious gifts we all have been fairly given. The decision to take or ignore it is what makes the difference between the great and the small. I am the 1st of my parents’ 4 daughters, their only children in a cultural setting that valued male children more. While others acquired properties, my dad chose to invest in his girls. To many, this was a waste of precious and scarce resources since according to his critics, “the girls would end up in the kitchen.”

This prestigious gathering does not look like a kitchen to me! Well…perhaps in retrospect, the Heller school was indeed a “kitchen” of some sort. My skills have been steamed, cooked, grilled, roasted, fried and even dried, ready to be served to the potential beneficiaries of this lifetime investment.

I seized the opportunity of my father’s choice and became a medical doctor.

I seized the opportunity of a study leave to improve on myself academically.

I seized the opportunity of the scholarship funds, with additional financial and moral support from my husband, to acquire new skills from one of United States’ top-ranking schools for social policy. Now I am a professional in the field of International Health Policy and Management, taught by world-renowned professors. I did not allow these opportunities to slip by. I had always known there was a global dimension to my life and aspirations. My graduation from the Heller school has thus made my bucket list one item less.

Today I am proud to be a daughter who has not ended up in the household kitchen, but is being launched out from the Heller kitchen! I am proud to be a wife who has brought more honor and respect to her husband who believed in her dreams. I am proud to be a mother, whose children can look up to [her] as a role model and have as a yardstick for success. These of course did not come without direct costs and opportunity costs, including temporary separation from loved ones. But the benefits, which outweigh the costs, were high enough an incentive for me to pursue my dream.

At this juncture, like every graduating student here today, I am faced with one question that has persistently trailed me in the past few weeks: “…so, what next?” This makes me nervous because it essentially means “you have been given, it is time to give back; what are you giving back? How are you giving back?” Fellow graduates, the ‘stopover’ for us here is over; the journey to the next destination commences today. Time and chance wait for no man; let us remember that CLASS STARTS AT 9!

I give thanks to the Most High God, by whose grace I am what I am today. Dear families and friends, it has been an eventful journey and we thank you for being a pleasant part of it with us. To our colleagues with a little more time left at this ‘stop’, we look forward to seeing you out there soon. Thank you to our great teachers for sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience with us; we will promptly take that next opportunity to make that difference; we will never forget that CLASS STARTS AT 9

Long live the Heller School for Social Policy and Management!

Long live Brandeis University!

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

Long live the United States of America!