Member of Adelphi University’s 10 Under 10.
Adaeze Udoji ’08 was not certain about her future plans when it came time to think about college. After she visited Adelphi, her outlook changed.
“When I came to Adelphi, I was a complete stranger, yet all the people and professors I met on campus made me feel like I belonged here. I was just a 17-year-old kid from the outer boroughs going through a tough time. But I felt like Adelphi saw my potential and wouldn’t let me fall through the cracks,” she said. “All four years at Adelphi I felt that this was the one place where my success really mattered to people.”
Amidst other uncertainties, one thing Udoji always knew that she wanted to be a lawyer. “It was just a matter of figuring out what would get me there,” she said. A member of the Honors College, she declared political science as her major. “I had terrific professors and loved learning about public policy and government,” she said. “I found it fun and exciting.”
As a sophomore, Udoji took her first economics class. “I remember thinking, ‘oh, this is how the market works? This affects what would happen to my retirement plan, my parents’ futures…this is important.” Her intrigue led her to take additional economics courses her junior and senior year, which helped her realize she wanted a career path that was related to banking or securities law.
Following graduation, she entered Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “When I visited Cardozo I found the people to be nice and genuine and there was a sense of community. That worked really well for me at Adelphi, so I felt like it was the right fit for law school as well,” she said.
Udoji credits Adelphi with providing her with a solid foundation. “I was used to working hard at Adelphi,” she said. “The Department of Political Science and Honors College prepared me for the amount of reading I would have to do…and for the level of detail and analysis that was expected of me.”
After graduating from law school in 2011, she went on to hold several positions in the legal sector in the NYC Human Resources Administration, New Jersey Office of Attorney General and, most recently, as a compliance officer at American Express. In 2014, she joined Shearman & Sterling LLP, a multinational law firm headquartered in New York City.
“I learned from a former law school classmate about the firm’s program that allowed corporate associates to work in different practice areas before deciding on an expertise. I thought it was a novel idea,” said Udoji, who has gained experience in areas ranging from capital markets to finance to asset management to mergers and acquisitions.
Right now she is enjoying learning as much as possible. “At a firm of this size, we get to do a lot of interesting work with colleagues who have been doing this many years and adapting their practice as the laws and regulatory landscape has changed. It’s really inspiring every day,” she said. “That’s what’s so exciting—I feel like I am always learning something new.”
In addition to her role practicing law, Udoji is also a member of the Adelphi University Board of Trustees. A campus leader as an Adelphi student—Udoji was involved with organizations including the Resident Student Association and Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society—she was elected to the Board in April 2013.
“As students at Adelphi, we all love the school but we don’t have an understanding of how the decisions that affect us every day are made,” she said. “Serving on the Board has really opened my eyes.”
Udoji, who has served on the Board’s student life and academic affairs committees, is one of just three young alumni who have been elected in recent years. “Having us on the Board, we’re not that far removed from being students ourselves, so we can provide the perspective of how the decisions we make will really affect students’ lives.”
Without Adelphi, Udoji said “none of this would have been possible.”
“Before Adelphi, I didn’t have a clear picture for my future. I knew what I wanted to do but I couldn’t see how to make it possible. There were roadblocks I could not clear on my own,” she said. “Adelphi helped me get around those roadblocks. It gave me people who cared. It gave me a real support system…not just financially, but people who helped me figure things out and guide my process,” she said. “Adelphi was the beginning…what put me on my path…what got me here.”