After a Few Missed Cues, a Connection

Nekpen Osuan doesn’t waste time mobilizing when she finds a cause that moves her. She is a founder and chief executive of WomenWerk, a nonprofit organization that helps empower women of color, as well as an active volunteer for organizations including SEO Scholars, an education enrichment and mentoring program. But when it comes to romance she is not quite as quick on her feet.

“I’m aloof sometimes,” she said, which may account for her reaction when Eric Wilson tried to flirt with her at the Park at 14th, a Washington nightclub, in the summer of 2016. Ms. Osuan, 34, a strategy and analytics manager at the consulting firm Deloitte who lives in Manhattan, was in Washington helping a friend hunt for an apartment. Mr. Wilson, 35, an Army officer from Clarksville, Tenn., was attending a conference about military mentorship.

“She was pretty cute,” he said, so after introducing himself and making small talk, he asked for her number. Ms. Osuan, then working as a vice president at Morgan Stanley, thought he was networking. “I was like, ‘OK, I met this other Black professional, let’s keep in touch,’” she said. When he saved her contact under “the future CEO of Morgan Stanley,” she still didn’t realize he was flirting. His next attempt to woo her, in a different city, fell flat, too.

Mr. Wilson is a graduate of West Point who led a platoon of 30 soldiers as an infantry officer in Iraq in 2010, followed by deployments to Kuwait and Afghanistan. He was in the process of starting a new assignment training future military officers at his alma mater when he met Ms. Osuan. One of the requirements for his new position was completing a graduate program in organizational psychology and leadership at Columbia. A month after they met, and after several text exchanges, Ms. Osuan agreed to show him around campus. She had received a certificate in economics and education from Columbia in 2010.

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