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Carving Her Own Path

(Editor's Note: The following feature was recently published in the Spring 2014 edition of Kaleidoscope.)

Oluyinka Akinjiola ’14 (o-loo-YIN-kah AH-kin-gee-oh-la) is enrolled in the College’s Master of Fine Arts in Performance and Choreography program in the Department of Dance. Her experience at Brockport has been as unique as her path here, which started in Pennsylvania, took her to California, then to the Pacific Northwest. Research in Brazil and later Cuba has also made for a rich and rewarding experience.

“I’ve definitely accomplished exactly what I’ve wanted from my graduate experience at Brockport,” says Akinjiola. “There’s support for people who are driven, want to accomplish things and have curiosities.”

Akinjiola earned an undergraduate degree in geography from Kutztown University and later went on to study at Humboldt State University, where she was introduced to the geography of dance. Those two disciplines became the perfect combination.

“I was really interested in geography, but I was also still a dancer,” says Akinjiola. “I love doing research and learning about the world, and I just wanted to find a way to merge that. I love to travel, to dance and to do research, so things just kind of came together.”

There’s no doubt Akinjiola has maximized her graduate experience. She received the Distinguished Professors Award for Graduate Student Research, which allowed her to conduct independent research in Matanzas, Cuba. She also received the SUNY Graduate Diversity Fellowship, which is tuition assistance awarded to students who contribute to the overall diversity of the College. Other awards have helped Akinjiola build an impressive resume of research as well as scholarly and artistic presentations.

It was her application for a grant that led to her to being able to organize Brockport’s first Afro-Cuban Dance and Drum Workshop last fall. It brought together talented artists, Brockport students, and members of the community, and focused on intensive dance and percussion studies that are part of African traditions maintained in a region of Cuba.

“It’s allowed me to do many things and get my foot in the door of my field,” Akinjiola says of the support she’s received. “I’ve been physically present in Cuba, gone to workshops in California and presented at the International Association for Blacks in Dance. For me as a graduate student, the support I receive helps me be more present in the field of dance. It really does take finances to do that.”

Four months after her highly successful Afro-Cuban Drum and Dance workshop, Akinjiola was in Brazil as part of the Afro-Brazilian Dance and Cultural Studies Program. Just as she did with the workshop, Akinjiola organized the study abroad program. More than half of the nine students who took part in the three-week winter program were from Brockport. It featured a week of Afro-Brazilian cultural studies and two weeks of dance intensive.

“Beyond the dance department, I’ve found if you just spread your wings a little bit, that you’ll find the support that you need from the rest of the College and that’s been great,” she says.