Graduating senior follows her passion at Baker
Baldwin City, Kan. — Gloria Atanmo arrived on the Baldwin City campus in August 2008 as a basketball player and pre-medicine major from La Joya High School in Avondale, Ariz. Throughout her time at Baker University, the budding entrepreneur developed a passion for photography before transitioning to mass media and art as her majors before she founded her own company, GLOTOGRAPHY.
"People try to tell you what they think you are good at and you try to fulfill that," Atanmo recalled of her first year studying science at Baker. "I gave it a good year and tried to satisfy what everybody thought my life should be about. People always say college is about finding yourself. But the reality is that it's about creating yourself. And I'm living proof."
At 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 15 at the Collins Center, Atanmo will join 100 of her classmates for the traditional College of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony. The daughter of two immigrants from Nigeria and sister to five siblings, Atanmo will celebrate the moment this weekend with her mother, Esther, two of her sisters, a brother, and one uncle in attendance.
Atanmo became connected to Baker through John Jacobs, a 1998 Baker graduate who coached baseball and football at her high school. The former Wildcat standout persuaded Atanmo to head to the Midwest, assuring that Baker would be a good fit.
"In June (of 2008) I still had no idea where I was going to college," she said. "John told me I would love it at Baker. I sent the basketball coach, Susan Decker, some game film and she flew my mom and I out for a visit, and it felt so right that I signed my letter of intent that same night."
More than a thousand miles from home, Atanmo experienced some growing pains her first two years in Baldwin City. Cassy Bailey, Baker's dean of students, and weekly worship services at the Osborne Chapel helped ease Atanmo's transition to Baker.
"Dean Bailey helped me adjust to college," she said. "She got me through some rough times, and she always saw the potential in me. She really does care about all of the students' well-being. Chapel gave me a better sense of community and belonging. What I love about chapel is that I can sit in any row and feel welcomed."
Bailey is proud to call Atanmo friend and a Baker alumna.
"There is that saying, 'Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same,'" Bailey said. "I cannot imagine a more true example of this than Gloria. I remember Glo as a freshman – shy, tough, vulnerable. Look at her now: she is the definition of blossom. I love that Glo never had one clique or one way. She was open to new opportunities, friends and experiences."
A self-taught photographer, Atanmo bought her first camera in 2010, built a portfolio, and developed a website before launching her business a year later after receiving encouragement from friends, faculty and staff at Baker. She enjoys helping people see "the natural beauty that lives inside us all through the vivid art of photography."
"I started realizing my purpose in life at Baker," she said. "I got into graphic design and photography as ways to express myself. I feel like I have so much to say and so much to give, and through those mediums, I've been able to share pieces of life through other people."
She put her creative skills to use during the fall 2012 semester studying at Harlaxton Manor in Grantham, England. Through her outgoing personality and photography, she made an immediate connection to students, faculty and staff at the popular study abroad destination. Later this month, Atanmo will return to England to begin working as an intern for Harlaxton, utilizing her photography and design skills.
"The study abroad experience completely changed my life and it happened during a very trivial period," said Atanmo, who traveled overseas shortly after her father, Vincent Atanmo Sr., passed away. " I came to Baker for basketball and an education, and I didn't think about going to Harlaxton until my fifth year here. If I never picked up photography, they would not have seen the skills I had or needed me. I was able to develop a lot of my skill sets later in college, which is why timing can be everything."
Atanmo credits her professors, coaches, faculty and staff at Baker for taking her as their own for the past 5 ½ years.
"I accepted that I had a long way to go and would need help from the supportive Baker family around me," Atanmo said. "Where I'm at today and the things I know my future has in store is a direct reflection of the nurturing, overgenerous and amazing community here. The slogan at Baker is to 'Own Confidence', and because of my time here, I not only own it, I carry it with me everywhere in my back pocket."
"It may have taken me a little bit longer to graduate, but every year was a new chapter of my book being written. And had I graduated any earlier or any later, my story wouldn't be complete. I always think that I've overstayed my welcome, but the truth is, Baker has overwelcomed my stay."