To call Bradley Opere ’17 a leader would be to sell him short. The senior from Nairobi, Kenya, takes on the role of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Student Body President for the 2016-2017 academic year with a slew of leadership experience already behind him. But it’s not just his leadership abilities that qualify him for the job. A scholar, a talented athlete, a compassionate and civic-minded student, a savvy entrepreneur – it’s these other facets of Opere’s character that make him a leader with the potential to unify the Carolina student body in an authentic, lasting way.
Raised in Nairobi, Opere was one of a select group of students chosen to attend the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in South Africa, a school dedicated to developing the next generation of leaders on the continent. Just one or two students from each African country are selected for admission to ALA. “[ALA’s] mission really appealed to me because leadership is a big need in many African countries,” Opere says. “Everything they did, even down to the entrance interview techniques, spoke to the mission of leadership. In hindsight, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Opere was quick to implement his ALA education, participating in the premier Aspen Ideas Festival and helping to captain a sailboat as part of an Outward Bound leadership program in Maine, all before starting his university career. With a deep interest in government, Opere was drawn to the structure of a public university. After a tour of the UNC campus, he knew that Carolina would be a perfect fit. He is now working toward a degree in business administration at the Kenan-Flagler Business School with a minor in African studies.
As an international student on campus, Opere found that his first year was the most challenging, having to adjust to everything from public transportation to new social cues. However, he quickly found his niche and began building an impressive resume, including work with student government that earned him a nomination for the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship, a summer position with Kenya-based company M-KOPA Solar and an internship with D.C.-based consulting firm the Albright Stonebridge Group.
It seemed very natural, then, that Opere would run for student body president. “It was a very distant dream and I thought it was a long shot since I was an international student,” Opere says. “But I think that not belonging to one place worked out in my favor. I knew so many people in so many groups across campus.”
First on Opere’s agenda to tackle is voter education and turnout, followed by a big push to reform the way student government communicates with its constituents. “We want to try out some different mediums like Facebook Live because that’s the way students are talking now and we need to move with them,” Opere says. Drawing on his business school education, Opere plans to implement more data metrics to quantify the student experience so that the next president has a solid framework to start from.
“I just want to try to bring new ideas to the table. As an outsider, I rarely will see things the way my classmates will,” Opere says. “Something I learned very quickly is that you just have to take the risk to be yourself.”
Eventually, Opere hopes to return to Kenya with the business acumen and leadership skills to make a substantial impact in his home country.
Bradley Opere ’17 recently spoke with UNC’s podcast Well Said. Listen to his interview online.
By Jamie Gnazzo ’13