It seemed logical at the time. Karina Ogunlana ’13 was really into chemistry during high school. Even math was a snap. So when her father, cytotechnologist Olakunle Ogunlana, suggested she enroll at Texas A&M as a chemical engineering major, the San Antonio, TX, native thought she had found the perfect fit.
But Karina is a people person, and engineering didn’t promise her chances to work with that many ... people, that is. Before long, she decided a course correction was in order. The decision wasn’t as painless as you might think.
“I’ve always looked to my dad for guidance,” she explains, “especially in academics. He’s never steered me wrong. So it was really hard for me to say, ‘You know what, Dad? I appreciate what you’re saying, and I understand, but that’s not what’s going to be best for me in the long run. This isn’t what I want to do with my life.’ That was one of my most challenging moments.”
So how did she choose her new major? Well, her experience with the Department of Residence Life helped. Between her job as a resident advisor (RA); her membership in the department’s social justice and diversity committee, ERASE (Encouraging Respect, Acceptance and Support through Education); and her involvement in Aggie Allies, Karina thought she might be particularly suited to a career in student affairs. That conclusion eventually led her to sociology, a major that covers most, if not all, her top interests—GLBT issues and women’s rights, for example.
There was just one small problem.
“My mom double majored in psychology and sociology,” Karina admits with a rueful smile, “then she couldn’t find a job. So my parents were kind of worried about my choice.”
These days Mom—that would be Carmen Ogunlana, a successful middle school counselor—feels much better about her daughter’s professional future.
“She’s like, ‘Okay, you have plans to do something,’” says Karina. “‘To continue your education.’ So the fact that I’ve told my parents I do want to go to grad school to continue in student affairs in higher education has eased their minds a little bit.”
In the meantime, Karina continues to get a jump start on her career through her continued involvement with Residence Life, facilitating programs like “Tearing Down the Wall” and “The Global Pizza Party,” while she acts as RA for The Gardens, Phase II University Apartments. Having completed Speaker’s Bureau training, she’s become an advanced facilitator for Aggie Allies, serving on various panels. The way she sees it, her outside-the-classroom activities dovetail neatly with her inside-the-classroom experience, giving her a definite advantage—namely, a chance to get hands-on with the theory.
“The classes I’ve been taking this semester,” she muses, “I’ve been able to put that education—the techniques, as well as information on what makes an inclusive versus a non-inclusive conversation—together with what I do in Aggie Allies … and vice versa. It’s been really nice to be able to merge that with the things I’m learning in the Residence Hall Association, too.”
As you might guess, Karina is getting that human touch she wanted … and then some! But we’re not just talking Aggieland. As the National Communications Coordinator for the Residence Hall Association Exec Team, she represents the Texas A&M campus population to the region and the nation. That translates into conferences and a host of other networking opportunities. And that suits her just fine!
“I think part of my passion for people stems from the fact that my little brother, Joachim, is special needs,” Karina muses, “mild MR and autistic. I was very involved with him when I was growing up. He and my other brother, Nicolai, have been good influences on me. They’re part of the reason I like to work with others.”
How much does she like it?
When you ask her to tell you, her face lights up with a smile. “Hands-on interaction with people? It just makes my day!”
In addition to serving as an RA and National Communications Coordinator for the Residence Hall Association, Karina is an Aggie Eco rep, working toward more sustainable living styles in the residence halls. She’s also a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary, an organization comprised of the top 1% of students living on campus.
For more information on the Department of Residence Life and student leadership opportunities available through the department, please visit http://reslife.tamu.edu/.
You’ll find information on Aggie Allies at http://allies.tamu.edu/.
Kathy DiSanto, Communications Specialist
Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs