Brandon Okeke, a biochemistry senior, is one of two accomplished undergraduates who will be honored with the Student Legacy Award at our annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights. He is also the 2020 recipient of the Texas Exes’ Edward S. Guleke Student Excellence Award. Read on to learn more about his experience here on campus, the life wisdom he gained in Beijing, China, and how his hard-working mother inspired him to pursue a rewarding career in medicine.
Programs and activities: Afrikan American Affairs, Heman Sweatt Center for Black Males (formerly AAMRI), Texas Blazers, Black Health Professions Organization, Summer Health Professions Education Program in New Orleans, La.
Finding his center…Early into his freshman year, Okeke found his community within the Multicultural Engagement Center (MEC), a space on campus that educates and empowers students to become leaders and future gamechangers. “The staff are great at finding us opportunities. Whether it’s scholarships, internships or study abroad, they provide so much in one space. While working with students and advisors and staff, especially Malik Crowder, I learned so much about myself and about how other people think.”
Getting organized and mobilized…Among his many duties, he planned and organized a number of events—from New Black Student Weekend to professional development workshops to Title IX info sessions. “It’s easy to get lost on a campus with 50,000 students, so we’re reaching out to students early on to let them know that the MEC is here for them. It has really helped me feel more comfortable with my surroundings and helped me realize that I belong here.”
Beijing bound…In spring 2017, Okeke traveled to Beijing, China with his fellow study abroad students participating in the DDCE’s signature Entrepreneurship in China and the U.S. program. Along the way, he gained new perspectives about himself and others. “I’ll never forget the moment when I climbed to the top of the stairsteps to the Forbidden City that overlooked the entire city of Beijing. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I’m here—and there’s really nothing I can’t do.’ I made this reality for myself.”
A scientist at heart… After his trip abroad, Okeke followed his career path with a renewed sense of confidence—a path that aligns with his lifelong passion for science. “Science has had my heart right from the jump. When I was young, I used to make my own chemistry sets and conduct experiments to see how things worked. During my freshman year, I read my biology book just for fun.”
Rising to greatness…Now as Okeke closes in on his senior year, he’s excited to study medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. His interest in the medical field stems from his admiration of his mother, who overcame a great deal of adversity to become a senior-level nurse at St. Joseph Medical Center in Houston, Texas. “She was one of the best nurses in the hospital. She worked really hard and I’ve always looked up to her. I know that if I work just as hard, I could be great as well.”
Cross-posted from the Division of Diversity & Community Engagement.