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May 11, 2020

Benjamin Eshiwani: Full circle: Becoming a Spartan

May 11, 2020

Benjamin Eshiwani is a graduating senior majoring in finance and a scholar of the Financial Markets Institute in the Broad College of Business. The following has been repurposed from an article on Eshiwani’s website.

I grew up on the peripheries of the Kenyan capital, in a shantytown known as Majengo, which is a Swahili variation for informal housing about five kilometers from the Nairobi central business district. 

It was a struggle for my mother as she eked out a living on a shoestring; she spent days and nights on her sewing machine for a meager pay but there was no question about it: she wanted her children to live a sunnier life than the one she had been relegated to all her adult life.

Sitting outside the house, I would daydream about the life I hoped to live — I didn’t hope to spend my life in the tenements. There was something inside me — some distant echo from other planets that nudged me to strive for greatness. 

During those evenings at the verandah, I could hear the roar of jet planes as they took to the skies and in my dreams, I wondered what it must be like for the birds. I dreamed of hurtling across the sky towards somewhere, towards a vague, yet so vivid other.

In March 2016 after emerging from one of the best-performing high school students in Kenya, I was ecstatic after I gained admission to MSU on a scholarship. It had been my school of preference; I had studied up on the history of the school, the Spartan pride, the ancient, sturdy warrior helmet, the vibrant culture, the diversity. It was all there in the brochures.

I now realize that growing up close to a market and understanding the dynamics of trade — recessions and economic booms, arbitrage, value of products, margins and profits and negotiations — steered my passion for business and economics.

I was curious about the world of finance, fascinated by figures and the high risk-return ratio life holds. Over time, I gained confidence. I discovered new friends and soon joined several student organizations. 

One of the brightest, most fulfilling moments in my stay here was when I was honored to co-organize the first African Business Conference at MSU. There was this facet of diversity as I emerged from my cocoon and flew.

I want to give special credit to my trusted mentor, Helen Dashney. She believed in my potential and gave me the chance to join the Financial Markets Institute, or FMI, as a pioneer international scholar. The FMI has been a career compass — not only did it position me at a great place to kick off my career, but it also helped me to grow professionally and personally. I consider this truly one of the most pivotal moments of my academic and social life.

It is 2020 and I have come full circle. I am a Spartan, dyed in the tradition of what this represents — a symbol of strength, bravery, nobility and service. It is from this that I have embarked on a journey that I hope will bring change to where I am from — I am still the boy from Majengo, Nairob, dreaming of a better life.

I am graduating with high honors, I have secured a full-time job as an investment banker in New York, acquired meaningful and intimate friendships and now it is my time to give back. I have been invited to speak to young people. In my talks, I tell them that one can rise from anywhere and ascend to the pinnacle of their passion, their dreams.

When I look back at that callow, starry-eyed young man with a funny name who stepped out of the plane four years ago, I marvel at the opportunities I have had at MSU. It was and has been, the perfect match, like a dove-tail joint finding home in the wedge of a piece of wood, a nut fitting onto a bolt.

It is home away from home. I think of all the chance encounters with people from all over the world, people who are now friends and who support my endeavors. I would not trade them for anything. The world is, indeed, truly small. We are everyone. I am a Spartan, no matter where the Universe leads me.