Student / March 7, 2024

Undergrad Reflects on Making the Most of Her Smith School Experience

Miriam Oke ’24

Miriam Oke '24 epitomizes leadership and advocacy, leaving a lasting impact through her multifaceted involvement and dedication to academic excellence and community-building.

When she walks across the Commencement stage to collect her diploma, Miriam Oke ’24 can undoubtedly say she left her mark on the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Oke, a finance major with a minor in nonprofit leadership and social innovation at the Smith School, knew even before she took her first steps on campus as a student that she wanted a college experience predicated on forging connections and building communities. During the next four years, she did that and more.

Most notably, Oke, a merit scholar, has served as co-chair and advisor for the Women’s Empowerment Institute, ambassador for the Do Good Institute and held the director of finance position for the UMD chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants. She also found time to support the school’s Diversity Equity Council, the University Career Center's IDEA Board and the Enrollment Management Student Advisory Council, among others.

Oke observed selflessness and developed her desire to be involved in her community through her parents during her upbringing. Her mother, who immigrated from Nigeria, established a daycare to assist parents in need in Brooklyn. After seeing her mother spring into action to meet the needs of their community, Oke knew she wanted to do the same wherever she went, which eventually included the Smith School.

“It all stems from my passion for advocacy and seeing myself as a community builder,” says Oke. “I want to make sure that other people feel like they have the same path or resources to succeed. That’s where my heart lies with the many communities and opportunities I find myself in.”

In the classroom, Oke employed her advocacy mindset toward pursuing her finance degree and engaged in her community-building ways through her participation in the Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams (QUEST) Honors Program, a three-year multidisciplinary program for students interested in hands-on learning experiences.

Working and interacting with students of diverse academic backgrounds was an appealing opportunity for Oke. It provides an ideal learning environment that effectively demonstrates the importance of bringing different perspectives to the table to address grand challenges.

“I think QUEST does a great job of helping you see how other people think and why they think that way,” says Oke. “It’s a great community of students who don’t usually have as many opportunities to interact with each other in the classroom.”

Despite being a senior, Oke’s not quite finished with her time at the Smith School. She’s sticking around to pursue another academic aspiration—earning her master’s degree in finance through the school’s Plus 1 program .

Being a first-generation college student, part of Oke’s motivation behind the decision to continue her education stems from her mother strongly and lovingly holding her to a “two-degree minimum.” However, the seamlessness of beginning her master’s program coursework while wrapping up her undergraduate career also played a major role in the decision, she says.

“So far, the Plus 1 program has really taken what I've learned in some of my undergraduate courses and expanded it on a deeper level, which has helped me to understand the “whys” behind what we're doing,” says Oke. “You get to see the value of what you're doing on a larger scale.”

Long term, Oke aims to continue operating at the intersection of finance and advocacy by parlaying her degrees into a position at a major financial firm where she can continue building a foundation in wealth management. She hopes to use that experience to eventually work with non-profit organizations focused on generating generational wealth across all income levels and addressing the racial wealth gap.

In the meantime, she’s focused on finishing her coursework, mentoring the next generation of student leaders and leaving systems in place that will help instill longevity in the organizations of which she was a part.

Reflecting on her time at the Smith School, Oke doesn’t take her busy schedule of extracurricular activities for granted. As much as she’s helped shape these student organizations, they’ve helped shape her undergraduate experience. She strongly recommends that students get involved in as many clubs as they can while making sure they also take care of themselves.

“At the end of the day, you just have to allocate your energy in a way that aligns with your morals and what you want,” says Oke. “It’s about understanding where you are and what you need versus what you want to pour your energy into. We're all human, you can't put 110% into every single thing you do, but if you want to do a million things, just make sure those million things work for you.”

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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