abigail feature

Pioneering Progress

By Rim El Belkacemi

Pioneering Progress

By Rim El Belkacemi
Abigail Adeleke leads the U’s first all-female student executive branch

Abigail Adeleke’s involvement in student government began as a lighthearted attempt to fill a vacant seat for student government senator for the Stanford Residential College.

“I noticed that nobody else was running,” she recalled, “so I thought I would write my name on the ballot and see what happened.”

Now Adeleke, a senior double-majoring in journalism and psychology and minoring in Spanish, is making history as leader of the University’s first all-female student executive branch. Adeleke credits her first days in student government for giving her the inspiration to engage more seriously in the process. “I realized that, in this space, you could really make positive change,” she said. “That is when I realized that this is exactly what I want to do.”

In her sophomore year, she simultaneously served as public relations chair and School of Communication senator. In her junior year, she was speaker of the Senate. As her appreciation for the impact and significance of student government grew, Adeleke was approached by her “All In” team running mate Jason Perez to be his vice-presidential candidate.  When she decided to set her cap for the presidency, the two agreed to switch places.

Adeleke’s yearlong journey of preparation and campaigning was crowned by a win of just 13 votes—and the historic election of an all-female executive team. Amanda Rodriguez joined Adeleke’s “All In” team as treasurer, while Shirley Gelman, of the opposing “Level Up” team, won the vice presidency over Perez.

Adeleke expressed tremendous admiration for the women serving alongside her during her presidential term. Of Rodriguez, who became involved in student government for the first time this year, “She brings a fresh outlook to each situation, broadening our perspectives,” Adeleke said.

The split-ticket executive board has also broadened Adeleke’s own approach to governing.  “We did not expect to join teams with the opposing side,” she admitted, “but it turned out to be a great thing to combine our ideas and work in collaboration.”

Political Leadership Amid a Pandemic
Adeleke now navigates the challenges of leading a student government through a global pandemic and a charged political atmosphere.

“At the beginning of our terms, we all had these grand ideas,” she recalled. “But we quickly realized that we had to adjust our plans to prioritize the most pressing matters.”

Indeed, right after her inauguration, Adeleke and her team jumped full force into strategies to focus on urgent issues such as the COVID 19 response and racial equity initiatives.

“We can’t control that we have to live through a pandemic, but we can control how we react to it,” she said.

Adeleke’s commitment to racial equity was a key component of her campaign platform even before the recent resurgence of social justice movements across the globe. “It is of the utmost importance that each student at UM feels that they are properly represented,” she said.  

To promote diversity in student government, Adeleke championed an unprecedented initiative that provided all UM students with an application for student government through email.

Adeleke is currently working on strategies that will support the student experience amid ongoing pandemic precautions. Among them is a collaboration with the student government’s ECO Agency, which promotes environmental sustainability at the U, to provide more solar umbrellas on campus so that students can work outside with environmentally sustainable power sources.

Clearly, Adeleke believes in the power of governance to get things done—and she is using it to enhance student life at the U.

Abigail’s Favorite… 

Book: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Movie: The Sound of Music
Place: New York, NY