Leading by Example: Henry Adebisi ’18

After a busy career on the Hill, the senior is taking his leadership, creativity, and activism with him as he transitions to his career in June.
Posted on May 25th, 2018 by

Henry Adebisi '18 poses in front of campus for one of the last times as a student.

When Gustavus Adolphus College senior Henry Adebisi walks across the stage next week to accept his diploma, his parents and two younger sisters will be proudly watching from the stands.

“When I think about what my parents have done to make this happen, I want to do well,” Adebisi said. “And my mom has spent my whole life telling me to do well for my sisters. She always says ‘do well because your sisters are watching and they copy you.’ I just laugh and wave her off because they’re way cooler than me already.”

Adebisi and peers serve as Collegiate Fellows and act as resident advisers on campus.

His peers on campus beg to differ. From playing guitar and planning on-campus shows for his band, The Bandated Reporters, to walking the halls and visiting with residents in his role as a Collegiate Fellow, there are few things that Adebisi does not do.

It all started his first year on the Hill. After watching his friends perform in the December performance of Christmas in Christ Chapel, Adebisi knew he could not sit the next one out. He joined the Chapel Choir that spring and has been a member ever since, taking voice lessons on campus and traveling on regional tours.

Hailing from White Bear Lake, Minn., Adebisi and his sisters grew up learning about the Nigerian culture, their parent’s home country. But when his peers encouraged him to be a part of the Pan-Afrikan Student Organization (PASO) he was reluctant to add another new organization to his growing schedule.

Eventually, he listened. Adebisi joined the planning for the group’s popular event, Africa Night, focusing on writing and filming a series of comedy skits. They were a hit. Now, three years later, he is one of the co-presidents, charged with coordinating meetings, events, and membership while striving to fulfill the organization’s mission to showcase the African diaspora through educational and cultural events.

Adebisi with fellow PASO members

“We are making it fun. We aren’t just lecturing. And we are bringing a perspective that would otherwise be missing on a predominantly white campus, ” Adebisi explained. “I’m just glad I stopped being stubborn and joined the group. I’ve met so many people and learned so much from them. Now I support all our members so that they can be the most successful they can be. I definitely have to find a group like this after school because the celebration of culture has to keep going.”

Continuing his leadership and involvement outside the classroom, Adebisi spent last with summer with Public Allies, an Americorps program dedicated to creating more diverse leadership in community development and nonprofit work. The organization provides pathways to higher education and career training for underrepresented young adult leaders. Adebisi served as the events coordinator and has plans to return to the organization as a mentor after graduation.

“It’s not a group I want to move on from,” said Adebisi. “I also know an older friend who works with Public Allies who helped me reach the next step. Everyone always talks about the alumni network at Gustavus and the moment when he reached out to me during the interview process, I knew it was real.”

After last summer, the political science major had one major project between him and his graduation: a senior thesis. Adebisi decided to investigate the impact of Black Lives Matter on the development of police practices. To do so, he conducted substantial research and traveled back home to White Bear Lake and to Saint Paul to conduct original interviews. The work culminated in a final paper last December. 

“One of the things I most appreciate about Henry is his creativity and how he brings that creative energy into everything he does, from his service on campus to his work in class. Henry will jump wholeheartedly in and come up with innovative and sometimes provocative ways of engaging with the assignment,” Gustavus political science professor Kate Knutson explained. “His creativity is contagious and sparks the imagination of his classmates. It’s really fun to have him as a student because I know that the class is going to be better because he is there.”  

“When I was deciding my topic, I knew my thesis question was ambitious. But I don’t think it could have turned out better,” Adebisi said. “I read back on it now, and I am really proud. It reminds me of what I can do to try to solve some of our problems as a society.” 

Henry Adebisi ’18, a first-generation college student, posed with his family on Move-In Day in the fall of 2014.

“When I first came to college, I felt overwhelmed by the talent and intelligence around me, so I was too scared to say anything. But this place has sparked an activism in me. I’ve found my voice. Being able to explain what I mean and why I believe something…now that’s an incredible feeling,” Adebisi said.  “I can’t read the news anymore without thinking critically about the ‘why’ behind it. And you can’t just be done there. The next step is how to get active about it and enact change.”

After graduation, Adebisi will begin his new position at Ameriprise Financial, where he will be working in the legal and compliance sector. He hopes to translate that experience into a future in the legal field. Adebisi’s ultimate dream is to be able to work in immigration law and help the system work for more people.

“Part of what makes Henry so successful is that he is a genuinely nice person who makes friends easily and cares about people. I know that Henry is going to do great things after he leaves Gustavus,” Knutson said. “My hope for him is that he’ll be able to find an outlet for his creativity and that appreciates it as much as I have.”

“If I could give first-year students any advice, it would be to remember to thank your family. And to go home to visit. A lot happens in four years,” said Adebisi, reflecting on a recent trip to his hometown of White Bear Lake. When he was at home, one of his younger sisters had approached him. She wanted to know what steps to take when she left for college in order to become a political science major. Adebisi smiled, “Who knows…my mom might be right.”


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


One Comment

  1. Nicole Goebel says:

    Kudos to you Henry for making such a tremendous impact at Gustavus! Your examples of leadership, friendship and volunteerism are a lasting legacy. Congratulations on your upcoming graduation – you are definitely a Gustie who will shine in his future career.