When Aanuoluwapo “Favour” Ogunwole ’25 saw the opportunity to make a difference in the world with solutions for refugees that were forced to leave their home, the Winona State University student was eager to join the international United Nations Refugee Agency and Newlab Student Challenge.
It wasn’t hard to find a team of passionate WSU students who wanted to join her.
Luke Larson ’25 and Jose Ortega ’23–who had teamed up with her before and won the Create Your More competition through WSU’s College of Business–were immediately enthusiastic about the idea when they learned it could have a real impact on people’s lives.
After rounding out their team with Caitlin Sturm ’26, the team was set.
The challenge was to come up with an idea for how to help displaced refugees connect with employers and funders, bridge the gap in support, and get employed. The winning idea would be used by the UN Refugee Agency.
“When I found out that our solution can actually impact people, it was really, really important,” Ogunwole said, who was the team’s captain. “I felt so proud and privileged to give [our] own solution.”
The team’s idea included starting a nonprofit organization that would focus on four main areas: mentorship, membership chapters, conferences, and an online curriculum.
The nonprofit would grow chapters at numerous universities, then partner with those chapters to host events and run programs like mentorships and online curriculums for refugees to learn employment skills related to the country they’re in.
The faculty were really supportive. They gave so much feedback and answered all our questions. I felt 100 percent supported.
Their nonprofit idea got the traction it needed to earn their way to the finals this summer, which was all the way in Berlin, Germany.
The four students traveled across the world to present their idea during the Global Internship Conference.
The team got second place in the overall competition, beating numerous Ivy League schools along the way.
“We beat all of the Ivy Leagues,” she said. “It was great to see it doesn’t really matter what school you come from. It’s all about you doing your best.”
Ogunwole, who is an international student from Nigeria, said she was thankful for the support from faculty–not only for the competition, but also for helping her wade through personal visa requirements and fees.
“I reached out to the Dean of Business, and they helped me finance the visa fees,” she said. “That was a big load off of me and really helped.”
For the competition, the faculty surrounding the team did everything they could to help them, Ogunwole said.
“The faculty were really supportive,” she said. “They gave so much feedback and answered all our questions. I felt 100 percent supported.”
The trip to Berlin was meaningful, a great bonding experience, and a big opportunity to network for the students, Ogunwole said.
“We got to meet people from different cultures,” she said. “I got to network with people that I wouldn’t have had the chance to by myself.”
Coming back from the experience, Ogunwole said she’s taking with her the confidence she gained in public speaking and the skills to advocate for change and for her ideas.
I have my voice now. I feel much more confident in myself.