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Sarah Ladipo poses on February 20, 2022, at Donkey Coffee in Athens, Ohio.

Student Spotlight: Sarah Ladipo uses her background to create change

Sarah Ladipo, a junior studying philosophy and computer science, came to Ohio University knowing she wanted to make a difference.

Originally from Pickerington, Ladipo is one of the appointed student trustees on the OU Board of Trustees. In order to receive this position, students are appointed by the Ohio governor after interviews with the governor’s office.

The position of student trustee is the highest position a student at OU can hold. There are always two students on the board, and these trustees are the voices for the nearly 30,000 students who attend the university during their staggered two-year terms.

As a daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Ladipo knows the value of education and the gravity of the opportunities to which she had access.

“They definitely instilled in me the power of education and the importance of that,” Ladipo said. “My mom literally had to fight for her education, and that was something that she always raised me being like, ‘Education: that’s where your power lies.’”

When Ladipo arrived at OU, she hit the ground running. As the recipient of the Claire O. and Charles J. Ping Cutler Scholars Award, her tuition was covered, and she was able to engage in other opportunities. 

As a freshman, Ladipo applied to the Capitol Internship Program, an experience usually reserved for upperclassmen. Thanks to her interest in politics and advocacy, she was accepted despite her age.

The internship was originally scheduled to take place the spring of 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic. Although the rescheduling was unfortunate, Ladipo said she was able to witness many monumental events during the spring of 2021.

“It was a month after the insurrection during the impeachment trial. All of these important historical moments were happening a couple feet away from me,” Ladipo said.

In addition to witnessing major decisions being made, Ladipo also was able to have a front seat to experience American democracy.

“I learned so many things, but I would say I learned how your voice, like the people that I was talking to on a day-to-day basis like the constituents, their voice truly matters,” Ladipo said. “The corny or generic saying, ‘Oh, this government is for the people, by the people’ — it really is.”

After her internship in Washington, D.C., Ladipo continued to take advantage of all the opportunities she could. 

“Since sophomore year, so each semester, I’ve always had an internship,” Ladipo said.

Ladipo has varied her experience fields, from serving as an intern for the United States Agency for International Development to completing an apprenticeship as a Harvard University Research Apprentice under Myrna Perez Sheldon. 

As for her role as student trustee, Ladipo feels the need to bring a voice centered on advocacy and inclusion. As a Black woman, specifically, she knows her role is unique and valuable due to the lack of diversity the board has shown in the past.

“I genuinely care to represent a diverse mind to the board,” Ladipo said. “I love breaking glass ceilings for more people to come.”

Additionally, Ladipo wants to ensure she represents the population well by communicating with a variety of students from different backgrounds.

“As a student trustee, I make sure that I’m talking to a lot of different groups and going out, asking questions,” Ladipo said. “I can’t say my experience is everyone's experience, so you want to make sure you’re getting different perspectives, not just being biased.”

Although Ladipo is not the first Black woman to sit as a student trustee, she is still trying to pave the way for other students from similar backgrounds to come after her. Ladipo is working on interviewing candidates to fill student trustee Ellen Gill-Franks’ position and wants to keep diversifying the board in mind.

“I just want to always see more diversity in the application pool,” Ladipo said. “I make sure to tell people about it because, I think on any committee or board, you want to have diversity.”

Although Ladipo has yielded herself an impressive resume, she is adamant that every opportunity she has participated in has been because of genuine interest and desire to learn. From all of Ladipo’s experiences, she has learned a key lesson.

“It’s taught me to be goal-oriented and shoot high, have high ambitions,” Ladipo said.


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