Fashion-forward, student-first: Yousouf Amolegbe, a versatile leader

Portrait of Amolegbe.

2019-20 Student Association President Yousouf Amolegbe stands in front of the SA office in the Student Union. Amolegbe hopes to use his position to advocate for sexual violence and mental health awareness and an increase in black faculty on campus. Photo by Vindhya Burugupalli, The Spectrum.

Aerospace engineering student Yousouf Amolegbe talks about how he would like to use his position as president of the Student Association to advocate for an increase in black faculty, accessibility and disability rights awareness.

By Alexandra Moyen

Republished from The Spectrum

Published June 26, 2019

“It is important for students to have representation of people who look like them in school. The best way to motivate students is to have mentors and people in leadership positions that look like them to set an example for them. ”
Yousouf Amolegbe, Aerospace Engineering Student

Yousouf Amolegbe made his way through the Student Union between meetings wearing a simple outfit: a black bomber jacket, blue shirt, camo pants and black sneakers. 

It was a rare occasion where he wasn’t decked out in the latest fashion. 

Though he wasn’t always the best dressed, today Amolegbe is known to show off his “Nigerian-influenced” and “eccentric” style.

Amolegbe, a senior aerospace engineering student from Nigeria, took office as the 2019-20 Student Association president on May 20, making him the first Nigerian SA president and fifth black president in UB SA history. He wants to bring his experience from home and the skills he learned at UB to the new role. Amolegbe has been involved at UB as SA’s event manager during the 2018-19 academic year and runs his own media company, RAGE Boyz. As SA president, Amolegbe is in charge of roughly 21,000 undergraduate students and $4.5 million in student fees. Amolegbe and his e-board members plan to use their platform to advocate for an increase in black faculty, accessibility and disability rights awareness and implement mandatory sexual violence training for all student athletes and Inter-Greek Council members.

Amolegbe also hopes to use his position to bring awareness to sexual violence and mental health on campus, as conversation of these topics only recently began in Nigeria. 

“Initially, sexual violence was not something that was spoken about at all in my hometown,” Amolegbe said. “I know that Nigeria still has a lot of work to do when it comes to sexual violence.”  

Ever since high school, Amolegbe has advocated for giving a voice to the voiceless.

“I went to boarding school in Nigeria where the students had no rights,” Amolegbe said. “Whatever [the teachers] told us to do, we had to do, and I was always the kid to say, ‘No, that’s wrong.’”

Amolegbe now plans to translate this experience to his position in SA. 

He said he wants to be able to “speak up for students” and he feels like there are a lot of things he can fight for joining SA.

As SA president, Amolegbe plans to advocate for an increase in black faculty. Amolegbe attended an African and African American Studies protest earlier this year to advocate for the faculty increase and more support for the AAS department.

Amolegbe has only had one black professor as an engineering major and didn’t have a black professor in his AAS class. Although he enjoyed having a non-black professor with an interest in African culture, he said students are more eager to learn when they have professors who look like them.

“It is important for students [to] have representation of people who look like them in school,” Amolegbe said. “The best way to motivate students is to have mentors and people in leadership positions that look like them to set an example for them.”

Amolegbe also feels SA and student groups could increase their diversity.

“I feel like a lot of opportunities aren’t as obvious for students of color on campus,” Amolegbe said. “People like them aren’t getting involved in these things.”

Amolegbe said he believes his experience as an international student will help foster open-mindedness of different cultures. Coming into UB, Amolegbe faced adversity and remembers being asked regularly if he speaks English.

“People expressed closed-mindedness to my culture, and since I know how it feels, it helps me avoid being closed-minded to others,” Amolegbe said. “I would never want anyone to go through what I went through.” 

Since coming to America, Amolegbe has also embraced his sense of style, and his Instagram is full of his Nigerian-influenced outfits. 

Chelsea Chibuzor, a biological sciences major, said Amolegbe used to be “funny” to watch because he wasn’t always the best dressed.

“When I first met Yousouf, he would wear big baggy shorts and jeans,” Chibuzor said. “Then as time came by, he learned a sense of fashion and started to look decent.”

Chibuzor called his “traditional Nigerian attire” the best she’s seen in Buffalo. 

But it’s not all about the looks for Amolegbe.

Chibuzor said Amolegbe is one of the most hardworking people she knows.

“When he has a vision, he really sets his mind to it. I’ve never seen a more hardworking and determined person than him,” Chibuzor said.

Amolegbe decided to pursue aerospace engineering because of his love of math, physics and challenging himself. He was even known as the “human calculator” back home.

“They call me the ‘human calculator’ because I can do math in my head,” Amolegbe said. “As a young boy I’d be getting scolded by my mom and crying, but as I was crying I was solving math.”

He initially had no intention of attending UB, as he wanted to attend the University of Michigan, one of the top schools for aerospace engineering. Amolegbe chose UB after Michigan rejected him.

After further reflection, Amolegbe decided UB was the “perfect option” for him. 

“I wanted to be in New York State because I have a lot of family here,” Amolegbe said. “UB happened to have the second-best aerospace engineering program [in the state], after Cornell.”

Another vision Amolegbe has set his mind to is organizing parties that students of color can relate to.

Amolegbe’s self-managed media company, RAGE Boyz, hosts parties focused on black culture. RAGE Boyz started after Amolegbe and his colleague threw a Nigerian Independence Day celebration at a house near Buffalo State College. 

“We decided to do a couple more house parties since a lot of people liked coming to them,” Amolegbe said. “Later on, we decided we wanted to do [events] on a much larger scale, so we booked an actual venue and held our first official event as RAGE Boyz in 2016.”

RAGE Boyz has hosted events in cities including Miami and New York City, although Erie Community College is their main base.

Fanta Dabo, vice president of African SA, said RAGE Boyz events give her a sense of “familiarity” that she hasn’t found elsewhere in Buffalo.

“The Afrobeats, reggae and soca music played makes me feel like I am right in New York City,” Dabo said.

Dabo said Amolegbe is always motivated to go above and beyond and take on jobs not required of him. 

“During my time as activities coordinator, he would often do calculations for the price of venues on his own, even though that isn’t part of his job,” Dabo said.

Amolegbe attributed this work ethic to his belief that there is no reason to be satisfied with where you are and that you should always aim higher and better yourself.

“I guess that's the mentality I've always had,” Amolegbe said. “Whatever I do, I'm always thinking about how I can do it better or where I can go to make things better.”