Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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‘Wildcats should have wild dreams:’ Nikki Okrah delivers optimistic 2024 Weinberg Convocation address

Nikki+Okrah+%28Weinberg+%E2%80%9911%29%2C+Weinberg%E2%80%99s+Convocation+speaker%2C+founded+Chaku+Foods+in+hopes+of+giving+back+to+her+home+country+Ghana.
Shannon Tyler/The Daily Northwestern
Nikki Okrah (Weinberg ’11), Weinberg’s Convocation speaker, founded Chaku Foods in hopes of giving back to her home country Ghana.

Just over a decade after graduating from Northwestern herself, entrepreneur Nikki Okrah (Weinberg ’11) returned to Evanston to deliver the 2024 Weinberg Convocation address Saturday.

Okrah, Founder and CEO of Chaku Foods, recalled her struggles finding her purpose as an undergraduate, sharing pieces of wisdom with over 1,000 students in the Weinberg graduating class of 2024. 

“It was during my junior year at Northwestern that I learned my most important life lesson: I needed to find my own voice,” Okrah said. “My internal voice should always be louder than the external voices and influences that surround me.” 

In her speech, titled “Follow Your Dreams to Find Your Purpose,” Okrah detailed her decision to give back to her home country of Ghana by founding Chaku Foods, a company that uses local agricultural products to create organic snack brands and allow Ghanaian farmers to build wealth.

Immigrating to the U.S. from Ghana as a young child, Okrah said in her speech that she was able to fulfill her childhood dream of returning to her homeland through her company, though it took years of work getting there. 

Prior to founding Chaku Foods, the entrepreneur spent five years at Visa where her experience working with global payment technology systems has proven pivotal for her business’ operations today.

“(I) was both honored and surprised at this invitation because I’m often told that my path is quite unconventional,” Okrah said. “People wonder, ‘How does a Northwestern grad, who goes on to work at Visa Inc. and graduates from Harvard Business School, end up working with small shareholder farmers in Ghana?’”

Okrah said that, unlike many of her peers, prestige and compensation became less of a factor in deciding her career path, citing her shift from an economics major to political science major late in her NU career as a reflection of her changed priorities.

Not far removed from her own Weinberg graduation, Okrah urged the class of 2024 to consider their metrics right now and set even bigger goals.

“Wildcats should have wild dreams,” Okrah said. “You should have the confidence that the education and the friendships you gained in this institution has made you capable of achieving those dreams.”

Weinberg Dean Adrian Randolph shared a similar message to the graduating class in his opening remarks. 

Randolph reflected on the significance of the Northwestern degree, likening it to a symbol of autonomy. 

“The goal of this education is to set you free,” Randolph said. “Go forth with the desire to understand others, especially those with whom you disagree, and with confidence in facing the challenges ahead.”

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