Entrepreneurship major Jeulani Gahiji of Chicago is Northern Michigan University’s May 2017 student commencement speaker. Her speech will address learning, self-care and persistence. Richard Frankowski of Mundelein, Ill., will be the student soloist at the ceremony. He will lead the singing of the university’s alma mater, “Hail Northern,” and the national anthem.
“The theme of my speech is to stay true to yourself amidst the ups and downs of life,” said Gahiji. “I want everyone in the audience to be inspired to push through whatever adversity they may be going through and to know they are valued.”
At NMU, Gahiji launched the “Let’s Talk About It” program, which allows students and Marquette community members to discuss controversial issues. She is a member of the Black Student Union and was acting president from 2014-2016. Under her leadership, the organization established a recruiting trip to Chicago and Detroit, visiting high schools to share the NMU story. She also serves on the Youth Advisory Board of the Steve Fund, the nation’s only organization focused on supporting the mental health and emotional well-being of college students of color.
Gahiji is a member of ASNMU student government and serves as its chair of assembly. She studied abroad for a summer at East China Normal University in Shanghai, which led to her role as a global ambassador for International Studies Abroad. She also completed the NMU Superior Edge Program, logging more than 1,000 volunteer service hours.
Gahiji's on-campus activities have included the following: co-creator and former president of the Golden Glitz hip-hop/jazz dance team; member of Platform Personalities, a student organization that brings speakers to NMU; resident adviser for one semester in campus housing; and student assistant in the sociology department office.
“I feel incredibly humbled to have been selected to be the student commencement speaker,” said Gahiji. “This means so much to me and it solidifies all the hard work I have put in here at Northern. I couldn’t be more grateful and excited for this experience. My hope is that I inspire someone and leave a mark on a place that has a piece of my heart.”
After graduation, Gahiji will pursue the higher education leadership master’s program at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where she will also work as an assistant complex director.