Nwokeji ‘11 offers insight, encouragement at Science Cafe

It’s ironic that Paul Nwokeji ‘11, DMD, was such an incredible offensive lineman at both Thayer and the University of Connecticut because he’s clearly a man who doesn’t let things stand in his own way. 

Nwokeji, who recently paid a visit to his alma mater as a guest speaker at the Middle School’s Science Cafe series, graduated from UConn in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. He then earned a master’s degree in biomedical science from Rutgers University in 2017 before graduating from the UConn School of Dental Medicine this year. He recently matched to UConn’s Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery six-year residency where he will become certified in oral surgery and receive his MD from UConn Medical School. 

“I’ll probably be at UConn for 15 years,” Nwokeji said with a smile during his April 15 visit. The room that day was filled not only with students but also with several of the Randolph native’s former teachers and coaches eager to reconnect. 

Nwokeji, in turn, acted as if he never wanted the lunch to end. He presented slides explaining the various fields of dentistry to the students and discussed his own path to the career. He offered photos of his work, emphasizing how oral surgery has the power to change the lives of those needing such surgery. He talked about the symbolic significance of the traditional White Coat Ceremony. He even found time to share a clip of a “pro day” workout from his college days. 

Most importantly, he was honest and encouraging with his audience. He told students that the reason he earned his master’s degree from Rutgers was that his undergraduate GPA simply wasn’t good enough to merit direct admission to dental school. But Nwokeji saw that as a challenge, not an insurmountable obstacle, and told students to view similar challenges in their own lives as “speed bumps” rather than walls. 

“It doesn’t mean you have to stop,” he said. “It means you have to take a different route.” 

Before leaving, Nwokeji found time to ask the middle schoolers about their own interests, including sports and activities. He urged them to do well in their studies but always find passions outside the school day. And he reminded them that with hard work, dreams are quite possible. 

“It’s not easy, but you can get there,” Nwokeji said. 

Organized by Middle School Science Faculty Natalie Young, the Science Cafe series introduces STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) topics to interested middle schoolers. 

Thayer Academy Paul Nwokeji dentist

Paul Nwokeji ‘11, DMD, met with Academy students recently to discuss the world of dentistry and his goal of becoming an oral surgeon. The visit was part of the Middle School’s Science Cafe series. 

Thayer Academy Paul Nwokeji Dentist 2

A three-sport athlete at Thayer, Paul Nwokeji ‘11, DMD, played football at the University of Connecticut before pursuing a career in dentistry. 


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