A Heart For People

July 17, 2002

Ade Ifelayo acknowledges his opportunities to enjoy campus hangouts have decreased since his election as student body president. These days, he logs most of his hours either at the student government office or the library.
Striking the perfect balance between academic and social life can be tricky for any student, but it's especially challenging for Ifelayo, whose Nigerian cultural background stresses academics.
"Back where we come from, schoolwork is paramount," says Ifelayo, who moved with his family in 1997 from Nigeria to New Orleans. "Here, there is room for school, social activities, ministry and other things," he says. "Your character is shaped by much more than what grades you get in certain classes." 
That's not to say Ifelayo, a senior economics and premed major, has put his academic career on hold for political aspirations. Nine days after he was elected president last April (with 64 percent of the vote), he took the MCAT, the entrance exam for medical schools. 
Ifelayo says his parents are supportive of his new role at Baylor, although initially they were surprised when he started pursuing student government positions as a freshman. 
"I used to be very introverted. But I remember one thing my mom told me some time ago -- that I have a good heart for people," he says. That trait is evident on a quick jaunt across campus with Ifelayo, who responds to greetings from friends, classmates and professors with a ready smile and handshake. 
Ifelayo is quick to deflect attention from two things that make him unique in Baylor's history -- being the first black and first international student to serve as president. 
"If it's not where you come from or what you look like that matters, then it shouldn't be that big of an issue," he says. "I just remember that it took every kind of person to vote for me to win. It wasn't just black people or internationals or premed students or non-Greeks. And so, you owe it to the different people who voted for you -- and, of course, to people who didn't vote for you -- to be representative of their interests as much as possible."