A Nigerian student’s path to New York City ran through Claflin University.
Agbai Okoronkwo will soon travel to New York for a job with Goldman Sachs, a leader in global investment banking, securities and investment management.
But first, he will be among the candidates for graduation at Claflin’s sesquicentennial commencement at 11 a.m. Saturday in the South Atlantic Conference Seventh-day Adventist Convention Center, 514 Neeses Highway.
Claflin President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale, the university’s eighth president, will deliver the keynote address. Tisdale will retire from Claflin after 25 years of leadership on June 30.
Agbai is a member of the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College. He will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science with a minor in cybersecurity and a 3.87 grade point average.
Before his matriculation at Claflin, Agbai graduated from Dority International Secondary School in Aba, Abai state in Nigeria. Dority International is listed as one of the country’s best private schools with rigorous entrance exams and long-standing records of high achievement on the African senior exam.
Agbai headed to Claflin on the recommendation of a school counselor who knew about the university and its focus on global engagement.
“The word about Claflin is out in our country,” he said. “People know about this university and I wanted to be part of what is happening.”
Agbai, who speaks fluent English, French and Igbo, one of Nigeria’s three major languages, was initially a little lonesome and homesick. However, after meeting other international students, especially those from other African countries, that changed.
As his comfort level increased, he focused his energy on his studies.
His sophomore year, he received an internship with Survey Monkey. As a junior he interned with Goldman Sachs.
Agbai is now headed to New York City for a full-time job with the company. He will work in internal audits and specifically look at cybersecurity and risk analysis. Agbai is passionate about both areas, which are major issues as individuals and companies worry about hacked data and personal information.
“The causes of these types of crimes and how they can be prevented will be one of my primary responsibilities,” he said. “I’ve spent my time here not just learning what I was being taught, but doing additional research on cybersecurity and figuring out what role I can play. College has provided me the foundation that enabled me to do research on an issue. I’ve tried to take advantage of all that was here at Claflin, so I am ready for my next steps.”
Dr. Cheryl Swainer, chair of the department of Mathematics and Computer Sciences, calls Agbai the “full package.”
“He has the intelligence, the looks, great interpersonal skills and is a natural-born leader,” she said. “He is a real go-getter and I expect him to be a leader in corporate America. He will go far.”
Swainer, who has contacts with Goldman Sachs, first invited the corporate giant to Claflin knowing the caliber of some of her students.
“I wanted them to partner with us and I wanted them to hire talented African-American students,” she said. “So why not start at Claflin? We help students fulfill their dreams. That’s who we are.”
Agbai is one of three Claflin students in this year’s graduating class who were offered jobs with Goldman Sachs. One student turned them down for an offer with Bank of America.
While at Claflin, Agbai served as a member of the International Students’ Association, was a member and president of the campus chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, and a campus tutor in algebra, calculus and chemistry. He also placed second in Claflin’s first student research competition.
Agbai was also part of a team from Claflin that qualified for the three-day Collegiate Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition, hosted by the Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic and the South Carolina Lowcountry Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications Electronic Association.
His ultimate goal is to head back to Nigeria and open a “boot camp” to prepare students for positions with national and international companies.
“How long it might take to get this up and running, I’m not sure,” he said. “For now, I want to make the connections, but I want to go back home and provide students with the technology skills they will need to function in this high-tech economy.”