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Mary Awoniyi: Living Her Dream


Mary AwoniyiSenior Oluwaseye (Mary) Awoniyi made her mind up about her future when she was 12 years old. That was when she announced that she wanted to be a lawyer and serve in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the U. S. Army, and Awoniyi hasn’t wavered from her dream in spite of seeming obstacles.

“I joined ROTC in high school,” she said. “On the first day, the cadet commander said, ‘There’s never been a female cadet battalion commander at this school and there never will be,’ so I was determined, and I worked hard, and I realized it was something I really loved. It taught me something about who I was.”

Awoniyi was awarded the battalion position her senior year, further confirming her Army goal.

“I knew that in order to do what I wanted to do in the Army, I needed a college education,” she said.

Awoniyi’s family moved from her native Nigeria to Louisville when she was six years old. Although it was a difficult transition that required her to overcome a language barrier, Awoniyi was an avid reader. An English teacher her senior year of high school told her that an English major would be good preparation for the study of law.

“He told me that would teach me how to analyze, how to articulate my thoughts,” she said.

Though she planned to attend the University of Kentucky, the Transylvania table at a college fair caught Awoniyi’s eye.

“I learned about the small class sizes and the student-faculty ratio and all these great things about Transy, but I wanted to do ROTC at UK,” she said. “When I found out that I could still do that and come to Transy, I realized that UK had everything I wanted, but Transy had everything I wanted and everything I needed.”

A history buff, Awoniyi considered a major in political science, but ultimately took her high school teacher’s advice. She will graduate with a major in English and a double minor in German and anthropology.

She chose the Army National Guard as a stepping stone to active duty. “I’m studying German hoping that the Army might send me to Germany,” she said, “and it will also be helpful if I go into international law.”

She feels the same way about her study of anthropology.

“It will help me understand a variety of cultures,” she said. “Working in the legal world—laws, cultures, rules, are different.”
A paralegal in the Army National Guard, Awoniyi has learned to balance her time between her duties with her unit and her responsibilities on campus, where she has been involved in a wide array of activities, including serving as a student orientation leader and an admissions assistant and being a cheerleader.

“If you don’t want to sleep, time management isn’t hard,” she joked. “I’ve had to make some sacrifices, but it’s taught me that in order to succeed you have to make choices. You sometimes have to say, ‘No, I can’t go out to eat Friday night, I have to write that paper.’”

Awoniyi is confident that her experiences at Transy will carry her toward her goals.

“I’ve had the opportunity to sit in a classroom and voice my opinions,” she said, “and talk to professors in class—things I know will take me much further than I can imagine.”

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