Roll of Distinguished Alumni
Adesoji O. Adelaja
Dr. Adesoji Adelaja, popularly known as “Soji”, is the John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor in Land Policy at Michigan State University (MSU). Born in 1956 in the city of Lagos, Nigeria, to the Venerable Beniah Adelaja and Princess Eva Adelaja, both leading educators, Soji received his B.S. Degree in Agricultural Mechanization from the Pennsylvania State University before proceeding to West Virginia University (WVU) in 1978. From WVU, Soji received his M.S. degree in Agricultural Economics in 1980, M.A. degree in Economics in 1981, and Ph.D. in Economics in 1985. Soji was the first to complete his Ph.D. under the joint program between Economics and Agricultural Economics.
started his career at Idaho State University in 1985 as an Assistant Professor in
Economics. In Idaho, he served as an economic adviser to the Shoshone Bannock
Native American tribe at the Fort Hall reservation and played a major role in
the adjudication of their water rights, development of a tax ordinance, improvement
of grazing revenues and the development of tribal enterprises. Soji commenced
his 18-year career at Rutgers University’s Cook College in 1986 as an Assistant
Professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics (AFRE)
and moved quickly through the ranks to Associate and Full Professor. In 1993,
he founded the Rutgers Ecopolicy Center (ECOPOL) and served as its first Director.
In 1996, he was appointed Chair of the Department of Agricultural, Food and
Resource Economics (AFRE). In 1997, he
founded the Rutgers Food Policy Institute and served as its first
Director. In 1999, he founded the
Rutgers Food Innovation Center, a technology based regional economic
development center that continues to serve the economy of southern New Jersey. Soji’s
research in the areas of land policy, food policy, food industry development
agricultural policy and regional economic development led to the development of
various pioneering policies and programs in the areas of land preservation,
farmland tax assessment, food industry development and green economy
development. In New Jersey, Soji was
appointed to several state commissions and boards, and served as adviser to
various arms of government, including the offices of Governors Whitman and
In 1999, Soji became the Dean of Research for Cook College and Director of Research for the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES). He later became the Dean of Cook College, Executive Director of the New Jersey Experiment Station (NJAES), and Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources. In the latter capacity, he was responsible for the oversight of Rutgers University’s largest research unit and one of its largest colleges, including 14 departments, 10 research stations, 21 county extension offices and 18 centers and institutes. Widely recognized as a visionary, Soji’s tenure in Rutgers administration was marked with major new initiatives and programs to revitalize the institution. In recognition of his exemplary service at Rutgers, Soji received several Excellence in Research awards, an Excellence in Outreach award, two Team Awards for Excellence, the Presidential Award for Distinguished Public Service, an Award from the New Jersey Legislature for outstanding contributions to the Garden State and a special recognition from Governor James McGreevey for his contribution to the development of the State of New Jersy. On his retirement from Rutgers in 2004, Soji was honored as the George Hammell Cook Emeritus Executive Dean and Professor in recognition of his exemplary service to the university and the state.
The State of Michigan had been in a recession for almost a decade before the national recession which started in 2007/2008. As the State’s land grant university, Michigan State University (MSU) sought to engage a leading scholar to provide intellectual leadership for efforts to revitalize the state land use, place strategies, and economic transformation. In 2004, Soji was appointed as the John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor in Land Policy, with responsibility for leadership in research, outreach and engagement in land policy, place strategy and economic revitalization. At MSU, he founded and directed the Land Policy institute (LPI) and the Michigan Higher Education Land Policy Consortium (MIHELP), the latter being a partnership between the state’s leading universities. He also co-directed the People and Land Initiative, a statewide research and policy engagement consortium funded by the W.K. Kellogg foundation in excess of $20 million. Through this new knowledge infrastructure, Soji developed the intellectual basis for a statewide Placemaking initiative and Governor Snyder’s Placemaking Council aimed to transform Michigan’s regions. He also authored the Detroit Marshall Plan, which laid a foundation for the resurgence of the city of Detroit. He served as adviser to Governor Jennifer Granholm and to the Midwestern state governors on Green Jobs and the New Economy. His research on renewable energy policy paved the way for the adoption of the state’s Renewable Energy Policy and the offshore wind energy program. In recognition of his work on the transformation of Michigan’s economy to the new economy, Soji received the Distinguished Faculty Award from MSU and a special state award and tribute from Governor Jennifer Granholm, amongst others.
In 2011, the Nigerian government requested Soji’s help. From 2011-2016, while on leave from MSU, Soji served as a Special Adviser on Economic Intelligence at the Nigerian Presidency. There, amongst other initiatives, he developed the an economic strategy to counter violent extremism in the area ravaged by Boko Haram and led the development of the regional strategic growth plan for the revitalization of Northeast Nigeria and Chaired the Presidential Initiative for the Northeast (PINE). The plan, which covers the areas of infrastructure, agriculture, food security, health, education, safety and security, regional strategy, good governance, entrepreneurial development, youth and women development, job creation and international market development, is the basis for the “Buhari Plan” which is now being implemented by the Presidential Committee for the Northeast Initiative (PCNI). Soji also assisted the Presidency in developing the PCNI concept and the establishment directives. His more recent research focusses on the nexus between conflict, terrorism and development and the nexus between universities and the private and public sectors.
Soji is the recipient of the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the Pennsylvania State University (2002), the Award for Outstanding Impact on Public Policy through Economics from the Northeast Agriculture and Resource Economics Association, the Person of the Year Award from the National Prepared Foods Association, the Outstanding Black Economist Award from the COSBAE branch of the Agriculture and Applied Economics Association (AAEA), and several Agricultural Outstanding Journal Article Awards from professional bodies and journals. Soji is a fellow of the Agricultural and Resource Economics Review and a Global Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington DC, USA, April 2018 to March 2020.
With over 500 publications, including numerous journal articles and policy reports, Soji is regarded as one of the most impactful land grant economists. He is widely considered as an entrepreneurial scholar and an authority in building university partnerships with the public and private sectors. He has also been active on corporate boards and government task forces and commissions, serving as chair in many cases.
A resident of Okemos, MI, Soji Adelaja is married to Frances (Effiom) Adelaja. He is blessed with three children, Angel (a renowned entrepreneur), Evan II (an economist and currently graduate student at the Royal Holloway University of London), and Beniah II (an economist based in the city of Chicago).