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Student commencement speaker shares legacy of public service

Faith Odiete, the 2024 undergraduate commencement speaker, was deeply involved on campus, including IUPUI's ROTC program and th... Faith Odiete, the 2024 undergraduate commencement speaker, was deeply involved on campus, including IUPUI's ROTC program and the IU Cadet Officer Program. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

“Don’t stay in your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is not going to get you anywhere. Make the experience what you want. Make it a journey.”

That’s the message Faith Odiete wants to share with graduates when she takes the commencement stage May 9 as this year’s IUPUI undergraduate student speaker.

Odiete is an IUPUI Honors College Scholar graduating with a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs and a minor in leadership in military science. In her two years at IUPUI, she became a Top 10 student and was deeply involved on campus and in the community. Odiete is part of IUPUI’s ROTC program as well as the IU Cadet Officer Program, which has helped her take everything she learned in the classroom and put it into practice.

Finding purpose in public service is a core part of Odiete’s family. Her father served as a Nigerian police officer for 20 years before he was killed in the line of duty. She enjoyed going on patrols with him and was inspired by his service.

“After losing my dad and I came to the United States, I realized I have the opportunity to continue that legacy, and I have the opportunity to give back to the public and have the opportunity to accomplish goals that he never lived to accomplish,” Odiete said.

She joined the U.S. Army at the age of 17 to pay for school. In May, she will be commissioned as a military intelligence officer, second lieutenant.

Faith Odiete joined the U.S. Army at 17 and in May, she will be commissioned as a military intelligence officer, second lieutenant. Faith Odiete joined the U.S. Army at 17 and in May, she will be commissioned as a military intelligence officer, second lieutenant. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana UniversityOdiete has also made an impact on the Indianapolis community. Through the nonprofit DREAM Alive, she mentors seventh- through 12th-graders to become civic leaders of the future. She was recognized for her dedication to the community as one of this year’s William M. Plater Civic Engagement Medallion recipients.

“I just want to use my journey to show other people that it doesn’t matter where you come from,” Odiete said. “It doesn’t matter what you look like. What matters is your motivation. What matters is your hard work. And what matters is the picture of where you’re going.”

Odiete said she made the most of her time at IUPUI by seeking new opportunities. She was eager to try new things, whether studying abroad in Costa Rica or community service as a 500 Festival Princess, which has opened many doors.

“I don’t wait for opportunities to come to me; I look for opportunities,” Odiete said. “So if I’m curious about something, I attend job fairs, career affairs and any tabling events, because you can always use that information to give to somebody else or to use for yourself.”

Her next adventure is in Washington, D.C., for a summer internship with the Department of Homeland Security. There, she’ll work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, coordinating resources for those responding to emergencies.

But before she goes, she’ll trade out her military uniform for a cap and gown.

“I’ve done a lot of things in college, and being a commencement speaker is going to be the highlight,” Odiete said. “It’s an absolutely amazing way to close the chapter of my undergrad journey.

“It’s been a long, very testing and very difficult journey, but my mom has always taught me to persevere. She’s always taught me to believe in myself that I can do it, and she’s always supported me and showed up for me. Being on that stage and just seeing her face is going to be the most amazing thing ever.”

After graduation and her internship, Odiete will return to campus to pursue a master’s degree in public affairs, a step closer to achieving her dream of becoming director of the FBI.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it without the support from the faculty and from the staff,” Odiete said. “Even people that don’t directly know me, they set me up for success.

“They motivate me, they push me, and they let me know that I’m capable of doing this. I’m capable of achieving the milestones, and the dream that I set for myself. Everybody at IUPUI is committed to your success. You just have to be open to accept the help and to accept the opportunity.”

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