Grad student earns professional organization’s leadership award

PROSSER, Wash. – Stephen Onayemi’s dad is a small-scale farmer growing corn and other crops in Nigeria. A significant portion of those crops are destroyed yearly by pests.

Two people stand on a stage holding a framed certificate.
Stephen Onayemi receives his Student Leadership Award at the Entomological Society of America (ESA) Pacific Branch’s conference.

“It’s devastating to think that 40% or more of his crops are lost each year,” said Onayemi, a PhD student in Washington State University’s Department of Entomology. “I wanted to find a way to help my family and others around the world grow enough food to eat.”

Onayemi is writing his dissertation on grape mealy bugs, a destructive vector for viruses in vineyards and is based at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser, Wash. Beyond his scientific research at WSU, where he earned a master’s degree in 2021, Onayemi wants to help others in any way he can.

Onayemi also has a passion for giving back, which led to him earning the Entomological Society of America (ESA) Pacific Branch’s Student Leadership Award at their conference this month. His leadership positions include:

  • Vice chair of an ESA committee (previous)
  • Pacific Branch member-at-large (current)
  • Facilitator for an ESA program aimed at providing guidance and advice for entomology students of color (current)
  • Graduate and Professional Student Association senator for three years (current)
  • Academic coordinator of the Prosser Graduate Student Association (previous)
  • Secretary of a Toastmasters Club in Tri-Cities, Wash. (current)
  • Departmental class representative as an undergraduate student in Nigeria

“It’s an honor to be recognized, and it’s motivation to do more,” Onayemi said. “So many brilliant, passionate people contributed to my success that I need to give back and help others. I leaned on other people’s success, and I want others to do the same so they can succeed and achieve their dreams.”

Onayemi plans to work in the pest management industry after receiving his doctorate, currently planned for 2024.