Deacon Profile: Student Body President Pilar Agudelo

Agudelo was elected to the presidency last spring


Courtesy of Pilar Agudelo

Pilar Agudelo sits at her desk in the Student Government Office.

Addison Schmidt, Staff Writer

When senior Pilar Agudelo began her campaign for student body president last spring, she found herself in what would be, for most students, an almost impossible situation: she was tasked with running her campaign not from campus but from Casa Artom — Wake Forest University’s study abroad house in Venice, Italy. 

When you take into account her tumultuous experience as a member of the class of 2023 — which faced numerous interruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — and the various on-campus controversies that have taken place during her time at Wake Forest University, you realize that Agudelo is no stranger to change. 

“I call Portland, Oregon home because that’s where my family is now, but I grew up living abroad,” Agudelo says when asked about her hometown. “I was born in Colorado Springs, then we were in Arizona for a little bit, then we moved to Malaysia, Brazil and Germany, and then I came back to the United States to graduate from high school.” 

Agudelo knows five languages; she became proficient in Italian, German and Portuguese while growing up abroad and spoke English and Spanish at home. Living abroad in the past allowed Agudelo to effectively communicate in a variety of ways, a skill she credited with aiding her in community-building during her campaign. 

“Finding people for [campaigning] has been a really valuable experience, because now some of them are some of my closest friends, and they were what grounded me during my election season,”Agudelo said of her campaign team back on campus in Winston-Salem. “I could not have done it without them.” 

Agudelo’s path to president was not linear. After running for senator her freshman year and losing her election, she was appointed when spots were left open later the same year. 

“I got involved in student government freshman year [after] I had done a lot of peer education work in high school and that turned into some public advocacy work,” Agudelo said. “I [thought] ‘Where can I do advocacy work at Wake?’ And [student government] was the first thing I came across.” 

Agudelo’s stint as a senator began in a manner that would reflect the aforementioned trend of unpredictability throughout much of her college career. 

“Being appointed is a weird position to be in because you’re coming in a little later than most people are,” Agudelo said. “For me, it was really exploratory. I was on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and my co-chairs were Mariama Jallow and [former student body president] Ally Swartzberg…both of them were really influential for me growing in student government.” 

The following year, beginning in the fall of 2020, Agudelo co-chaired the D&I Committee alongside Uma Bernardo in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020. 

“Being in the position I was with my co-chair Uma Bernardo was a really interesting place to be because I think it was a lot more responsive than proactive since there was a lot going on,” Agudelo said. “[After that experience] it became really important for me moving forward to try to plan more, be more proactive, and make sure everything we do isn’t in response to a crisis.” 

Agudelo remained co-chair of the D&I committee through her junior fall before serving as the co-chair of the newly formed Sexual Assault Prevention, Support & Accountability (SAPSA) Committee while abroad last spring. Her experiences serving on these committees have significantly impacted her trajectory in student government, and most importantly her platform as president. 

“For me the biggest goal is looking at student government internally,” Agudelo said. “When we are planning events on campus, are we keeping in mind all students on campus? When we are creating policies or advocating for students, do those policies reflect every single student on campus? Do they reflect the students who need it more versus the students who already have had those privileges?” 

While Agudelo refrained from commenting on the specifics of how she plans to create change within student government, stating that her cabinet and school senators are not yet aligned on how change will be implemented, she did give some insight into her hopes for a restructuring of the D&I committee. 

“In the past [D&I] has been kind of siloed in a sense…[the committee] had its own projects that focus on certain things, [similar to the function of other committees]” Agudelo said. “…Instead, it should be working within each of the committees.” 

While DNI work is important to Agudelo from a humanitarian perspective, it’s also personal. After spending her adolescence in liberal Portland, Oregon, Agudelo was nervous about the transition from the Pacific Northwest to the South. 

“[As] a student who is Latina, who’s a woman in a leadership position and who’s also bisexual…[I] find that very isolating at times.” Agudelo said of her own experience with the homogeneity of the Wake campus. 

Despite her initial feelings of isolation, Agudelo reinforces that there are spaces for everyone on campus and that her favorite part about Wake Forest remains the people that she has met. 

“You will find people who want to see you succeed; you will find people who want to see you happy, who will encourage you to do what’s best for you and help you do what’s best for you,” Agudelo said. “For me, the biggest thing was not taking a moment for granted.” 

That advice is something Agudelo will certainly be seeking to mimic on her own as she moves into her senior year. She plans to graduate in May with a B.A. in Politics & International Affairs and a Minor in Psychology. While she hopes to pursue master’s degrees in both business administration and public health in the future, Agudelo hopes to spend her time abroad immediately after college. 

“I would like to work in an abroad [program]” Agudelo said of her immediate post-grad plans. “I really enjoy living abroad in that kind of space.” 

Before Agudelo returns overseas, however, she has one final year at Wake Forest, in which she hopes to represent the student body in its entirety as much as possible. She left the interview with one final message as she moves into her new role: 

“My door is always open, and I really mean that,” Agudelo said. “We’re in Benson 304, so please do stop by…[if I’m not here] email me or any members of [the executive committee] or our senators.”