Graduation Profile: A change of plans while at Mason worked wonders for Obum Egolum

Obum Egolum works with students at a National Society of Black Engineers Jr. workshop during the group's Region II Fall Regional Conference in Bethesda, Md. in November 2018. Photo provided.

He came to George Mason University with a specific plan in mind, but circumstances soon changed for George Mason University graduating senior Obum Egolum. 

And he couldn’t be happier about it.

Egolum began his Mason career in Fall 2013 with the intent of majoring in computer science in the Volgenau School of Engineering. But two years into his studies, Egolum was struggling with a subject about which he discovered he was not passionate.  

His decision to switch majors in mid-stream of his college career to information technology wasn’t an easy one because it essentially meant starting over. But Egolum knew it was right for him. 

“I had to put my ego aside and figure out what was best for me,” said the 25-year-old Nigerian native who came to Mason from Prince George’s County, Maryland. 

Starting in spring 2016, Egolum began embracing his new path, and that passion for IT has helped him grow in ways he never could have imagined, both in the classroom and beyond. 

The decision, he said, changed his life. 

In addition to excelling in his new field of study, Egolum, the student speaker at the online “Celebration of the Class of 2020,” immediately began to thrive in his new role as a student leader. 

He plays a pivotal part in the funding of student organizations in his role as chair of the Student Funding Board, a position he has held for three years. In addition, Egolum is wrapping up a rare second year as the president of the Iota Alpha Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., and has served both on the regional and national level for the National Society of Black Engineers. He served as an intern in the Obama White House, spending the summer of 2014 with the Chief Information Office. 

“I would not have been happy with myself if I had just stayed my original course and graduated in four years [with a computer science degree] and I was doing something that I wasn’t passionate about,” Egolum said. “In failing, I learned how to be a confident student and really learned the possibilities of the whole world.” 

But it was in his role with the Student Funding Board that Egolum seemed to most find his calling. His empathy and creativity made him a strong advocate for student voices. 

It’s what you might expect from a young man who knows how important it is to feel that someone is listening. 

Ben Endres, Mason’s assistant director for student development, credited Egolum for being so driven despite the challenges he’s faced throughout his collegiate career. 

“Obum never gave up and pushed onward,” he said. “Obum always stayed positive and made sure others felt his positivity, when things got difficult or conversations got hard, his presence—and laugh—would brighten up the room.”

Next up for Egolum is a job in McLean, Virginia, as a cybersecurity engineer for Capital One beginning in August. He’s ready for that challenge, too.

“I don’t look at my story as one of triumph,” he said. “I look at it as one of resilience.”