Ariwajoye exemplifies leadership, inclusion for ULM

Maggie Eubanks, News Editor

Warhawks fly into Monroe from all over the world before finding their home on the bayou. For senior toxicology major Wumi Ariwajoye, home is in Slidell, Louisiana. Her father is an immigrant from Nigeria, and her mother is a New Orleans native. But Ariwajoye knew ULM was the right place for her.  

“When I first got here, I was away from my family, and it was hard,” Ariwajoye said. “But I also found family in Monroe.” 

Ariwajoye knows that you get out of college what you put in, and she has put in a lot. Ariwajoye helps lead several organizations on campus. Currently, she is the president of the Cultural Diversity Council (CDC) and the vice president of the ULM chapter of the NAACP.  She is also a member of Tau Omicron Chi, a program for future toxicologists.

Being a leader is important for Ariwajoye because when she came to campus, she noticed a lack of representation for minorities. 

“As a minority student, I see a lot of other Caucasian students, and I thought, ‘Where are the Black people?’” Ariwajoye said. 

Ariwajoye joined the NAACP as a freshman and learned to speak up where she saw issues. She wanted to make her voice heard and make sure other minority students knew they mattered. 

“I’ve heard that before where students say, ‘Oh I can’t do this. I’m only a small percentage,’” Ariwajoye said. “That matters. As small as you think you are, just taking that one step matters.”

But the NAACP wasn’t enough in Ariwajoye’s mind. She helped form the CDC two years ago with the program’s first president, Erick Burton. 

“I remember when Wumi was first part of CDC when it started,” Burton said. “I always knew Wumi had that go-getter in her.”

Gina White, the faculty advisor for the CDC, said that Wumi excels in leading not only the CDC but also students around the entire campus. White said she knows that Wumi will give back to campus after she graduates. 

“She’s going to be an awesome alumni access for us to have as she goes out into the world to continue to make her impact,” White said. “I think she knows the value of mentorship, so I have no doubt she’ll be back to reach back and give back.”

A Warhawk is not just a mascot to Ariwajoye—it’s a beginning. 

“When I think about a Warhawk, I think about being free and being you,” Ariwajoye said. “You have a small start, and you can take that and go so far.”

Ariwajoye said she wants those around her to know this too, and that, while she doesn’t see herself as a leader, she takes the influence she has seriously. 

“I think some people forget those things that when you lead, you have to also be a part of what you’re leading,” Ariwajoye said. “You can’t just lead and be like, okay, go do this. To be a leader means to be alongside your coworkers and alongside your peers but orchestrating and being a spokesperson for them.”

Ariwajoye was hesitant to name her leadership positions as her shining accomplishment at ULM, opting instead to spotlight events like Zydeco Night put on by the NAACP and the Black History Month Program put on by the CDC. 

She said she believes that Black history is American history, and it was important to her and the CDC to hold the event to uplift those that laid the foundation to help her get to where she is today. 

“Especially coming from a mom who’s from New Orleans and a dad who was an immigrant from a different country, I’ve seen them work hard,” Ariwajoye said. “I’m sure other people’s parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles have worked hard to be seen here, and I feel like African Americans are underappreciated and not seen enough for our talent, for our creativity and for our hard work.”

Ariwajoye is proud of the time she spent at ULM and said she owes a great deal to the people she met along the way. She encourages any new students at ULM to get involved and take a step by joining an organization on campus. 

“Join something that you think would pique your interest,” Ariwajoye said. “And if you don’t like what you’re seeing, raise your hand and give a suggestion. Take a step in getting to know someone and saying hello to someone.”

If more Warhawks follow the example she has set, Monroe has the chance to become a home where everyone, no matter their race, nationality or gender, has a voice for change.

As Ariwajoye said, “If I can help anybody with their college experience, I’d be happy to because I wanted that for myself.”