Outstanding seniors reflect on careers and service at Ohio State
It was the random acts of strangers that attracted Brett Bejcek to The Ohio State University.
While looking to go to college in Ohio, the data analytics major was narrowing his choices and visiting Ohio State.
“The moment I set foot on campus, I had two or three people stop and ask me if I knew where I was going or if I needed any help,” Bejcek said. “I thought, these are the people I want to be around. This is who I want to surround myself with. People who really care.”
Bejcek is one of 23 recipients of the Outstanding Seniors Award, an elite group from a graduating class that is the largest in university history.
Their stories share similarities to student experiences across campus: of finding groups with common interests, of using their time on campus to make the university better, of learning more about themselves.
For Mariame Diabate, a biology major, her time at Ohio State was an opportunity to improve the lives of other students with backgrounds similar to hers. Diabate was president of the African Youth League for two years.
African Youth League is the university’s largest organization dedicated to African students. With the help of Diabate’s leadership, more than 1,300 people attended the group’s African Excellence Gala this year.
“As president, with my team, I was able to lead the organization to new heights,” she said.
Diabate said she didn’t grasp the prestige of the award until the night of the reception ceremony in late April.
“When you sit in a room with 22 other students and you hear everyone’s story and you’re like, ‘wow, you’re among this great group.’ I actually made a great contribution to OSU,” she said. “It’s overwhelming but it’s also empowering. This is the first step in a long chapter.”
Bejcek agreed. He was recognized for his work throughout his career at Ohio State. He has worked with the Ohio Union Activities Board, the Mount Leadership Society and the Major Campus Events Committee.
Joanie Garcia was honored for her volunteer work. She is a Leadership in Higher Education major and served on the university’s Committee on Student Success and Retention, and also has been active in Ohio Staters and Student Leadership Advocates.
“To me the outstanding senior is everyone. Anyone walking away with an Ohio State degree did something outstanding,” Garcia said.
As she has been reflecting on her graduation from Ohio State, Garcia has been move to tears twice. Both times as she thought about the faculty and staff who helped guide her as a student.
“I’ve been really lucky. I have had incredible mentors at Ohio State,” she said.
Garcia is planning a career in higher education. She will attend graduate school and study student affairs next year.
“I’m so proud to call myself a colleague of those people. They invested so much in me and hopefully I will get to do that as well,” she said.
Diabate eventually wants to be an obstetrician/gynecologist.
Bejcek will start a job with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Chicago following some time off this summer. His time at Ohio State is something for which he will always be thankful.
“It’s changed my heart for the better,” he said.