David Oladejo: Not Just CUSA President

Can you tell me a little bit about your upbringing?

I was in born in Nigeria . . . I lived there for eight years. Then, I lived in New Orleans for six months. I lived in Houston (Texas) for five years and then I got to Ottawa in Grade 9. I’ve been in Ottawa almost for nine years. I went to high school here, and obviously university here.

Why did you choose to come to Carleton? 

When I first got here, my plan was to first finish high school and leave Ottawa, and go back to the States for school. I realized that was a bit unrealistic . . . then my plan was to go to school in Toronto, and that didn’t work out for me. Carleton was my second option . . . so I said I’m going to go to Carleton for engineering.

Do you like living in Ottawa and do you consider it your home?

I feel like every year I’ve been in Ottawa, I love the city a little bit more. The winter here is a different story; I can’t stand the cold. But other than that, I have a lot of friends here that I’ve grown up with, that I’ve met in (high school) and a lot of them go to Carleton now.

Having those friendships is really awesome because moving a lot as a kid was tough because you have a friend for a couple years, especially when you’re younger, and then you’re moving to a new school, to a new city. So, before I got to Ottawa, I didn’t have a lot of really long, strong friendships. Being in a city where I haven’t had to worry about moving in nine years, I have established relationships here.

I do (consider Ottawa my home) because now I’m a Canadian citizen. Is someone asks me where I’m from, I say I’m from Ottawa . . . but I still consider Nigeria my home . . . I take pride in being Nigerian.

What were your involvements on campus in first year?

First year? Nothing . . . I had a conversation with my dad where my dad was like ‘you don’t have time to focus on social life’ and he was right . . . but university was so different from when our parents went to school, so I think you should get as involved as you can.

At the end of first year, I found out I was very empty in terms of being a university student. I didn’t know a lot of people . . . I was actually thinking of transferring schools to (uOttawa). Luckily enough, I applied for summer orientation in the winter semester and I got hired at the SEO (Student Experience Office), and that flipped everything around for me.

Just working there for those four months . . . that led me to signing up for everything. So, I signed up to be a frosh volunteer, signed up to do CAB (Carleton Activity Board) as a communications director, signed up to do some other programs that (the SEO runs). I got hired there to do the work study program for my second year.

How did you end up running with the One Carleton slate to become CUSA president?

I worked with Zameer (former CUSA president) and AJ (vice president, student life) when I was planning frosh. Because (Zameer and I) knew each other . . . and then he just brought it up to me. He said ‘you should think about this because I’ve seen skills you have’ . . . and I said I appreciate the compliment . . . and I said I would never run for CUSA.

The position I was in, was that I had just finished planning frosh, and I was looking at my involvement within the SEO, and I couldn’t see anything else that I could do that would really challenge me or help me to grow, especially that I knew I was going to come back to school for a fifth year.

So then, I asked Zameer . . . ‘I want to know what your experience has been. I want to understand elections, to doing the work.’ Because then, graduating from school, I thought this is something that would be credible to have from an experience point. We had a really honest conversation about it and that helped me to decide that this was something I was willing to try.

How do you want to change Carleton to become a better place for students?

It’s tough because naturally Carleton is just a very political school and before student politics, I was never very vocal about it . . . I think the thing I would change, is everyone thinks their open-minded, but in times when we have differing opinions, people really aren’t.

Everyone is guilty of placing your opinions above others and not really taking the time to understand everyone’s perspective. Also, understanding that other people can be passionate about a cause for a genuinely good reason. It’s not because they just want to s*** on your idea.

I think sometimes people get caught in that. We saw that with elections; we saw that with the referendum. Just because I disagree with you, doesn’t mean I don’t respect what you’re saying.

So that’s definitely something I would change . . . when stating an opinion, just taking a second to understand what other people are saying, as opposed to just attacking them.

Do you see a life in politics?

I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s for me. CUSA’s different, because they do call it student politics . . . but there’s a lot more that goes into it. It’s kind of like a business, at the same time it is politics, a service, a social gathering, a community.

Politics is a lot of policy stuff. I don’t really like readings to be honest with you. I’m very technical, just like an engineer.

What advice would you give to first year students?

I would encourage first year students to get as involved as possible. I don’t think you can go wrong by doing that. But, within reason; don’t sign up for 30 clubs.

Find a club with things that you like. Think about if it’s interesting and if you want to learn more about it because especially for students who might not live on campus . . . it’s very easy to just get into your routine and then feel a little bit lonely. The community is super large, so it’s easy to meet people, but it’s very easy to feel isolated.

So, getting involved is one piece of advice I always give. The other one, would be just asking for help. Carleton has so many resources and services and they’re literally right in front of your face, but If you don’t reach out, you’re not going to find it.