Outgoing WASA President Tola Sunmonu To Give 2016 Graduation Speech

The entire 2016-2017 WASA Executive Board is thrilled to announce that our outgoing President, Tola Sunmonu has been selected to be a graduation speaker for the Wharton MBA Class of 2016. In just a few days, Tola will share her thoughts with the entire Wharton community in what we know will be a phenomenal speech. We connected with Tola for a Question & Answer to gain some insight into her Wharton experience and her future goals.

What are the top 3 lessons you learned this past year as WASA President?

    1. One of my biggest lessons is around the importance of relationships. I have learned that the best way to manage people is by understanding them deeply, i.e. what motivates them, what are they going through right now and how does it impact their work and how can I be supportive.
    2. I learned the importance of being a community builder. It is something that I have seen that is very innate in some other student leaders and something that I am working on. It’s amazing the things that happen once a strong community has been created.
    3. I’ve also learned the importance of learning from failures rather than being crippled by them. It is so important to be honest not only with your team but also with yourself so you can course correct quickly.

What was the highlight of your year as President of WASA?

There are so many! One of our goals this year was to build a better brand for WASA on campus. Two memories stand out to me – one is seeing the dance floor packed during the WASA Afrobeats party, which is the first one we had ever done. The second was seeing standing-room only spaces during WASA lunch and learns because people in the Wharton community were so eager to participate in our programming.

Tola with members of the Wharton Africa Student Association on campus.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during your presidency?

The WASA team is so passionate and everyone wants to do good work so as a result there are a lot of moving pieces to handle and stay abreast of. Managing this balancing act was the hardest part of my role.

Tola with WASA members Kiki and Ash at WABF23

Tola with alumni at WABF23 reception

What are your post-MBA plans (and why was it important to you to go back to Nigeria)?

Post-MBA, my plan is to return to Nigeria to work for Mckinsey as a consultant. Prior to business school, I moved back to Nigeria to work for an agricultural investment company and soon decided that this was where my career would be based. I need to work on issues I feel strongly about. The development of Nigeria is something that I feel very motivated by. So, when I came to Wharton, I only recruited for jobs in Nigeria.

How would you describe the international student community at Wharton in general and specifically for Africans?

The international community at Wharton is a work in progress. This year, I was VP of international students for Wharton’s Graduate Association. I got the opportunity to work on issues as they relate to international students. There is a lot of room for improvement in terms of making sure that there is an increase in international content taught in the classroom to ensure that the perspectives of international students are drawn out more. However. through international groups, international students are able to gain a deep sense of community which is what I experienced in WASA in both years. WASA has truly been a family, some of my closest friends and fondest memories are from WASA.

Can you describe your commencement speech selection? What was the selection process? How do you feel about being selected? What can attendees look forward to from you in your speech?

I am incredibly honored to have been selected. The process is actually an audition which was really scary! Before I gave the speech, I was anxious because I felt that it wasn’t a ‘typical’ graduation speech. I just wanted to speak my truth and talk about what I have learned here at Wharton. The theme that emerged was the power of vulnerability. I have enjoyed every phase of writing my speech because it has allowed me to reflect deeply on my experience here and how I have evolved in this short time period. I am excited and a little nervous to deliver my speech. but moreover I am so proud of Wharton for giving me the opportunity to speak my truth!

WASA is a student-led club of the Wharton Graduate Association and the focal point for Africa-related activities at the Wharton School. Our members are MBA students from Africa, as well as students interested in the continent. Building on the strengths of its diverse and strong community of members, WASA offers a variety of educational and cultural events, career and networking opportunities, and academic support to its members.