Gonfalon bearer Joseph Ikueze dreams of helping future Cougs

Joseph Ikueze
Joseph Ikueze, 2024 WSU School of Economic Sciences graduate.

Graduating this spring with the college banner in his hands, international student Joseph Ikueze hopes to make a positive impact on the world through economics and education.

The School of Economic Sciences student will carry the gonfalon banner of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resources Sciences (CAHNRS) during spring commencement. This honor is conferred on a single student from each Washington State University college during spring and fall graduation ceremonies.

“Four years culminates in this moment,” said Ikueze, who will receive his bachelor’s degree in international and development economics with a focus on financial markets and a minor in business administration. “I’m honored to represent the school and the college in this way.”

The oldest of three siblings, Ikueze grew up in the small town of Ikorodu in Nigeria’s Lagos State. His father, Chukwemeka, worked as a senior accountant in the nearby city of Lekki. His mother, Uchenna, is a farmer.

“The biggest thing that motivated to me to come to college in the United States was to be able to fulfil the opportunity to live the American dream,” he said.

Moving to the U.S. at 16, Ikueze chose WSU in part because of a tight-knit Nigerian and African presence at Pullman.

“The WSU African and Nigerian community has been such a big support for me,” he said. “It’s a family that helps each other in every possible way. I can get a taste of home through food and communication, or bond through soccer.”

As an executive member of the Nigerian Students and Scholars Organization, he met many fellow international students and helped first-year students from Nigeria get the hang of life in college.

“The community here made me feel like I belong, and that enabled me to be my best self in every possible way,” Ikueze said.

As a student, he was drawn to economics because of the depth of opportunity.

“There’s so much you can do in economics,” Ikueze said. “It teaches you how to work with data. For every model, there’s a real-life situation. I came out even more sure about my path than when I started.”

Ikueze’s most memorable experience was revitalizing the Economics Club over the past year. As the organization’s president, he helped recruit members and facilitate speakers and events that help students build career and networking skills. With the club’s entire executive team graduating this spring, Ikueze and his peers handed over the reins to a new set of leaders just before commencement.

“That was a memorable experience,” he said. “Economics Club gave me a new perspective on how to lead. I felt like I contributed to the economics community and to CAHNRS.”

Ikueze at CAHNRS Honors
Joseph Ikueze accepts his 2024 Outstanding Senior Award from CAHNRS Ambassador Kyle Booey during the CAHNRS Student Awards ceremony, April 4.

A top student with a 3.9 grade point average, Ikueze received the college’s 2024 Cashup Davis Merit Award in Human Sciences, as well as an Outstanding Senior award. He served as a teaching assistant and a research assistant to faculty in the economics school.

“I am confident that Joseph will be successful in whatever he decides to do next,” said Jill McCluskey, Regents Professor and director of the School of Economic Sciences. “He will represent WSU well both professionally and as someone who will contribute to the greater good. As a student of color, he will inspire others with his leadership and accomplishments.”

Beginning his own career in the financial services sector after graduation, Ikueze hopes to find long-term success and become a mentor who can help international students and Cougs like himself start their own careers.

“I want them to know that they can do it, too,” he said.

He remembers late nights working hard to land an internship. Rejection letters were tough. He advises fellow students to build a personal profile that’s worthy of success.

“I started to realize at the end of my college career that there are so many events on Handshake (a student careers website) that college students can be part of,” Ikueze said. “Join as many clubs and organizations as possible and become an executive member. Go to career events and travel to conferences: you’ll meet recruiters face to face who can connect you with a career, and you’re off!”

Make the most of your college experience, he tells Cougs.

“Explore your community, try a different restaurant, go somewhere new,” Ikueze said. “You’ve got four years, and you may never be in this place again.”