Global Community Advocate: Alumna Nabila Aguele draws strength and inspiration from her ties to the AUWCL community
By Deborah Taylor
Truly a citizen of the world — she has lived in seven countries on four continents — Nabila Aguele, née Isa-Odidi (WCL 2005) was attracted to American University Washington College of Law because the institution shares her belief in the importance and power of “community.”
“When I started at WCL, there was a lot of discourse around human rights, constitutionality, immigrant identity, and a strong focus on humanity and using law as a tool for good. I felt encouraged to be conscious of my own humanity. I felt a sense of social justice,” she says.
“So many of the faculty who taught me and with whom I’ve had the pleasure of teaching — including those in the clinical program and the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) — are still friends to this day. And that experience is not unique to me. A lot of my classmates felt that sense of family.”
These teachers-turned-friends have celebrated each of Nabila’s impressive accomplishments that have marked success in her unique career trajectory.
Nabila has worked in positions of increasing responsibility for Nigeria’s national government since she left the WCL community to earn her MBA at INSEAD and return to her native country in 2016. Currently she serves as special adviser to Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, where her work focuses on financing for sustainable development, and she provides support on international development cooperation as well as performance monitoring and evaluation. A strong advocate for women’s rights and gender equality, she supports the Ministry and its Agencies on interventions to make public financial management systems more gender responsive. She is also a member of the INSEAD Board of Directors.
“Wherever I am, I seek connection to other people to give back and add value. It drives me both personally and professionally,” she says.
As a student at WCL, Nabila received the Elizabeth F. Reed and Earnest E. Salisbury Endowed Scholarship, served as a teaching fellow in the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, and was the articles editor for The Modern American: A Publication Dedicated to Diversity and the Law. She was a leader in the Black Law Students Association and accepted two student government appointments. After practicing law in two firms following graduation, she returned to the school as a practitioner-in-residence in the Gluskho Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic. During that time, she served as a member of the PIJIP faculty and introduced the school’s first patent litigation elective.
Nabila is passionate about her Clinic experiences at WCL, both as a student and faculty member. She says every Clinic cultivates ethical lawyers who are likely to take up important causes.
“I’ve seen firsthand what it means to go through a clinical program — the growth that happens in confidence, sense of self, and being able to empathize with one’s clients and classmates in issues around cross-cultural lawyering, gender, and other equity issues. I’m such a firm believer in the importance of Clinic that I feel it should be a mandatory component of all legal education.”
Nabila acknowledges that, in legal circles, she falls into the “alternate careers” category, but she urges WCL students to embrace disciplinary intersectionality, which she defines as the convergence of multiple disciplines, and use that frame to craft solutions that impact the world.
“You don’t have to give up who you are as an attorney,” she says. “Research and writing skills, negotiation skills, speaking, public speaking, being able to quickly ramp up on an unfamiliar area — so much of what I did when I transitioned to this new career built on my foundation as a lawyer, first and foremost. I use my legal training every day.”
Nabila is quick to express her enduring gratitude to the WCL faculty who encouraged her in her professional journey.
“They are the sort of people who unselfishly mentored me to be the best version of myself,” she says. “They supported me and gave me freedom.”
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