Developing Confident Leaders

Developing Confident Leaders

By Nichole Jelinek, MA’15

In a new partnership between Creighton University and Union Pacific Railroad, the second cohort of Union Pacific Scholars arrived this fall. Roland Onwona-Agyeman, a sophomore in the Heider College of Business, was one of eight students in the inaugural cohort last year.

“We all screamed — we were so excited. It was crazy.” That’s the reaction that Roland Onwona-Agyeman and his family had when he learned he would enroll at Creighton University.

On that February afternoon in 2020, Onwona-Agyeman had played soccer with his local Polk City, Iowa, club in Omaha.

When he returned home, his mother and father were waiting for him with a package from Creighton.

“My parents have always loved Creighton. When my dad handed me my mail, I just knew it was about the scholarship.”

Onwona-Agyeman, one of eight students in the inaugural class of the Union Pacific Diversity Scholarship Program, says in high school he considered soccer scholarships at other universities, but the UP award solidified his decision to come to Creighton.

“The UP scholarship is one of the most important reasons I’m here,” Onwona-Agyeman says. “I needed financial aid to attend college, so with UP, it all came together. This scholarship gave me so much confidence.”

For the Onwona-Agyeman family, education is a top priority. He says that his parents have always been a source of inspiration for him.

“Watching my parents and knowing their journeys inspires me. They opened my eyes to the importance of education and showed me that school is about more than grades. It’s about access, opportunities and success.”

In 1993, Dr. Ahmed Agyeman and Rhoderline Onwona-Agyeman emigrated from Ghana to Iowa. Both graduated from Iowa universities and are active members in their community. Community involvement became important to Roland, too. In high school, he was active with Youth Congress and Oribs, a project management program that strengthens skills in leadership, problem-solving and communication.

“I learned how to use my voice, and I realized that I can make an impact,” Onwona-Agyeman says. “I can’t change the entire world, but I learned that I can really help in my community. And that while I’m helping others, I’m also growing as a person.”

While COVID-19 impacted his first year of college at Creighton, in his second semester he started playing intramural soccer, joined a fraternity and started a role as a campus tour guide. And in May, Onwona-Agyeman began an internship with UP.

With roughly 31,000 employees across the nation, Union Pacific, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in the heart of downtown Omaha, engages students who can articulate and promote workplace leadership in diversity and inclusion for a more just world.

“At Union Pacific, we believe diverse perspectives drive stronger idea generation and spark creativity that, ultimately, fosters innovative solutions in today’s rapidly changing world. This scholarship program is a step toward strengthening our future workforce and creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive community,” says Lance Fritz, Union Pacific chairman, president and CEO.