The Big Thinker

Gabe Adibe

Bringing a different kind of unity to campus is Gabe Adibe’s current mission critical.

Following the unimaginable devastation of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, Gabe Adibe helped deliver nearly a half million pounds of food, water, clothing and other supplies to the survivors. A logistician for the Marines who made sure cargo and aircraft for the mission were swiftly stocked and precisely packed, those numbers astounded even him. But what made the massive humanitarian effort possible, he says, was simple: synergy and teamwork.

“It was a joint effort between different countries,” he says. “There were all these people who didn’t know each other 24 hours prior and they were planning, sharing meals, working through the night, providing aid.”

Fast forward eight years, and Adibe, a senior sociology major at USD, is still the logistics manager for a larger cause. As the founder of USD Think, Adibe brings students, faculty and local community members from all backgrounds together for free-form discussions on social issues to promote positive change and action, much like he experienced off the coast of Indonesia.

“I’ve traveled the world a bit and have seen what happens as a result of war, and I’ve seen what happens when people work together,” says Adibe, an active-duty Marine with 10 years of service. “I’m trying to get people to come together because it’s so positive.”

Adibe’s mission to get people to think began with a Contemporary Social Issues class, which led to a leadership course and thought-provoking group exchanges. Looking around campus, Adibe saw a number of discrete groups working on individual social issues; he wanted to bring all of that creative energy into one room.

As Adibe spreads the word, USD Thinkers are squeezing in a little closer at each meeting while they explore such issues as racism, gender or class inequality. On a campus charged with possibility — USD was recently designated an AshokaU Changemaker Campus in recognition of its extensive social innovation efforts — Adibe and his fellow organizers have big plans, such as a USD Think jamboree for social action groups campuswide. He emphasizes that he’s not alone in his dream, and that USD Think is growing with the hard work and support of many people at USD.

Creating change in the local community, or, in fact, the world, is quite possible, says Adibe, who hopes to encourage innovation in city planning in his post-military career. “If you believe in something and you want it to change and you take action, the rest follows,” he explains.

This February, Adibe takes his message to a national audience as he leads a three-hour workshop at TEDxAshokaU, a conference at Arizona State University designed to inspire deep dialogues among changemakers. Originally in a wildcard runoff for a 10-minute student speaking slot, Adibe garnered 3,034 votes on the conference’s website, a close second-place finish. Impressed by his spirited campaign, the conference organizers invited him to run a workshop, and, in the process, provide more exposure for USD Think. Perfect, says Adibe, since he envisions expanding the USD Think concept to other college campuses, even to the military, where he will return to service as an officer after graduation.

Embracing each new challenge with a singular work ethic, Adibe has the tranquility of one whose direction in life is guided by faith.

“I feel like God has put me here for a specific reason,” he says. “One day you start drawing something and the next day you add onto it and you don’t really know why you are doing it and then all of the sudden you look and you say, ‘Whoa, I drew this crazy masterpiece.’ That’s how I feel God is working in my life.” — Trisha J. Ratledge

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