Growing up in Nigeria, Damilola had big dreams and big plans. Seizing opportunities that make big dreams come true sometimes requires a leap of faith. With support from her family at home, and the generous support of donors to Harris Public Policy, Dami realized her dreams.

Damilola Oyedele's headshot
Damilola Oyedele, MBA/MPP '17

Dami grew up in a comfortable, middle-class family in Ibadan, Nigeria. After high school, Dami earned a BSc in Economics from Obafemi Awolowo University. Eager to gain new skills, Dami took a course for young writers with Red Media Africa, where she worked as a freelance writer and then as an editor. When Dami moved on to KPMG Advisory Services, she worked as a management consultant. Each step in the journey led Dami closer to her dream: a graduate degree to prepare her for a career on a global stage, addressing systemic, holistic change in local and international settings.

Acceptance at the Harris School of Public Policy was the biggest leap toward that dream. The plan—and hope—was that with family support, and a grant she secured from an international nonprofit, she would cover the cost of her program.  But during Dami’s second semester at Harris, it became apparent that due to circumstances beyond their control, Dami’s family could only support housing expenses—not tuition.

The situation created a crisis. Dami knew of no options for continuing the education she prized and at which she excelled. As an international student, she was not eligible for student loans or aid. Private loans required a co-signer who was a permanent resident. If she wasn’t able to secure funding, Dami would have to leave Harris and return to Nigeria.

As a last resort, Dami contacted the office of the Dean of Students. Jeremy Edwards, Director of Student Affairs, reached out to donors and asked if scholarship funds could be used for Dami. Within days, Dami got word that funds were made available to complete her first year of the dual degree program with the Booth School of Business.

The moment was a turning point in Dami’s academic career, and her life. “When students lose funding,” Dami notes, “they return to their countries with the intention of continuing their education in the US when they have the funds.” But it’s not that easy. “The students I know who returned to Nigeria—they didn’t come back.”

The student affairs team’s immediate response enabled Dami to continue her studies. After one year at Harris, one year at Booth, and a third year working on both programs, she earned her dual MBA/MPP, with a concentration in entrepreneurship, in 2017. The dual perspective is a critical benefit: Dami can address issues facing developing countries that require understanding of complex public policies with a knowledge of economic solutions. 

After graduation, Dami took a position as Senior Product Manager with Amazon. She loves her job. Dami recognizes the privileges she enjoys, and career benefits she will continue to reap, as a result of her education. Once set on a career path, Dami wanted to give back, and contacted the Dean of Students office that had intervened on her behalf. Though just starting out in her career, Dami talked with the development team at Harris about making a gift. “I look forward to making larger contributions in the future—but I understand from experience that my gift today can be an important stepping stone in putting together a package of support for an international student.” Dami knows her gift toward scholarship funds for a student from Africa will someday make the difference between a student having to abandon their plans and continuing their education.

At Harris, Dami met and learned from bright, talented students from other countries and cultures, who still serve as a network she relies upon to stay connected with both policy and business. One day, these young professionals will be responsible for creating safe, peaceful communities and prosperous economies around the world. Their experience at Harris will enable them to create the conceptual and structural framework for a future of cross-cultural respect and cooperation. 

Your gift to Harris Public Policy can make the difference: for the education of a gifted student, and for the larger mission of Harris to train a new generation of leaders who are driven to change the world. Dami’s message is, “give, give, give!”