Sonia Chiamaka Okorie (Photo by Yiting Chen)
Hometown: Bronx, New York
Notable Activities: 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship; Amanda V. Houston Travel Fellowship to Ghana; Connell School of Nursing Keys to Inclusive Leadership in Nursing (KILN) Leadership Council; KILN Inclusivity Award; Undergraduate Research Fellow; Jamaica Magis Service Trip (2014, 2016, 2017); Black Student Forum; resident assistant; orientation leader.
Post-graduation Plans: Applying to master’s degree programs to become a women’s health nurse practitioner.
Sonia Chiamaka Okorie is a leader, a dedicated nursing student, and a source of advice for peers. As president of the Black Student Forum, she led efforts to organize the annual Black Family Weekend. After participating on the Jamaica Magis Service Immersion trip freshman year, she returned to serve as a trip leader in 2016 and co-coordinator in 2017. She has helped many first year students with the transition to college in her roles as orientation leader and resident assistant. She spent the summer after sophomore year in Ghana conducting research on malaria prevention, and presented those findings at a conference at Yale University. She and Connell School of Nursting Associate Professor Allyssa Harris gave a presentation at the National Black Nurses Association and also co-authored an article, under review, for the journal Nursing for Women’s Health.
You've spent time in Jamaica on a service immersion trip, in Ghana as volunteer and a researcher, and in Haiti for clinical experience. What kind of impact have these international experiences had on you?
The international trips have really defined my BC experience. The first trip to Jamaica was about serving and finding a community. It was great, but I was the only nurse on the trip. Next, I went to Ghana and did research and analyzed data. That experience made me realize that I didn’t want to be a bystander. I wanted to be involved in delivering care. Over semester break, I went on the nursing trip to Haiti. We cared for so many people in clinics all day long. It was my first intersection of nursing and service. Meeting those people profoundly impacted me - they welcomed me, gifted [me with] their stories, trusted me to assess and educate them - making me not only a better nurse, but a more present one.
It is never easy to see people in need of something as fundamental as health care, and to think about the pervasive structures that cause such inequity. But, my time in Haiti gave me hope that I can move forward one person at a time, and I can do it as a nurse.
What drew you to nursing?
I love talking to patients. To be next to someone in a vulnerable moment and know you made a difference is so amazing. Sharing that intimacy with patients was what made me know nursing was for me.
What has been your most memorable or formative experience at BC?
I started and ended my time at BC with Jamaica Magis. I learned so many lessons on Magis: how to serve; how to help those around me. The experience of being in companionship with my brothers and sisters taught me to be more present. I grew up through Magis.
"I took the time to listen to myself. I thought about how the Jesuit mission related to nursing. How do I serve people as a nurse? The Jesuit mission has brought a lot of meaning to my life. I’m grateful that it was part of my college experience."
Who have been your mentors?
There are so many people! In nursing, Maureen Connolly, Allyssa Harris, Melissa Sutherland, and Cathy Read. In Campus Ministry, Fr. Michael Davidson, Chris Darcy, and Chris Cichello. And, of course, [Undergraduate Admission Director] John Mahoney and [Montserrat Manager] Yvonne McBarnett.
How has BC put its stamp on you?
The Jesuit mission is very much the heart of BC. You can’t escape it. It made me reflect on the question “What is your purpose?” I took the time to listen to myself. I thought about how the Jesuit mission related to nursing. How do I serve people as a nurse? The Jesuit mission has brought a lot of meaning to my life. I’m grateful that it was part of my college experience.
What will you miss most?
The sense of community that is here. The nursing school is a small community. I have a community within Campus Ministry, and through being a resident assistant and OL [orientation leader]. I have been part of groups where people care about me and look out for me. I feel like I was able to give back to those communities, too. That has been a huge gift.
–Kathleen Sullivan / University Communications