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Diversity in Leadership

Friday, December 18, 2020

By Christina Schweighofer
 
Ofunne Edoziem, JD 2008, a commercial litigator for Perkins Coie LLP, and Thomas Yohannan, JD 2003, (right) a vice president for Aon Cyber Solutions, are co-chairs of the New York committee of the USC Gould Alumni Association. Learn about their backgrounds, hobbies and what the USC Gould School means to them.
Ofunne Edoziem, JD 2008 (left), and Thomas Yohannan, JD 2003

How would you each describe yourselves?
 
Ofunne: I am tenacious. My family emigrated from Nigeria when I was nine years old, and my parents had very high expectations: “Do more! Do more!” I graduated college in three years and started law school at age 20. After I graduated, in 2008, jobs were hard to come by because of the recession. I had to figure out how to get established, get experienced and then shift when necessary. I ended up taking two bar exams and am now licensed in four states.
 
Thomas: The word for me is curiosity. People get annoyed with me: “You ask so many questions!” But if you look at what makes anybody really good at whatever they do, it’s the quality of their questions. What makes a good lawyer? They ask some really good questions. What makes a good business leader? They ask some really good questions.
 
Where did your curiosity originate?
 
Thomas: I grew up in Long Island, but my parents immigrated to the U.S. from Kerala, India. My dad is an Indian Orthodox priest. Priests are the original teachers, and so it came from him. 
 
How do you both spend your free time?
 
Thomas: I hike and write. Recently, I authored a 150-page chapter for Thomson Reuters’ “Cybercrime and Security,” a three-volume legal treatise. The subject matter is cyberinsurance from a legal perspective. Writing is my way of learning. If you want to be an expert in a field, write about it.
 
Ofunne: I sometimes tell people that I’m a lawyer by day and an artist by heart. One part of me likes figuring out things and analysis. My other love is art. I draw. I write poems and short stories. I like the process of imagining stories. As a litigator, when I’m writing a brief, I try to figure out how I can use the facts and do a little storytelling. 
 
What does USC Gould mean to you both?
 
Ofunne: It is the place where I made lifelong friends. Three of them will be in my wedding next year.
 
Thomas: It is diversity in all aspects. The ideas that are put forward at the law school, the faculty, the student body — it is all hugely diverse because it is LA. There aren’t many schools that can compete with the diversity of USC.
 
What are your plans regarding programming for the New York chapter?
 
Thomas: It's a new environment because of the pandemic, and we’re still working on the details. But our next event will be a virtual wine tasting. 
 
Ofunne: We are hoping to get a good turnout because you do not have to get in your car, you do not have to fight traffic. You can just log on and be right there and network.
 
The New York committee will announce details on its wine tasting event soon.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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