A powerful voice for change with a passion for helping others, Ifeoluwa "Ife" Ekunsanmi is the 2020 winner of the Tomato Can Loving Cup award, the most prestigious award the Carlson School of Management can bestow on an undergraduate student. She was named as the recipient as part of the University-wide virtual commencement ceremony on May 16.
"There are so many amazing students in my class and to be recognized with this award is incredible," says Ekunsanmi, who finished her bachelor of science in business degree with a marketing major and with a minor in human resources.
Ekunsanmi made an impact across numerous clubs and organizations she was involved in during her time as a student, always striving to create inclusive environments.
"Our program benefited immensely from Ife’s time and commitment to her classmates," says Raj Singh, associate dean of the undergraduate program. "I’m very proud of all she has accomplished and know she will continue making a positive difference wherever she goes."
As an officer in Women in Business, a student-run organization open to all U of M Twin Cities students, Ekunsanmi led an effort to broaden the group’s membership base to include more women of color. As a peer career coach in the Undergraduate Business Career Center, she helped Carlson School students prepare for job searches, interviews, and networking.
"One of my favorite quotes is from [the poet] Erin Hanson, who said ‘what if I fall’ oh but my darling, what if you fly?’ During these times, it’s so easy to feel like we may fall, but I have no doubt that as a class, we will fly." ~Ife Ekunsanmi
Ekunsanmi says she enjoyed building students up, assisting them in finding their passion, enhancing their self-understanding, and achieving their potential. She also served as a Carlson School undergraduate student ambassador and in the Minnesota Student Association.
"At the Carlson School, I found my voice and my passion," Ekunsanmi says. "I received a high-caliber education from life-changing professors. Having the Carlson School on my resume has given me opportunities in many spaces."
By winning the award, Ekunsanmi is eligible for a half-tuition scholarship to the Carlson School full-time MBA program following two years of professional work experience.
"One of my favorite quotes is from [the poet] Erin Hanson, who said ‘what if I fall’ oh but my darling, what if you fly?’ During these times, it’s so easy to feel like we may fall, but I have no doubt that as a class, we will fly."
About the award
Ekunsanmi is the 92nd recipient of the Tomato Can Loving Cup Award, which per the engraving on its side, is "presented annually to that person who in the course of the year has rendered the most distinctive service to the school."
The oldest award given to students by the Carlson School, its history dates to 1929 when students asked Dean Russell Stevenson to present an outstanding service award to a senior. Henry Hilton, ’29, volunteered to make the trophy that would be presented to the winner. As a joke, he fashioned a trophy from a tomato soup can nailed to a wooden candlestick that belonged to his mother. To Hilton’s surprise, Stevenson presented him with his own creation, which became known as the Tomato Can Loving Cup Award. The increasingly rickety soup can is given each year.
This story was adapted from the Carlson School.