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Women in Politics: College Edition – Grinnell College

Welcome to Women in Politics: College Edition, where women leaders in student government across the country will be featured on

Welcome to Women in Politics: College Edition, where promising women leaders in student government on college and university campuses across the country will be featured on over the course of the year. Opeyemi Awe has been nominated by Grinnell College as a leader making a difference not only through key issues on campus, but in bridging the gender gap in politics.

As part of a new series at msnbc, “Women of 2014,” these hand-selected women become part of a larger discussion of women candidates and women’s issues on a national level. “Women of 2014” is a home for all women in politics – notably those in some of the year’s most pivotal races – with newsmaker interviews, profiles, photos, a Twitter trail following more than 35 candidates, and deep dives into the key conversations.

From the Ivy Leagues to the Big Ten to liberal arts colleges and beyond, young women are making a difference across the country – meet them here!

Name: Opeyemi Awe

School: Grinnell College

Hometown: Ilesa, Nigeria / Germantown, MD

Concentration: International Affairs

Dream job: President of Nigeria

Class year: 2015


What is your biggest challenge as a leader on campus?

The hardest part of being a leader on campus is finding creative ways to engage students with the change I want to make. Everyone is busy fighting his or her own battles, both in the classroom and in the campus social scene. As a leader, I find ways to simplify those daily struggles as much as possible and to connect students with resources that allow them to be as successful. This is how I envision my role, and translating that into practice and helping students take ownership of that vision is a unique challenge. 

Which female leaders do you draw inspiration from?

My mother, singer Laura Mvula, and First Lady Michelle Obama. My mother's devotion to her community and the people around her daily removes any excuses I have to be passive or apathetic. She teaches me how to be boldly and unabashedly independent, while never forgetting that my actions should benefit those around me. Laura Mvula and Michelle Obama also inspire me because they are unapologetically fierce. 

What comes to mind first when you think about important moments in history?

Berlin Conference of 1884 – 1885. The Berlin Conference was a gathering of the Western European powers, at which they carved up Africa by erecting arbitrary national boundaries and transferring administration of African tribes to European hands. This imperialist scramble exacerbated the exploitation and alienation of Africa. The social, economic and political repercussions of this international event continue to affect Africa’s development. Despite this complex history, I believe that many African nations are making worthwhile strides to take control of their future. Many African youth in the diaspora are returning to affect change across the continent through nongovernmental organizations, establishing local businesses and utilizing technology to attain social, political and economic change. I am inspired by those youth who are not limited by Africa’s complex history and are motivated to affect change. I want to participate in this movement.

What do you think should be President Obama’s No. 1 priority?

Ensuring that access to higher education remains available for all students. I would not have been able to attend Grinnell College without the Posse Foundation, which awards scholarships to public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential. I think it's crucial that the President, Secretary Duncan and members of Congress do whatever is necessary to keep college affordable and accessible to students trying to carve a way in the world. 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Reruns of Alias.

Keep up with Ope here and check out last week’s female leader!


To nominate an exceptional undergraduate female leader in student government please email Anna Brand at