When Dekermue “Dee” Togbah moved to the United States from West Africa at the age of 10, it was a defining moment in his life. Another turning point came when he made the decision to attend Winona State University. And his graduation this fall marks the beginning of another new chapter in his life.
Togbah flourished as a student at WSU. From his role as a Student Senator to his study abroad experiences in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Czech Republic, he took full advantage of the student experience.
“WSU gave me the opportunities I needed in order to develop myself both personally and professionally,” Togbah said. “The opportunities to travel, relationships built, knowledge gained and memories I have made here will stay with me.”
Togbah admits his last semester of college has been one of the toughest due to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. He is from a big family—the youngest of 11 children—and many siblings and family members still live in Liberia.
“Sometimes we forget how interconnected we are,” said Togbah. “Ebola just drove home for me that we’re a global society. What affects one part of the world affects us all.”
Togbah’s areas of study at WSU include international relations, international business and political science. His long-term goal is to become a U.S. diplomat, but he first wants to explore the world of entrepreneurship. He aspires to become a business owner, and he feels Winona is the ideal place to launch his professional career.
“I felt like I belonged in this community the first time I visited campus,” Togbah said. “Most people see Winona, and they don’t see the opportunities. I see the opportunities as opposed to the limitations.”
The first step of his master plan includes a catering business serving Korean style BBQ and Chinese Hotpot, which he eventually hopes to transition to a sit-down restaurant. His long-term vision for the future of Winona’s downtown includes a hookah bar, which will serve as a safe late-night venue for young adults to gather and socialize. He is working with a local business owner and has identified a location on Third Street in downtown Winona.
Togbah credits WSU with giving him the knowledge, tools and perspective to make his career goals a reality.
“WSU has provided me the platform I will use to further the success of my ambitions,” said Togbah. “College is the most important time in life because it is the time when you will truly invest in yourself. Spend time to find your weaknesses, strengths and passions. Network and get to know other people, but never forget who you are.”