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Knox Alumni Engage Students in the Black History Month Panel

On February 24, 2023, four Knox College alumni participated in the Black History Month alumni panel, speaking with students about their career paths and the impact Knox had on their lives.

This year’s guests included Tasha Weatherspoon ’96; Maurice McDavid ’10, Robert Johnson ’90, and Abdul Oganla ’16.

Weatherspoon currently works as a physical therapist and is on the board of directors at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She also serves as secretary of the Black Alumni Network.

During her time at Knox, she felt that she was surrounded by a strong family support network, encouraging her studies. She explained that physical therapy was not a major at Knox, so she had to forge her own path in the field. This determination has carried into her career.

“I’ve learned to negotiate for what I want in a job. That’s important,” Weatherspoon said. 

She advised students to be confident in what they want in their careers and to pursue what is meaningful to them. She suggested that students take part in extracurricular activities and build their resumes through leadership, utilizing the opportunities Knox provides to study a diverse range of topics and become well-rounded individuals. 

Knox students at Lombard Middle School

McDavid currently works as an elementary school principal and podcaster. He is also working on a business initiative.

McDavid believes coming to Knox humbled him. He says that one of the most valuable lessons he learned at Knox was that the connections he made were “bridges to opportunities” in the future. He says there are many Knox alumni he speaks with to this day, some as far away as Barcelona. 

“I remember thinking this was a different kind of space,”  McDavid said. “I thought I was special, but I learned that I had to come here and work hard.” 

He advised students to work on their writing skills when communicating about career opportunities since this is one of the strongest skills Knox offers to students. He also discussed the importance of being steadfast in your career vision, telling students that they don’t have to make a career out of someone else’s ideas. 

Johnson currently works as chief equity officer with the Bezos Academy, which is building a network of tuition-free, Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities. He considers himself a “lawpreneur.” 

Johnson remembered his time at Knox as one of personal development and staying true to himself. He told a story about leading a protest at Knox that led to securing a permanent location for the Allied Blacks for Liberty and Equality (A.B.L.E.) House. As a first-generation student, he said that coming to Knox was a culture shock for him, but that he was proud to attend the College. 

“Knox is a small school with a powerful reach and reputation. People who know education know Knox. A Knox education carries weight in the Midwest,” Johnson said. 

Johnson regretted not taking the opportunity to study abroad and suggested that students take the chance if able. He advised students to try to understand what’s right instead of who’s right. He said that this approach has helped him connect with people who align with him, in turn allowing him to connect people to the appropriate career circles. 

Knox students at Lombard Middle School

Oganla is the founder of the Africa-USA College Soccer Recruitment Tour (AUS Access) and is currently pursuing his master’s of business administration (MBA) at Washington University in St. Louis - Olin Business School. 

Oganla says that he spent his time at Knox doing as much outside of the classroom as possible, while still taking time to engage in his studies. At Knox, he was president of the Islamic Club and Harambe Club, captain of the soccer team, and founder of the Knoxies awards, which he said gave him the freedom to try anything he wanted to without feeling limited. 

“You aren’t limited by the color of your skin, the sound of your voice, or how you look. Knox allows you to do what you want,” Oganla said. 

Oganla said that he puts an emphasis on seeking out jobs that allow him to be his authentic self. If he’s not able to dress and feel true to his lifestyle, he feels that’s not the job for him. He told students that entrepreneurship is about solving problems and selling the solution. He explained that if you put effort into your business and succeed, you can invest the money you make in your hobbies and your future. 

The panel closed with the four panelists fielding questions from the audience and encouraging the students to use the alumni networks as they enter their careers.

The gathering was co-hosted by the Office of Intercultural Life, the Bastian Family Center for Career Success, and the Office of Advancement, with direct collaboration by Assistant Director of the Bastian Family Center for Career Success Fallon Allison, Associate Director of College Engagement Levi Morgan, and Assistant Director of Cultural Life and LGBTQ+ Advisor Aries Powell, who moderated the panel.

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Printed on Friday, December 8, 2023