As student body president in 1996, Leo Olebe ’97 interacted often with President John Brooks Slaughter, as well as attending Board of Trustees meetings as an ex officio member.
“President Slaughter set the tone of having tough and open conversations, asking questions like, ‘What are the possibilities of multiculturalism as a future society?’” he recalls.
In addition to ASOC and Residence Council, Olebe helped start the Center for Volunteerism and Community Service, engaging with students from Eagle Rock High School and members of the local community. He also interned at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, working with “some famous civil rights attorneys downtown.”
“There were so many things to explore and discover above and beyond the academic curriculum,” says Olebe, who draws on his Oxy skills frequently in his new role as managing director of partnerships and business development for Games @ Google. “Being able to think critically about how people can come together and how you have to respect other cultures, other ideas, different ways of solving problems—I literally use that every day,” he says. “I also spend a lot of my time giving back."
During his 5½-year stint leading Global Games at Facebook, “We launched a Black gaming creator program where we’re trying to give them the opportunity to let their voice shine," he continues. "We did a lot of things around Pride, Women’s History Month, and Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month, as well as raising money for veterans, mental health, and World Down Syndrome Day. It’s all about: How do you use your privilege and your position in the world to make a difference and drive positive change?”
Besides its small liberal arts college environment, he was attracted by Oxy’s commitment to multiculturalism. “I was born in Kenya, my Mom in New York and my Dad was born and raised in Uganda,” he says. “My entire life, I’ve been thinking through questions about cultural identity, racial identity, and ethnicity. It was important to find a place where I could learn more about myself, but also fit in and be accepted for who I was.
“It's interesting imagining where the world is today, filled with challenges and problems and opportunities for change,” he continues. In the 1990s at Oxy, “We were at the forefront of present-day thinking, in terms of trying to create an environment where diversity and inclusion were paramount, where we had conversations and pursued equity and inclusion.”
In addition to supporting the Oxy Fund, Olebe is involved with the College as a member of the President’s Advisory Council. He hopes that today’s students take advantage of the transformative opportunities that Oxy offers. “That’s what was so cool about Occidental—you could follow your hearts and try to change the world. And we were supported in that. We were just a bunch of students waking up to the world around us and trying to make a difference.”