Phillip Sangokoya
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     Phillip Adeniyi Sangokoya may have graduated from Olin Business School years ago, but his ties to Washington University are strong as ever. Sangokoya aims to give back to his alma mater by sharing advice, mistakes, and lessons he learned from the field. He still returns to campus to speak as a panelist or meet students at Ervin Finalist Weekend, Celebration Weekend, and Olin-sponsored events.

 

     After graduating with majors in Entrepreneurship and Marketing plus a minor in Psychology, Sangokoya took a job at PNC Bank, where he learned about small business lending and operation. He now works as an asset manager at US Bank Community Development Corporation. Though born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Sangokoya decided to stay in St. Louis after college because he viewed it as a city full of potential. His work in the area, both through his job and his engagement in the community, was recognized by St. Louis American in their February 23 Salute to Young Leaders Award.

 

     “I saw a connection that needed to be made from the WashU community and the St. Louis community, but then even broader, [I saw] each individual St. Louis municipality or community group kind of working in these silos,” Sangokoya said. “There were great things happening but [the impact was] kind of staying within a half mile radius. Only a half mile radius of people were benefitting or hearing about it. There was no true collaborative unit that was working to get best practices around the entire greater St. Louis area. I think that’s really what inspired me…that was the goal.”

 

     This aspiration motivated Sangokoya to, in 2014, co-found the Business Resource Association for Networking and Development (BRAND) of St. Louis, an enterprise that promotes connections between startups, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and community groups. The organization sends out a regular e-newsletter, allowing constituents to stay informed on business events and resources. Another e-newsletter series is specifically designed to engage minority organizations and professionals.

 

     BRAND of St. Louis strives to foster an environment of open doors and open communication within the city’s business sector. The enterprise has also partnered with Gateway Venture Mentoring Services (GVMS), US Bancorp Community Development Corporation’s African-American Business Resource Group, the St. Louis chapter of the National Black MBA, Money Smarts School of Finance for Children, PNC Bank’s St. Louis African-American Employee Business Resource Group, and Urban League Young Professionals.

 

     Even before entering college, Sangokoya knew he was interested in pursuing a career in business. During his time at WashU, Sangokoya used Olin’s Career Center to help him more clearly define and pursue his interests within the field. As an undergraduate student, he had the opportunity to take a class which taught him valuable skills about resume writing, interview techniques, and the job search. When looking at colleges, Sangokoya aimed to find a strong business program. However, it wasn’t just the academics that attracted Sangokoya to WashU.   

 

     “I would say I had quite a few other colleges I was choosing between,” Sangokoya said. “Then after my discovery weekend experience, after my Ervin Finalist [Weekend] experience, and then after the Celebration Weekend experience, I knew that for sure this was the place.”

 

     Part of what made WashU so special was the relationships and people. During his college years, Sangokoya enjoyed a relationship with former Dean Jim McLeod. For Sangokoya, interactions with McLeod were some of the most meaningful memories from his time at WashU.

 

     “He definitely gave a lot of great advice and a lot of guidance. He truly had the best intention for all of the kids and all of the people he was around,” Sangokoya said. “You don’t see too many people like that. To see somebody walk that kind of life, you remind yourself you don’t have an excuse. It is possible to always be thinking of others and to be selfless. It’s not something you can just dismiss as ‘Oh I don’t have time, I have all these other things on my schedule.’ You saw someone who did it day in and day out.”

 

     Sangokoya certainly lived up to these ideals of caring for others during his time at WashU, excelling in service outside the classroom. Through a campus group called St. Louis Family Court Mentoring, he had the opportunity to counsel and mentor kids with juvenile records. Sangokoya’s time spent with Family Court brought him closer to fellow volunteers, allowed him to inspire youth and encourage them to consider going to college, and enriched his college experience by allowing him to find purpose beyond the borders of WashU’s campus.

 

     In addition to becoming involved in the St. Louis community through service, Sangokoya emphasizes to current students the importance of taking advantage of WashU’s study abroad options. Sangokoya recognizes the value in securing a global perspective firsthand as opposed to relying on news and media outlets.

 

     “As millennials, we are going to be the people to change the world and revolutionize the world,” Sangokoya said. “And it’s always going to be based on something that we’re going to create a system for as opposed to trying to fix a system that can be broken or have flaws in it. Find a way to get a broader picture of things and not keep it as small as it may seem.” 

 

Written by Ali Gold (LA '20)

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