Story by Marianna Moore
As he walked into his residence hall and began to unpack his things, Nnamdi Egwuonwu knew he had some catching up to do. He had arrived at Mizzou a few days later than his peers and missed the Midnight BBQ and Tiger Walk.
“That’s really what motivated me to get involved early on,” says Egwuonwu. “I wanted to meet new people and make friends.”
Egwuonwu also appreciated the opportunity he had. “My family was not the wealthiest,” he says. “I have eight siblings, so college was a question mark.”
But in high school he received the Gates Millennium Scholarship, which fully funded his college education. He wanted to take full advantage of being able to attend the university of his choice.
Once at Mizzou, Egwuonwu immediately took the initiative to join organizations on campus, starting with the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). He then joined Freshman Action Team and MUTV.
“I was told very early freshman year that it’s a good idea to join one organization that has a professional benefit and one organization that has a personal appeal,” Egwuonwu says.
Joining organizations was one thing. But Egwuonwu wanted to be doing more. He didn’t speak up a lot in meetings, but his peers still saw potential in him and encouraged him to apply for executive positions. They helped boost his confidence and prepare him for even bigger leadership roles.
“Sometimes it’s really helpful when someone who’s more experienced than you can look at you and say, ‘I think you have potential,’ ” Egwuonwu says.
By the end of his freshman year, Egwuonwu had secured an executive position at MUTV and was developing his own talk show, E23 Table Talk, which launched during his sophomore year. He was also elected sergeant of arms on the NABJ executive board and was chosen to attend Media Tour, an annual trip select NABJ members take to visit big-market media agencies.
“That was one of the biggest confidence boosters of my college experience,” says Egwuonwu.
Receiving executive positions in both of his organizations was a milestone for Egwuonwu. He realized that by applying himself and working hard he was already making major strides on campus.
“Just being involved really laid the foundation for the rest of my college years,” Egwuonwu says. “It’s a nice feeling to feel like you’re doing something.”
By junior year, however, Egwuonwu had taken on too many things. He had a heavy course load, was working three jobs and was still involved with his organizations. He had to figure out how to remain an active and academically successful student without becoming overwhelmed.
“It was one of the toughest semesters I’ve been in,” Egwuonwu says. “But it taught me how to be an adult in the sense of making sure you’re taking care of your mental and physical health.”
At the end of that same semester, Egwuonwu was elected president of NABJ. His fellow executive board members speak highly of his performance as president.
“I think he has definitely set the bar for what is expected next year,” says Sydney Walton, NABJ Treasurer. “Definitely big shoes to fill.”
Walton has known Egwuonwu for two years. He helped her secure an executive position at MUTV and appeared on her radio show where they discussed identity and change.
“I look at him like, ‘That’s a leader,’ ” says Walton. “I would definitely say that he’s had a big impact on my experience here at Mizzou.”
Egwuonwu’s leadership on campus contributed to his recent selection for Mizzou ’39. The award, an homage to the university’s 1839 founding, is given annually to 39 seniors who demonstrate excellence in academics, leadership and service.
Each recipient also honors a mentor who helped them along the way. Egwuonwu chose Mark Hinojosa.
“He was always pretty well focused,” says Hinojosa, a convergence journalism professor in the School of Journalism. “Not many students his age are as mature and as focused as he is.”
Egwuonwu came to Hinojosa for advice his sophomore year when deciding which interest area he wanted to pursue in the journalism school. Though Egwuonwu didn’t choose convergence as his area, he and Hinojosa still became close.
“He taught me a lot about myself and my leadership ability,” Egwuonwu says.
After graduation Egwuonwu will start a fellowship with CNBC in New Jersey. With the lessons he learned at Mizzou, he is confident to start the journey.
“If you work hard, you can make things happen for yourself,” he says.
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