Malik balogun ’23 followed in his mother’s footsteps when he chose to attend Clemson. He did it again when he selected industrial engineering as his major and yet again when he sought a leadership position to help make Clemson a more welcoming campus for all.

The trail of footsteps led all the way to the graduation stage, where Malik collected his diploma on May 12 and turned Sonya Spratley Balogun into a very proud mom.

“I’m excited to share this moment with Malik,” she said. “He’s my oldest, my heartbeat. He’s the kid who made me a mom!”

The mother and son, who hail from Powder Springs, Georgia, have been playing an outsized role in shaping Clemson’s culture in and out of
the classroom.

With his mother as an active alumna, Malik grew up visiting Clemson to tailgate for football games. He felt at home when he arrived as a student but noticed that others, especially students of color, were missing out on that sense
of belonging.

Malik wanted to help, so he ran for student body president and became the third African American at Clemson to hold that post. 

“There are a lot of things that I think the administration as a whole has been able to accomplish, but I think the most impactful thing I’ve been able to do is to inspire others to get involved,” he said. 

Sonya, too, has been making her own impact. She helps guide the Department of Industrial Engineering as a member of its advisory committee, and she served a three-year term on the Clemson Alumni Association Board of Directors.

She has also established and is trying to fully fund a scholarship for women in science and engineering.

Sonya was a founding mentor in PEER when she was a student, and Malik was a mentee in his freshman year. The program, which is now half of PEER and WISE, aims to increase diversity in engineering and science by supporting students with a
wide range of initiatives, including mentoring, counseling, tutoring, networking and career-development opportunities.

“I had a great experience at the University, and that’s one of the reasons I continue to support, stay connected to and encourage others to attend Clemson,” Sonya said.

Malik plans to use his new Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering to land a job in consulting.

Sonya is a supplier diversity leader for IHG Hotels & Resorts, where she helps corporations understand the value of diversity and connect to companies owned by underrepresented individuals. Prior to IHG, Sonya worked more than 18 years at GE Power and helped serve as the company’s liaison to Clemson.

While Malik’s time as a student is coming to an end, the Balogun story at Clemson isn’t over just yet. Malik has a 15-year-old brother, Omar, who has yet to choose a college, and it’s no mystery what Sonya hopes he decides. 

“I would love to have two legacies who have gone to Clemson,” she said.

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