Possessing a First Lady disposition you can spot from miles away, Yetunde Odugbesan is determined to create real change. She has it all as far as focus, intellect and downright fortitude go. Born and raised in New Jersey, the 24 year-old has already garnered an archive of accomplishments stocky enough to compete with any diplomat. A master’s degree in Global Affairs from Rutgers University, a member of Global Women Leadership Collaborative (GCWL) and an Eagleton Institute of Politics Alumni (just to name a few), Odugbesan is on the up and up to becoming one of the youngest and most influential leaders of a new generation in the African Diaspora.
Odugbesan has always been an active leader. As the former President of Student Government and Student Ambassador of her high school, Odugbesan found herself becoming the Dr. Laura of the St. Mary’s hallways, “everyone used to call me a lady with an old soul,” says Odugbesan. A self proclaimed extrovert, Odugbesan doesn’t feel that her focus got in the way of enjoying her youth. She simply enjoyed it in a different way than her peers.
“I always felt out of place, I had fun, but my fun wasn’t their fun,” she says.
Being a person of influence comes effortlessly to Odugbesan. It’s no wonder the transition from President of St. Mary’s to President of Rutgers University Chi Alpha Epsilon National Academic Honor Society came naturally. As a Ph.D. student of Global Affairs, Odugbesan is among a competitive class of 300 students (approximately 10 of which are of African descent) and is one of three females in the doctoral program. Within this prestigious class of scholars, Odugbesan’s main focus is corruption in Africa. Her doctoral research focuses on corruption and its effects on governmental trust and performance in both local and state government. A vital part of her research is dedicated to analyzing the effects of corruption on basic citizen needs and human rights. Odugbesan makes the point that there are levels of corruption in any government, but how it affects its people varies, for example, “there is corruption everywhere, but in the U.S the people still have the basic services they need,” she says. In her analysis she asks, what are African governments are doing to make sure human rights are being met? According to Odugbesan, an effect of corruption on a country’s people could be death, due to the slack enforcement of law. The young leader wants to see Africa’s best come forth, “I just believe we have potential,” she says whole heartedly.
A supremely well rounded individual, Odugbesan doesn’t sit behind a Mac all day doing internet research; she prefers to pursue her goals actively. Returning from a three week trip she took to Nigeria this past August, Odugbesan took time out to impact lives. Addressing a crowd of nearly 500 students at the University of Ibadan (UI) in Nigerian, Odugbesan spoke about the importance of social values. One observation the young leader highlights is the difference between the generation of young Nigerians in Nigerian and young Nigerian-Americans, “they are dealing with the real reality, while we (Nigerian- Americans) are trying to change their reality,” she says.
Having acquired a noteworthy academic achievement, Odugbesan has been able to translate her knowledge into ventures. She is CEO of Yetunde Global Consulting (YCG), a company specializing in developing leadership competencies for executives, young professionals and entrepreneurs. Also, as a part of a personal venture is Putting Your Best Self Forward, a site geared towards empowering young women, an idea that came to her while riding the bus one day. Each one of Odugbesan’s projects are for one thing- creating change. She quoted the famous American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, to describe her ambition, “…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived --this is, to have succeeded,” she says earnestly.
One might wonder when, a Ph.D. obtaining, Emerson quoting, CEO has time to cut back and relax, but like all young women Odugbesan enjoys the non-essential essentials of womanhood- fashion and shopping. An avid Lauryn Hill fan and follower of successful and impactful women such as the First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah “There are people who depend on your purpose,” she says. “I have to do my best.”
Odugbesan has only begun to scratch the surface of the change she wants to make. Transforming lives will be her lifelong endeavor.
“I think if I’m 80 years- old, I’ll still be doing something,” she jokes.
With great drive and ample talent, Odugbesan is a shining example of one who seeks to create the change that she wants to see.
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