Omobolanle “Bola” Adeniran’s parents are educators who established a firm household rule for their daughter and her two brothers: No degree less than a master’s degree would do.
“No pressure there, right?” Adeniran said, laughing. But as a neuroscience major at the University of California, Riverside, she cried to a counselor at the end of her junior year. She didn’t want to be a doctor anymore. The counselor noted a theme linking her volunteer and community service activities. Perhaps public policy was her calling instead?
“I finished in less than a year,” Adeniran said. “I didn’t even tell my parents I was switching [majors].”
Medicine’s loss is Missouri’s legal gain.
Studying abroad in London and Paris circuitously led Adeniran to earn a master’s in public health and a concentration in health policy analysis at Washington University in St. Louis. Her work there in the field of health disparities led her to realize: “Finally, this is the direction where I’m finding my footing.”
Now Adeniran, 25, is a second-year student at Saint Louis University School of Law, where she’s focusing on health law and preparing for a second stint as a Husch Blackwell summer associate.
She also is the president of SLU’s Black Law Students Association, a National Black Law Students Association board member and a volunteer ambassador for the university office of admissions. Yet she had to be prodded to consider law school by Linda Raclin, her Wash U senior lecturer in health policy.
“It wasn’t something I’d thought about,” said Adeniran, who was born in Lagos, Nigeria and moved with her family to the United States in the 1990s.
“The first time I ever met an attorney was grad school. I didn’t grow up with any, and I wasn’t ever involved with the justice system — my parents would’ve killed me. But for the first time, I felt I was in the right place and living out a plan to my life’s goal.”
Adeniran views her dual degrees as parts of her toolbox for effecting change in health care policy.
“[It’s about] how you can affect people at a micro level when you do things at a macro level. The problem is how to make health care accessible to every American,” she said. “Now I feel empowered to help solve the problem.
“Eventually I want to be in the room where it happens, influencing public policy,” she added. “I will be familiar with legal things but also the things that people who work in public health will be saying: ‘This doesn’t work.’ When they come knocking, I want to be ready.”
One of Adeniran’s nominators called her a “shining example” of SLU Law’s spirit: “She lives out the mission in all that she does and is a welcoming resource to our prospective students.”
“I didn’t have anyone around me who thought law would be a good idea. This is me, giving back by saying, ‘I’m here, I can do it and so can you,’” Adeniran said of her work with the admissions office and the BLSA. “There’s enough room for all of us to be on this stage and to serve a diverse clientele that will need your services.”
After earning three back-to-back degrees (as well as an associate of arts while in high school), Adeniran said she’ll finally be done with classes when she graduates in May 2020.
Even so, her mother recently asked her: “You could go back for a PhD, right?” Adeniran’s response: “No.”