Yetunde Odugbesan-Omede embodies the essence of an Afropolitan Mom, she spends her day working as a Professor at Adelphi University, shaping young minds while also carving out time to give back to her community.
What was your first job out of college, and how did you get it?
I landed my first job out of college two months after graduation in May 2009. I was hired to work in the Dean’s Office at the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University-Newark Campus. I worked directly for Dr. Marc Holzer, who is still the Dean of the School of Public Affairs and Administration. I landed the job by volunteering to work at a conference hosted by The School of Public Affairs and Administration and I was introduced to the Dean. I told him about myself and how I had started taking summer courses for my Masters at Rutgers-Newark. He was very impressed with my achievements as an undergrad and asked if I could come back to his office for a meeting. He asked me if I had a job and I said that I have two interviews next week but my desire is to work at Rutgers University and also to focus on my studies as a full time graduate student. After our meeting, he stated that there was an opening that needed to be filled. He looked over my CV and offered me a position on the spot to work in his office. Not only did I work full time and attend graduate school full time but the blessing in all of this was that my boss was a true mentor to me. Till this day he is still one of my mentors who advises me on my research and career goals. We co-authored a book together titled, A Call to Public Service. The lesson here is to never despise small beginnings, put yourself out there and ask for what you want. I was in the right place at the right time and I was prepared for the opportunity.
Why did you decide to go back to school to pursue your Ph.D?
I have never taken a break from school. After college I went straight into my Masters, and after graduation and I started taking courses for my Ph.D. I’ve been in school practically most of my life. My academic and personal goal was to always obtain my doctorate in Global Affairs. At a young age, I knew what I wanted to do and what I needed to take me to where I want to go. Our actions in life should always be toward the fulfillment of our vision.
How did you become interested in global affairs?
I knew that I wanted to work on a global scale in the areas of politics, development and human rights. In addition, a lot of my time was spent doing work that always had an international focus on global issues. Global Affairs is such a fascinating and exciting subject to study. To study global affairs is to understand the various dualisms: war and peace, conflict and cooperation, wealth and poverty, power and change, and understanding patterns of behavior between the actors in the world – from states, to presidents, to corporations and how we as individuals play a role. Most importantly, for me, it is to analyze the causes and complexities of corruption, human rights violations, gender equality, women and girl development.
Best moment of your career so far?
I have had many highlights in my career. To name a few, meeting President Bill Clinton, Meeting Winnie Mandela in South Africa during a private meeting about empowering young women, meeting the 1st Lady of Nigeria Madam Dame Patience Jonathan to discuss ways to empower young people in Nigeria and increase youth employment. The release of my new book. There are truly many highlights in my career.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I received was from my mother, after the birth of my son, my mother said to me, “Yetunde go out there and continue to be your best. Just because you are a wife and a mother does not mean you should stop or sit back. Find balance and continue chasing your dreams.” Another one that I hold dear to me was by one of my mentors and she said, “You cannot dim your light to make other people feel comfortable.”
Being a mom, an entrepreneur and a professor, how do you find balance in your busy life?
I find balance because I make time for the things I love. I truly love what I do so that definitely helps in ensuring that I keep the momentum. I’ve always had so many things that I have to juggle so being a multi-tasker comes naturally to me. It’s so important to be consistent and to understand that you will go through life changes and to be able to keep the momentum even when your life changes. For me, being a mother is my number one priority. However, being a mother is not the only thing that defines me. It is the biggest role of my life but it is not the only one. I am a wife, mother, entrepreneur, author, professor, philanthropist and much more. This is what make me who I am and I find balance by making an effort to nurture every facet of me.
How has your life changed since becoming a mom?
Since becoming a mother, my life has changed in remarkable ways. First and foremost I am blessed and I am thankful to God for my son and also for being a mother. I truly understand my mother and my appreciation for her goes even deeper now that I am a mother. Being a mother is my number one priority, so it’s definitely put a lot of things into perspective.
What surprised you most about being a mom?
You can never be prepared for it. It doesn’t matter how many books you read, how much advice you get or how many “baby supplies” that you buy…motherhood is truly a unique journey and experience. I was surprise how quickly I changed into mommy-mode. To me, motherhood is the most important roles of a lifetime.
What do you think is the biggest struggle for working moms? How are you tackling it?
Biggest struggle that I see with working moms is that women give up on their dreams when they become a mother instead of holding on tight. It’s important as a woman to hold onto who you are. Being a mother is a part of who you become but it’s not the only hat that you wear. As we nurture our children it’s still important to nurture your dreams and goals. Also, the demands of the workplace are not getting any easier without the necessary economic and social support. Extending maternity leave, more companies offering innovative in-house daycare, cultural shifts and viewpoint on working mothers and much more.
How would you describe your parenting style?
The most important thing is that me and my husband shower our son Amadin with love. I grew up with very nurturing and caring parents and I want to ensure that my son has the same experience. My focus as a parent is to create a household that fosters love, provides balance, feels safe and protected, instills the right morals, values and Christian foundation as well as make education a priority.
You recently published your first book, Young Woman’s Guide. What gave you the idea and what was your first step to make it a reality?
I am the Founder of Young Woman’s Guide, Inc., an organization that provides leadership development to young women from all backgrounds. I wanted to write a book for young women to provide them with the tips and tools to put their best self forward. I speak all around the world empowering young women to lead and know their self worth. I get tons of questions from young women all around the world, questions on motherhood, career, personal goals, dating, marriage and much more. So I decided to write a book filled with advice on various topics that I know every young woman needs to hear.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Know your worth and have a vision. In my new book, Chapter 16 titled Know Your Worth, I say, “I learned that knowing my worth goes far beyond just thinking it or saying it; I must act on it. Knowing your worth means that you value your time, your experiences, your knowledge, your uniqueness and your body. The value that you have for your self will also apply to your relationships. Honoring yourself means that you are making a conscious effort to seek and build relationships with people who respect you and value your time, friendship or courtship.” In addition, knowing your worth as a young woman will help you make career decisions that are reflective of your values and beliefs. And also always have a big picture for your life. That will help guide you in life to achieving your long and short term goals.
Where do you see yourself five years from now? Or how would you like to see Young Woman’s Guide grow over the next few years?
I definitely want to write more books, possibly have a TV show catered to young women, have a chapter of Young Woman’s Guide in every university. When it comes to my career goals, I want to continue expanding my business Yetunde Global Consulting. I am working on two major projects right now and looking forward to where that will take me in the next year or so. I believe there is so much in store and I am looking forward to continue actualizing my dreams.
If you could have coffee with any woman (living or dead), who would it be and why?
I would love to meet Oprah. I believe she emulates everything that I believe in. She is a journalist, philanthropist, business woman, activist and author. I believe there is so much that I can learn from her and it would be an honor to hear her advice on a few things.
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