USD has a new leader on campus who will continue to advocate for diversity and inclusiveness.
Adetokunbo Oredein is the new director of the Center for Diversity & Community, announced before spring break. Oredein was offered the position in January, and officially started at USD on March 2 with a welcome event at the CDC.
Oredein is from Ackerman, Mississippi, and received his master’s in counseling at Alcorn State University, a historic black university. Following that, Oredein earned his doctorate degree in community college leadership from Mississippi State.
“I really wanted to learn more about that setting because I just think there were so many students in community college, but there were not a lot of administrators that looked like me,” he said. “I always heard students talk about, ‘Why don’t we have more people who look like you than what we see everyday?’ So I decided to get my degree in that and it was an awesome field.”
Oredein said his time at Alcorn State helped him become a good student.
“It was more of they (professors) wanted you to do your best in whatever your capabilities were, and I wasn’t used to teachers holding me to that standard,” he said.
Oredein said he applied for the CDC director position in November because he felt it suited him.
“I had been in enrollment management for almost seven years, and I was very good at what I do at enrollment management… but I missed the students,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to get it because I know one thing about USD is when people apply for stuff, 500 people apply. I was glad to get the interview but I didn’t think it was going to go any further and I was so gracious to get the second call up here.”
Oredein said working with students is his favorite part of his job.
“I talked to Mr. (Lamont) Sellers and he was very blunt about what he wanted, where he wanted to see the CDC be, how he wanted the person to interact with the students,” he said. “And I knew I could do it, I just needed the opportunity. I speak to them (student), I interact with them. I just try to be what they need and a friendly face. I tell everyone who comes in I will not misuse their trust. Trust is earned, but nothing you say to me will go outside these walls.”
Students at the CDC have positive first impressions of Oredein. Minji Cho, a graduate student, said Oredein is “friendly and confident.”
“He’s very friendly and he seems like a really hardworking person, too,” Cho said. “He’s always welcoming with students who come and talk to him.”
Roma Trivedi, a sophomore, said though students were at first nervous to get a new CDC director, they quickly changed their minds upon meeting Oredein.
“I felt a really energizing vibe from him,” Trivedi said. “I felt like he’s a person who’s suitable for the position because he’s very welcoming and the Center is very welcoming.”
Trivedi said she is confident in the new addition to the CDC.
“Our other concern was will he be able to help us out whenever we need him — he’s able to do that,” Trivedi said. “And he’s just gonna bring a good, positive change.”
Diversity is an important part of his job, Oredein said.
“Diversity means you are bringing in people that are generally not the major population, and you want them to feel as if they are part of the family. Color, religion or creed does not matter,” he said. “We want you to feel welcomed. Bringing people together and making sure that they know that we care for you that we do every other student. No one should feel like an outsider in their own college.”
Seeing the importance of diversity and inclusiveness at USD was a unique circumstance, Oredein said.
“The thing about it is, diversity in South Dakota is not a number one priority in most places. I noticed at USD, it was (included in the mission statement),” Oredein said. “That’s what attracted me to and made me want to be here.”
Though he hasn’t been at USD long, Oredein said he loves the atmosphere of the campus.
“I haven’t gotten to know all the students but the students no matter what color are so polite and nice,” he said. “You have that great culture and student feel. Since I’ve been here, students have really been flocking into my office and utilizing my counseling skills and asking questions I wasn’t expecting.”
The CDC has also impressed Oredein, he said.
“It is an open place for people to come in a be themselves,” Oredein said. “This is the most inviting multicultural center I have ever been in ever. I think, being in South Dakota, people sometimes feel like they’re missing out on a lot because there’s not a whole lot of industry around, but I think this is a beacon that can affect a lot of students and help them grow.”
Oredein also said the rest of the staff in the CDC has helped him feel welcomed.
“Lamont has an excellent structure in place, but he is open to change. That was very welcoming to know I’m in an environment where we need it, and we can have it changed,” he said. “Lena (Tran) is a firecracker. She’s a great, welcoming match for me because she’s passionate about everything that deals with the CDC and the students.”
In terms of plans for the CDC, Oredein said he wants to “learn the lay of the land before he starts the plan.”
“I want to learn what we have, what struggles we have, what our students need and, most of all, what they need from me as an individual in this position before I start to plan,” he said. “A lot of directors get into these positions and they make everything to fit the director. I want to make myself fit the student in the CDC.”
Oredein said he wants to make sure the CDC grows in his time at USD.
“(I want) to continue what we have going on,” Oredein said. “Long term goals are to make the CDC a larger beacon across USD and possibly be the role model for other diversity centers here in South Dakota. I know that we’re a leader but I think we can go above and beyond and show why we’re a leader.”