Ayomipo Kayode Popoola
Future grad credits the University of Idaho with preparing her for Harvard Law.
Ayo Popoola began her journey at the University of Idaho with a drive to be involved in everything. But she didn’t just fulfill a participatory role in clubs and organizations, she became a leader.
Since her freshman year, Popoola has been a student ambassador for the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, she became the Director of Diversity Affairs, she has been the Lead Local Service, Summer, and Social Action Coordinator through the Center for Volunteerism and Social Action, a TEDx UIdaho Assistant, the President for the African Students Association, an Alternative Service Break Leader in Ecuador, and a Representative for the UNITY Multicultural Council. These leadership positions only share a fraction of her time, as she is also heavily involved in research and the Martin Institute.
Despite her full schedule, she is also a dedicated student with a 3.9 GPA and by graduation, she’ll have attained a B.A. in International Studies, a B.A. in Sociology, two minors in Spanish and Africana Studies, as well as hold a certificate in Diversity and Stratification.
“Seeing what she’s achieved over the years, it’s unbelievable to me,” International Studies advisor and mentor, Dr. Romuald K. Afatchao said of Popoola. “For me to be a part of that, I am very honored.”
Through all of Popoola’s many amazing accomplishments, one of the key qualities that those around her point out is her incredible humility.
Natalie Magnus, the past Coordinator for the Center for Volunteerism and Social Action at the University of Idaho, holds a deep respect for Popoola through the years of being her supervisor. “The level of her involvement, drive, and tenacity is unmatched by her peers,” Magnus said. “It would not be uncommon for me to come back into my office later in the evening after teaching late or to pick something up, and there would be Ayo, studying for the LSAT or writing a research paper.”
Popoola’s vision to one day attend law school was what brought her to University of Idaho Career Services, where she met career advisors, Eric Anderson and Nicole Campbell, who helped her prepare for the Junior Deferral program application, which would be submitted during the second semester of her junior year.
Harvard Law School’s Junior Deferral Program allows undergraduate students two years of personal time to explore other professional, education, or service opportunities prior to embarking on their legal studies at Harvard. Popoola saw this as an opportunity to put in her application, and if she didn’t get in, she still had time to re-take the LSAT and prepare for future law school applications. But she wouldn’t have to.
On June 7, one day before Popoola’s birthday, she received the email, saying she was a finalist for the program and would have an interview scheduled the following week. Popoola was overjoyed as she emailed all her recommenders, informing them of the news. Leading up to the interview, Popoola worked with Eric Anderson on mock interviews as well as worked with various mentors in preparation to be interviewed by the Harvard admissions board.
Eventually Popoola had the interview and was informed that she would be notified by the end of the summer, around August, after the admissions board and law professors had reviewed her application and interview responses.
On June 26, less than two weeks after the interview, Popoola received the call that she was admitted to Harvard, and while the feeling of excitement was overwhelming, the biggest emotion she recalls feeling, is relief.
“It hasn’t fully sunk in. But every time I tell someone new, it sinks in a bit more,” Popoola said.
Popoola now has to finish her last year at the University of Idaho and determine what she wants to do during her two gap years prior to starting at Harvard Law School. She might work, pursue another degree, or travel. As exciting as the future is, however, Ayo says she will miss the University of Idaho and what it has given her.
“I have no regrets. I could not have imagined myself being anywhere else. I can’t put into words how impactful that department [International Studies] has been on not just my college experience, but my life in general,” Popoola said.
Eric Anderson said it wasn’t a difficult decision in picking Popoola to be the first student featured in the Vandals on the Move article series.
“I just feel Ayo for me represents the Vandal Spirit. A great story for future Vandals to learn about.”
Popoola’s vision and compassion made her one of the most well-respected and beloved students on campus. She will accomplish great feats and change lives. How she will do it isn’t the question, because she already has done it at the University of Idaho. The question is, who else she will impact because the numbers will be vast, and her legacy at the University of Idaho will live on and continue to inspire, even in her absence.
It has been an absolute humbling experience to have had the opportunity to write about Ayo and her incredible dedication to everything she has been a part of at the U of I. As Eric said in his interview, I believe that Ayo truly does exhibit the Vandal spirit, and she will forever be known as one of the most influential students within her field. I am looking forward to seeing what else she achieves in the years to follow, because she is one of the most brilliant individuals I know.
Career Services Journalism Intern