Attorney Olabisi “Bisi” Ladeji Okubadejo ’95 sees her job as an opportunity to transform the educational experience for students and the work experience for employees at Georgetown University, where she serves as associate vice president for equal opportunity, affirmative action, and compliance. “It’s my life’s work,” Okubadejo says.
She oversees the daily operations of the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Affirmative Action. Before she started the position in January 2020, Okubadejo worked at the Ballard Spahr law firm, where she focused on higher education civil rights, regulatory compliance, and Title IX gender discrimination. She’s also been an attorney in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
Why did you leave your job at a law firm to take this position?
I really wanted to work with a campus to help make sure that we could have a best-in-class approach to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. And I wanted to do it at an institution that I had a connection to, and I got my law degree from Georgetown Law Center. Coming back to Georgetown was really important for me as a way to help make sure that we are creating spaces on campus for students and for employees to learn and to work in an environment that is welcoming to everyone, regardless of race or gender or any protected category.
What is your interest in supporting a higher-ed institution?
When I graduated from Hamilton, I spent my first few years working as a public school teacher for Teach for America. I taught in Baltimore city public schools for few years and did some work as an administrator with Teach for America's Baltimore office, and then ultimately taught in Prince George's County before I went to law school. I was interested in education for a lot of reasons. I come from a family of people who are very focused on education. My mom was an English teacher and later a principal. My grandfather taught shop in Baltimore …
Being able to teach in Baltimore City Public Schools was really important for me because it was a chance to give back to the community and to teach in schools that were under-resourced, and to make sure that the students in the schools where I taught, could, through me, get something like the benefit of an education from a school like Hamilton.
Read about other alumni who are making an impact in their professions and communities throughout the world.
In Baltimore, one of the schools where I taught was called Carver Vocational Technical High School; it used to be called the Colored Vocational Technical High School, and it was a school where some of my older family members attended. Being able to teach there was significant for that reason — just to see that transition, but to also see how it had changed and how it remained segregated even after our nation's schools had been desegregated. To see the educational environment for children who look like me in Baltimore really pushed me to want to go to law school and to make a difference for students.
Is there a moment in your work thus far that you really felt you made a difference?
It's probably the work that I do with our bias reporting system because it doesn't involve filing a formal complaint, so it's not an adversarial process. Instead, it's this voluntary effort, where somebody feels like they've been hurt by another person in our community, and I can be a part of helping one person see the harm that they caused to another person, and helping them walk on a path toward reconciliation, together. That work feels really valuable and can result in change, not just for the individuals involved, but for people in the future.