Darboe serves in student role with District Board


Ousman Darboe

Katie Paape, News Editor

Ousman Darboe holds the highest position a student can have at Madison College: the student representative of the district board. As the student representative, Darboe advocates for students needs to the College board and finds ways to implement solutions to the obstacles facing students on campus. Darboe has a passion for helping others, and he is the epitome of an overachiever.

Darboe started Madison College in the fall of 2016 because of the affordability, community, and diversity. He wasted no time and immediately began signing up for student clubs and organizations as he filled out his application. Darboe believes joining clubs and organizations is a key factor in college success for students.

During his first semester, Darboe was vice president of the African Student Association which prepared him with leadership skills that he would carry on to his future positions on campus. In his second semester, he was vice president of finance for the Student Executive Leadership Team. After getting his feet wet in other leadership positions, he decided to run for student representative for the district board last year.

A student representative handles a variety of areas including student involvement, academics, transferring, food security, and many other issues that arise. It’s the student representative’s job to find out what is affecting student’s success and bring the problem to the College board to advocate for their needs. Solving the problems that face students requires understanding and excellent listening abilities. 

“Most of the time, people confuse leadership with being a boss,” said Darboe. But he learned the difference between the two.

“Leaders don’t lead, but they follow. You have to be engaged with people, listening to people, know their wants, and be their visionary to guide them,” said Darboe.

While being in the top position on campus can be challenging at times, Darboe says his favorite part is meeting with students at different campuses.

Darboe’s first assignment remains one of his most impressive accomplishments so far. He assisted in making sure credits from technical colleges were transferrable to the UW system, and that is no easy task. 

“The challenges I had were beyond the control of the school and the administration,” he said. Some universities were not accepting credits from technical colleges, even courses that use the same textbook as their equivalent courses at the university.

“I used this as an opportunity to go beyond the college. I even called a State Representative about these issues,” said Darboe. The State Representative responded and wrote legislation to make technical degree credits more transferrable to the UW system.

In addition to easing transfer courses for students, Darboe worked to get the same facilities and services such as the Student Achievement Center available at all the regional campuses. He even helped write the policy for the textbook rental program and worked with the Student Affairs Council to get the referendum passed, and now students are getting their textbooks at a reduced price. Needless to say, Darboe has had a very productive year as student representative.

While Darboe’s achievements at Madison College are impressive, there is a deeper motive driving Darboe’s actions that personally drive his leadership close to home. Before arriving in Madison, Darboe was an activist in his home country of Gambia.

“My country was in a dictatorship for 22 years. I spoke against dictatorship in my country, I was interrogated and arrested by the State in my country, and I was later brought here as a refugee,” Darboe said.

Darboe wrote articles against his government, he protested the White House, and he even spoke at the United Nations to reach out internationally against his country. The dictatorship was finally defeated.

“I used my time and energy to educate people about what was going on in my country, and I was able to bring people to campaign against the oppressive regime. In 2016, we were able to defeat the dictator, and now he’s living in exile,” said Darboe.

Madison College has played a role in improving Darboe’s leadership so he can use his experiences to continue to help people after college.

“When I came to Madison College, I wanted to develop my leadership skills to advocate for the lives of people living under dictatorship,” said Darboe. He said he will continue to advocate for countries in need.

After graduating from Madison College, Darboe will be transferring to UW Whitewater where he’ll be studying accounting. His goal is to work with nonprofit organizations that help people better their lives and increase financial literacy.

“I don’t want them to go through what I went through. I just want to better the lives of the people,” said Darboe.

Nelson Mandela played a big role in inspiring Darboe’s activism, but Cherif Correa, a teacher at Madison College, also fed his drive and motivation to succeed as well.

“His story makes me strong. No matter how hard things are for me, no matter the challenges I face, whenever I think about his story, I try to overcome the challenges. He’s from a non-English speaking country and completed his masters and PhD. If someone from a non-English speaking country can come here and be an English instructor at UW Madison, what about me? His story has inspired me to do more,” said Darboe.

Darboe has accomplished great things for Madison College, but what is most outstanding is his selfless desire to help people and make their voices heard. “I want to be the voice of the voiceless,” said Darboe.