Oladiran “Ola” Abimbola: Student Body President an Advocate of Students, SMSU

Published Monday, August 27, 2018
Oladiran “Ola” Abimbola
Oladiran “Ola” Abimbola

“Don’t take your eye off the ball,” is one piece of advice Oladiran “Ola” Abimbola, SMSU student body president, would give students this year.  He understands the importance of staying focused on what is important and not allow distractions to get in the way of success.

Ola, who has 15 siblings, learned the importance of education early in life. Although Ola was born and raised in Oyo, Nigeria, the United States has been important to his family’s academic success since he was a young boy when many of his siblings attended American universities. His father, who has a Ph.D., and his mother, who is a lecturer, set educational standards high for him and for each of his siblings. In fact, seven of Ola’s siblings also have Ph.D’s., many of them from the United States.

His father demanded discipline from his children. Therefore, Ola attended two separate boarding schools to learn discipline, focus and independence. He earned everything he achieved, and therefore, when he struggled educationally while attending several universities in the UK, he knew he needed to figure out the tools he needed to survive comfortably. School in the UK was different than SMSU. There, it was not as student-friendly, he did not have an advisor. They had limited homework, including minimal quizzes, and his grade was determined by one or two major exams. Therefore, he welcomed the chance to attend SMSU ,where he had the opportunity to excel both personally and academically.

After his experiences in the UK, SMSU appealed to Ola due to its affordability. He learned about the benefits of SMSU while reading about the university in an article in U.S. News & World Report. He applied to Texas Tech, but was deterred by its expense. Therefore, he also applied to SMSU and Bemidji. SMSU responded quickly, and thus his journey to Marshall began.

Ola, a junior Biology and Environmental Science major and the first non-U.S. born student body president, appreciated the welcoming atmosphere on SMSU’s campus, where he was assigned an advisor, he had homework and quizzes and was forced to study and learn the material. In the UK, his university experiences were at Birmingham, Oxford and Bristol. Each experience created challenges, including his inability to remain focused due to the hustle and bustle of daily life. However, Marshall and SMSU, have allowed Ola to remain focused on his studies while still being conveniently located near anything he may want to do. He appreciates the opportunity to interact in the community and on campus without traveling great distances. 

Due to Ola’s past experiences, he knew he wanted to become involved on campus and find purpose in his life. Therefore, he became involved in student government. He was a member of the ISO, Student Government and Students United. Although he attempted to earn a position on a state board, he is even more excited about his opportunity to serve as student body president for the 2018-2019 school year. This is where his passion lies, and it will give him wonderful experience if he chooses to continue this path in government after this year. He praises the leaders who have held the position before him, and he looks forward to continuing to work with those he has worked with throughout the past two years.

Ola’s campaign focused on textbook affordability, diversity in student events, sustainability and creating a food shelf on campus. Although they are all equally important, he understands the financial constraints on college students and would like to eliminate the need to purchase unnecessary or unused textbooks. “It is not feasible to eliminate all textbooks and to go completely online; however, I want to make sure textbooks are more affordable to all students.

He also wants to focus on retaining the students that are currently enrolled. He understands SMSU’s location deters some from continuing their educational path, especially international students who are not accustomed to the cold weather which was tough for him during his first winter. “The cold temperatures were terrifying,” he recalls.  “I didn’t know it was possible to have temperatures as cold as 40-below (wind chill). I also was not used to snow which lingers all winter. In the UK, we would only have snow for a couple of days.” However, the tunnels at SMSU make the winter easier and the temperatures more manageable.

Ola aspires to make a difference. The opportunity to make a difference among the students at SMSU continues this year for him as student body president, but he would also like to take his knowledge and experience to make a difference to his people in Nigeria.

Sustainability is a struggle in Nigeria, therefore, he would like to work on alternative energy sources which would be feasible in his country. Someday, he would like to help solve the energy crisis and the energy corruption there. His educational journey both in the UK and the U.S. has allowed him so many opportunities to meet influential people who may help make this dream a reality.

“I feel at home wherever I am,” Ola states. However, he understands many students experience homesickness while at college. He believes the student body can help with this. SMSU students “need to educate themselves about other cultures,” he said. The professors create a welcoming atmosphere; however, students need to get to know each other, they need to figure out what they have in common and they need to be united. He believes students “need to have a disposition to reach out to each other.”

Ola no longer feels like he receives additional glances when he walks down the hallways. However, he believes everyone in the SMSU community needs to find an opportunity to help each other and to encourage camaraderie. “We must all view each other as students first,” he states. “Once we stop seeing differences and understand that we are all students, our differences will unite us and not separate us.”

As Ola looks forward to his role as student body president this year, he encourages each student to “see each person’s uniqueness and be fascinated by each other.”