International student gives and gets through involvement

November 13, 2012

When Funmi Oyatogun came to CU-Boulder from Port Harcourt, Nigeria, she vowed to take advantage of as many opportunities for study, research, social action and fun as she could squeeze into a 24-hour day.

After all, she reasoned, you go to college for the first time only once.

A senior double-majoring in environmental studies and geography, Oyatogun chose CU at the suggestion of her father, who had admired the school for a while. Her brother Oluwaseun is a graduate student in mechanical engineering and her sister Oluwatoyin is a sophomore in business, both at CU-Boulder.

“I like getting involved outside my academics,” she said, “because I do believe that I need an all-around college education. Studying is first, but it’s not all about studying.”

A prolific and creative writer, Oyatogun shares her thoughts and experiences as an international student on a blog for the Office of Admissions. She also writes a personal blog called Burnt Bottom Pot.

She serves as the International Student Liaison for student government, a position that was created as a result of her advocacy for international students at CU and also works for the Environmental Center on the Assembly for Sustainability and Equity (CU ASE), facilitating campus activities on environmental justice.

As president of the African Students' Association, she focused on organizing events that give the campus community an insight into the cultures of continental Africa and its surrounding islands. Recently, she founded Bailiff Africa, an organization that promotes environmental sustainability initiatives in Nigeria.

“We’re especially dedicated to the youth population,” she said, “because we recognize the role that the youth play and the stake that we have in our country of Nigeria and the continent as a whole.”

At the 2011 Diversity Summit held on campus, Oyatogun was a member of a panel discussion on Racism and Environmental Justice exploring the link between social inequalities and sustainability. In this year’s Diversity Summit she is again serving on a panel that will explore how product choices impact the environment.

Oyatogun interned with Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG), an organization that focuses on pressing public interest issues such as environmental protection.

Despite the rigors of her studies and her tireless involvement with social activism, Oyatogun makes time for meeting friends at a local coffee shop, dancing with an African dance troupe and especially for reading.

“You will find me dead with a book in my hands,” she joked. “Many of my days are planned to each hour, so I cherish my free moments.”

Her biggest challenge living in Boulder has been acclimating to winter weather and the snow.

“I am not friends with the snow,” she said. “But I promised myself I will go skiing before I graduate.”

After she graduates in December, Oyatogun plans to go to graduate school and then return to Nigeria, where she will work to extend environmental sustainability throughout Africa.

Her advice for international students is to keep an open mind, maintain their native culture, but try out new experiences.

“Make sure when you graduate you don’t have any regrets,” said Oyatogun. “You’re only young once. Good grades are important, but have an all-round experience. Spend your money on experiences and collect memories.” 

For more information about international admissions at CU-Boulder visit