Finding Fellowship at Michigan
University of Michigan Industrial Operations Engineering (U-M IOE) alumnus, Jeremy Atuobi, became a first-generation college graduate in May of 2021. He is now a Fellow at McKinsey & Company in Chicago, Ill. Like many, his journey to U-M IOE was not the path he expected.
Discovering a love for engineering through aviation
Atuobi’s parents emigrated to the United States from Ghana in the 1980s. His parents established a life in Chicago but would go back to Ghana to see family. It was during his first trip to Ghana, at the age of four, that he boarded an airplane for the first time and discovered his fascination with aviation.
“When it came time to apply to college, I almost felt like I didn’t know what to do,” Atuobi said. “I leaned on what has been the most consistent theme in my life, which was the aviation industry. That led me to apply to engineering programs.”
Atuobi applied to 16 universities, including U-M, the home of his favorite football team. After receiving his acceptance letters, it was time to make a decision.
“It was funny because Michigan was the first one [university] that I visited,” Atuobi said. “I thought there was no way I was going to make a decision after visiting just Michigan. But there’s something that you can’t explain, there’s something that feels magical about stepping onto Michigan’s campus.”
Atuobi went on to enroll at the U-M College of Engineering (CoE) in the fall of 2017.
Meeting Dr. Joi Mondisa
Atuobi thought he was going to pursue a degree in Aerospace or Mechanical Engineering; however, the introductory courses in those departments were full during his first semester. Instead, he signed up for the Continuous Improvement in Operations Management section of ENGIN 100. This course was taught by U-M IOE Assistant Professor, Dr. Joi Mondisa.
“When I stepped onto campus, on my first day of class, for the first time in my life I had a Black teacher, and that was Dr. Joi Mondisa,” Atuobi said.
Dr. Mondisa and Atuobi connected on many levels. They both identified as Black individuals from Chicago who were the first in their families to pursue a college degree. One day Dr. Mondisa asked Atuobi to come to her office hours if he had the time.
“I went to office hours, and she helped me correct some mistakes that I had made on an assignment,” Atuobi said. “And afterward, she opened up to me about her life story. I went to office hours expecting to go over an assignment but that turned into this conversation that made me see her as a true hero and role model, through which I thought, if she can do it, I can too. Immediately after I took that course I decided to get a degree in Industrial and Operations Engineering. She was the catalyst of that decision.”
Finding fellowship in BIndx
It was Atuobi’s connections with Dr. Mondisa that brought him to the U-M IOE Black Industrial Engineers (BIndx) group. Dr. Mondisa is the faculty mentor for BIndx, which is a group of people who come together informally to promote learning, mentoring and networking within CoE.
“It is a place where classmates become friends and quite frankly even family,” Atuobi said. “It was always inspirational for me to walk into that room and to see other people who looked like me who worked really hard and understood the kind of grit it takes to make it through Michigan.”
BIndx allowed Atuobi to gain a more personal connection with the U-M IOE department.
“I met [the U-M IOE chair] Dr. Brian Denton because he supported the group,” Atuobi said. “I got to see leadership and bridge the gap between the thought of I’m just here to go to class and go through the day-to-day routine and seeing myself as a valuable member of the IOE community.”
Moving the mission forward
Atuobi was also a member of the U-M National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) student organization. He went on to become the 2020-2021 U-M NSBE president.
“NSBE is truly a family. You go to an NSBE meeting and there’s food, there’s clapping, there’s a lot of celebration,” Atuobi said. “In NSBE peers become classmates and people you schedule classes around so that you can go through the journey with them. And you see these people graduating and you think to yourself, that’s another Black engineer contributing to the mission and carrying the torch forward.”
During the 2019 NSBE national conference, Atuobi discovered the employer that he works for today, McKinsey & Company. During his time at U-M Atuobi also interned for Boeing, an aerospace company, and Kirkland & Ellis, a law firm. Both of those experiences taught him how far a U-M IOE degree can go in any field.
While Atuobi doesn’t know exactly where his next steps will take him, he knows that the skills he learned and the people he met at U-M IOE will enable him to become successful in any field.
“To faculty, don’t take it lightly the platform that you have. You have the power to really affect a current IOE student,” Atuobi said. “You may not know how much your support, encouragement, partnership, mentorship, coaching, even if it’s in a small way, how far that can go in a young person’s life.”