"Students in the Spotlight" is a conversation series with members of the SofC Student Academy and Urban Leadership Fellowship program.
What are you currently working on? What are your research and engagement interests?
I am pursuing a research project that explores the topics of youth homelessness and youth unemployment in Nigeria, by proposing a solar-powered community housing and schooling initiative. Additionally, I also currently serve as a fellow under Operation Black Vote 1834 Policy Fellowship specifically focused on understanding and creating equitable and inclusive policy. To that end, my research and engagement interests involve African and International development, Inclusive social Policy, youth entrepreneurship & development, and law & governance in Africa.
- What has motivated your interests and journey? How do you hope to make difference?
My interests and journey are motivated by my identity as a Nigerian immigrant, and the answers I received when I asked my parents, their friends, and members in the community about their immigrant journey and their reasons for settling in Canada. Their reasons are rooted in a vision for a better future for their children and future generations. To that end, I have always wanted to explore what about their home countries (specifically in an African context), pushed them to become immigrants and from there, I discovered a passion for African development so that countries like Nigeria can work more efficiently for the citizens they are responsible for. I hope to make a difference by helping develop creative, tangible, and inclusive social policy and community initiatives on the African continent and to help provide the instruments for people to create their own solutions for and within their own communities.
What’s the latest project you have been working on and would like to share with the SofC audiences?
The latest project that I am working on is a proposal on Solar Powered Community Housing as a tool to tackle the issues of youth unemployment and youth homelessness in Nigeria. The project explores solar-powered community housing, community-based learning, and access to trainings/programs/initiatives created by other young Nigerians. It will search for new foundations for education in Nigeria based on the ideas of self-Reliance, be passion and problem solving oriented, and framing literacy and numeracy as a means to an end, and not the end itself.
As a student, researcher and or activist, what have you learned from the pandemic and its global impact?
As a student, researcher and community organizer, I have learned about the importance of effective, considerate, empathetic, and honest leadership, policy and governance from the pandemic. Around the world, we have seen how the responses of different world leaders and countries' reaction to the pandemic have trickled down to the overall responses of their citizens. These responses range from prompt, empathetic and compassionate support to passive and repressive ones. The pandemic has taught me that compassionate leadership and policies matter, because, during times of strife and upheaval like the pandemic, the reactions of governments partially often dictate counter-reactions of the citizens they serve, as has been the case for Nigeria.
Please share with us your experiences at the SofC. How do you think being a member of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program has contributed to your scholarship and added to your experience as a student?
My experience as a School of Cities Fellow has been so engaging and impactful, specifically because of the access to diverse talents and perspectives offered by the speakers and professionals that the Academy hosts as well as many the of Fellows in the program. Through interacting with my peers in the Fellowship and Academy, I have learned more about sustainable urbanization in Africa from Soukayna Remmal, about communities of care from Jigme Tsering, about community participatory action research from Adam El-Masri, and so much more from other Fellows. The School of Cities really presents a visceral and engaging space to connect on community engagement and urban leadership and for that, I am very grateful. It has really been an incredible experience and a new and important way to learn and collaborate.
Any final word or message?
I want to thank Professor Marieme Lo in particular for her leadership and mentorship.
The vision and labor that she put into this program have made this Fellowship exceptional.
Professor Marieme Lo has pushed each and every one of us, provided us with her connections and her vast knowledge and support on our projects. Even through the pandemic, Professor Lo’s and the team’s resolve never wavered. She is a mentor to me and an advocate. The School of Cities Fellowship is what it is because of her hard and thankless work. Today, I would like to say, thank you Professor Lo for doing the work that you do and for empowering others to do theirs!
Semilore Ajayi is a 4th-year Political Science and African Studies student passionate about inequality debates surrounding the development myth and urbanization in Africa, specifically in Nigeria, her home country. Her research interests include issues of inequality, infrastructure, urbanization and policy affecting youth in African and global contexts. She focuses on how international policy, international law, governance, development and civic engagement intersect to influence the tangible needs of the everyday youth. Furthermore, she looks to explore the importance of social entrepreneurship and the non-profit sector in their abilities to advocate for disadvantaged communities.
Her experiences range from professional settings to community organization and advocacy, which combine to provide her with unique insights and perspectives when problem-solving. She has extensive experience as a youth leader, having managed budgets of over $70,000, written grant applications and proposals, managed projects and planned large events. Semilore believes in constant learning, growth, introspection, and self-awareness as the beginnings of effective innovation and hopes to advocate for and instill the above in youth across the country and the world.