Graduating Redbird Samiat Solebo is gearing up to use her education and experiences at Illinois State as a launching pad to fight injustice.
“I really found a love for advocacy and fighting for equity and equality while I was here,” she said.
Solebo came to Illinois State as the first step toward her goal of becoming a lawyer. She is interested in pursuing civil rights law and decided to study political science to better understand the issues she wants to fight for. During her campus visit, Solebo was able to connect with faculty and students that were in the program and felt it was a good fit for her. She also liked the distance between Normal and her hometown of Plainfield, which she said is far enough away to give her space to grow but close enough to be able to easily reconnect with family back home.
She also said advertisements from a local company gave her a subtle nudge to commit to Illinois State.
“You know SAMI, the real estate company? I saw signage for them all around and that is the same way I spell my nickname. It felt like it was a sign I should come here,” Solebo said.
Solebo has been actively involved on campus throughout her Illinois State career, culminating with being elected student body president during her junior year. She joined Jada Turner and Hannah Woody as the first all-female executive ticket in the history of the Student Government Association (SGA). Campaigning for the presidency and reaching out to her fellow Redbirds was one of the highlights of Solebo’s time at Illinois State.
“During that time period I met the biggest amount of people on campus that I ever had,” she said. “It was a good experience being able to do that.”
After her term, Solebo started working as a student leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion from within the President’s Office. In this role, she works as a bridge between the student body and campus administrators by providing students with more opportunities to let their voices be heard. She also made a point to connect with students who might not be as naturally willing to talk about their experiences and give them a broader platform.
“One of the things we did was hold forums for students to be able to talk about what was happening on campus as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Solebo said. “Administration and faculty and staff sometimes have blind spots when it comes to students, and they aren’t able to see everything that goes on. These forums gave students an opportunity to share those experiences.”
Solebo plans to attend law school and is in the process of selecting a school that is right for her. In the meantime, she is working full-time for State Farm as a litigation paralegal. Through this job experience, she has gained a fuller appreciation of a side of the law she had little knowledge of initially.
“It’s very different. I never saw myself as a person who would work in insurance ever at all, because I didn’t know anything about it,” Solebo said. “But it’s interesting. I like what I do, and I am learning a lot.”
When asked to give advice for future Redbirds, Solebo said she urges them to take advantage of the many opportunities available on campus.
“As long as you put yourself out there to gain the experience and get the opportunity, they are there for you,” she said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without ISU. The people I have met and the opportunities that ISU has made available—I have been able to leverage those in my life and career. You never know who can help you and who you can eventually help.”
This story is one of a series of profiles on Redbirds who are graduating this May. For more information about how Illinois State is celebrating commencement this semester, visit the Graduation Services website.