Leading on a National Level
Third-year student Zachariah Oluwabankole Babington-Johnson submitted a paper and presented to the United Nations Working Group on Experts on People of African Decent.
With more than 20 student organizations, the University of North Dakota (UND) School of Law has a reputation for providing multiple opportunities for students to become involved at the local, regional and national level. Many students have grasped these opportunities and used them as a vehicle to prepare them for life after law school.
Third-year student Zachariah Oluwabankole Babington-Johnson, a native of North Minneapolis, elected to pursue a law degree after completing his bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at UND. Arriving as a first-year student he had a resume highlighting his participation in student organizations serving as Basic Materials and Energy Sector lead for UND’s student-managed investment fund, was a member of the Dakota Venture Group and Harvest Fund, was a Mueller Intern, an Innovate ND quarterfinalist and served on the Student Athlete Advisory Counsel. In addition, he was an outside linebacker for the UND Football team from 2002-2007. It was natural for Oluwabankole to become involved at UND Law joining the Black Law Students Association, the Native American Law Students Association and the Energy Law Society.
Oluwabankole has been representing UND Law on a national level by serving on the National Black Law Students Association’s (NBLSA) Midwest Corporate Relations Team (2013-14), as the Midwest Regional Attorney General (2014-15) and for the 2015-2016 academic year as Midwest Regional Director, which oversees all business and activities in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. NBLSA is a national organization formed to articulate and promote the needs and goals of Black law students to effectuate change in the legal community. As one of the largest student-run organizations of its kind in the United, NBLSA has thousands of members across America and is also comprised of more than 200 chapters and affiliates from six countries, including the Bahamas, Nigeria, and South Africa. UND Law founded its BLSA chapter in 2009.
Oluwabankole emphasized the valuable connections he was able to make while involved with NBLSA. Once such connection brought about an amazing opportunity when a representative from Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign solicited Oluwabankole to submit a paper to the United Nations (UN) Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. The UN accepted his paper and he was invited to meet with the UN working group in Chicago this past January. Oluwabankole’s focus was on the number of private prisons, the amount of money spent on the war on drugs, and the staggering amount of African Americans currently incarcerated. In addition to witnessing the testimonies of people from all over the Midwest, Oluwabankole was invited to attend a private meeting with the committee along with the members of the Cook County Bar Association and Midwest Black Lawyers Association. “It is challenging to get people to understand all the different subtle and covert ways in which racism and discrimination are carried out,” states Oluwabankole, “Hearing the testimonies of people from Madison, Chicago, Flint, Ferguson, Minneapolis, etc. was quite moving.”
While representing UND Law at the national level Oluwabankole has been able to increase the school’s visibility which in turn should effectuate its ability to recruit a greater number of diverse students. “While in a leadership role with NBLSA I was able to share my experiences at UND with many students nationally, to show that we have many opportunities available for all students,” states Oluwabankole. “In addition, the administration at the law school was very supportive of my attendance at these national events.”
Oluwabankole will graduate in May 2016 with his Juris Doctor and M.B.A. as part of the UND School of Law's join degree program.