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Kunmi Otitoju ('07)

Photo of Kunmi Otitoju (MS '07) taken prior to COVID-19 mask restrictions.
Photo of Kunmi Otitoju (MS '07) taken prior to COVID-19 mask restrictions.

Kunmi Otitoju
Founder of Minku Leather Goods
Class of ‘07

I'm a designer and the founder of Minku, a leather goods company. Before Minku, I studied computer science as an undergraduate at Howard University (summa cum laude 2005) and graduated with a master’s degree in computer science at Virginia Tech in 2007. While at Virginia Tech, I served as a graduate teaching assistant and was advised by associate professor of practice Steve Harrison. I was also the Virginia Tech Salsa Club's webmaster.

How did the department equip you for the ‘real world’...

As a master's student under the thesis option, I had to quickly identify research areas of interest, as well as approach a professor to work with within the two-year program timeframe. That sense of structure has stayed with me. From professors like Steve Harrison and Cal Ribbens, I learned how to create a nurturing space for others to grow and learn. This includes reserving the blunt 'no' for when something is really impossible. Most times, it's ok to be flexible to accommodate others' creativity. This helps me now with my clients and also as a parent.

Being a Virginia Tech alumna means...

Having lived on one of the prettiest campuses in the United States and being part of a global network of caring, smart people.

My fondest memories from my time in the department are...

Serving alongside my classmate Caleb and being a teaching assistant for CyberArt, an interdisciplinary course led by professors from several departments, including Steve Harrison, Simone Paterson (Fine Art), and Ico Bukvic (Music). Presenting my research at the Association for Computing Machinery Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (Cape Town, 2008) was also a highlight. I got to meet professors whose work had shaped my understanding of design.

My favorite way to be creative is...

Film photography. Having been on lockdown for months, it helped me see my immediate environment differently, as I would come up with new arrangements and compositions to photograph.

Computer science is like clothing because…

You can layer other things (careers in design, banking/finance, biomedicine, etc.) on it.