Life After LEAD: Bolaji Gaba, ’22

Former LEAD Scholar Bolaji Gaba, ’22, tells us about his experiences with the U-M alumni network and his aspirations for the future.
Read time: 2 minutes

AFTER BOLAJI GABA, ’22, WAS ACCEPTED to the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, his mother started bugging him to fill out an application for the LEAD Scholars program. But as high school seniors often do, Gaba procrastinated.

“I was being very lazy,” he says, laughing. “Originally, I missed the deadline. But the LEAD Scholars program graciously extended it. So, I sucked it up and wrote the essay, and it ended up granting me admission to the LEAD program.”

Mom always knows best.

“The LEAD Scholarship made my dreams of going to Ross possible,” Gaba says.

In addition to the financial boost, Gaba met some of his closest friends in the first week on campus through the LEAD community.

And while the LEAD Scholars program helped Gaba coming into the University, it also helped him heading out into the job market.

As a junior at Ross, he was looking for a summer internship. That’s when American Airlines sent a call for applicants through the LEAD Scholars program. Gaba scored the internship, spending the summer of 2021 in Texas working in finance for the airline.

Gaba graduated this spring with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in finance. Now back in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, he’s working full time for American Airlines as a financial analyst.

He’s in good company. American Airlines’ CEO, Robert Isom, MBA’91, and chief financial officer, Derek Kerr, ’86, MBA’91, are graduates of Ross.

Gaba says he met Kerr on the third day of his internship.

“It’s very exciting and eye-opening to see someone who came from the same stomping grounds as I did, elevating to the highest position within an organization,” Gaba says. “I’ve definitely noticed that the Michigan alumni network is very strong. There are just so many great alums doing so many great things.”

Gaba, 21, says his career goals remain a bit undecided, but believes that, through Ross and his experience at U-M, he possesses the necessary skills to create positive change in the workplace.

“My long-term goals are a little more open,” he says. “But I’m definitely shooting for a high leadership position role — whether that finds me as CFO, CEO, or doing something of my own later down the road.”

Gaba was first introduced to Ross through MReach, a high school outreach program targeting students with diverse backgrounds to learn about the college. There, he met current students and talked with administrators and admissions counselors.

When he got to campus, Gaba quickly learned from graduating seniors who were generous with their time and knowledge. He says mentorship is so critical for personal and professional development.

“That’s something that’s very important to healthy organizations,” Gaba says. “I participated in mentorship roles at the University of Michigan and will continue to do so at American Airlines.”

The LEAD Scholars program provides scholarships to Black, Latinx, and Native American students who have been accepted into U-M. Visit to learn how you can support the program and, thus, help create a more diverse campus.

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