As student body president, what are three major goals or plans that you have for this year?
One of my major goals that I kind of ran on, Uniting the Pack, and a major part of that was the focus on diversity and inclusion, so one of my major goals is just to kind of find ways to capitalize on that and use the resources that I have.
So things like Respect the Pack which is coming up at the beginning of the year, the Tuesday before classes start, is one of the first opportunities to set the tone and let people know what the state of diversity and inclusion is on NC State’s campus. That’s an opportunity to give a more candid talk on how things really are rather than sugar coating to say ‘NC State’s a super diverse place’ when in reality that sometimes isn’t the case.
To put it simply, with diversity and inclusion, I just want to bring an aspect of reality to the conversations. I want to be candid and honest about the problems that we’re facing rather than trying to dance around them and not really tackle them head-on. The second thing, another thing I talked about in my campaign was related to mental health awareness. That’s something else I’m really going to try to capitalize on this year.
I think one of the best ways I can do that is combining resources with other existing organizations and using the resources I now have as Student Body President to help them achieve their goals. We have the suicide vigil coming up in September and them Mental Health Awareness Week in October… So partnering with different organizations and bringing in members from Fraternity and Sorority life, just people from all across campus and attracting them together and hosting an event to really bring awareness to the issue.
This kind of goes back to the same thing with diversity and inclusion, just being candid and actually addressing the issue head-on. The third thing I want to do is bring back a voting location for the 2016 Election. See, that’s challenging because it’s really working with the Board of Elections and General Assembly and trying to get everybody on the same page.
Also, there’s obviously some political things that are standing in the way of having voting locations on campus, but I think that fits perfectly in with that message of diversity and inclusion. We talked about how African Americans and other minorities are being disenfranchised by things like Voter ID Laws and all those types of things. It would be great to have a location here on campus where students, not just minority students but all students and people in the local area, could come and have the opportunity to vote at a convenient location.
What are a few on-campus resources that you suggest new students use?
Great question. I think some of the best resources that I would like to personally highlight- taking advantage of the Health Center, the counseling center- just your health, mental health, physical health. That’s an important part of being a successful college student and being successful in general. So I really just want to make sure that people know that those services are free and you’ve got plenty of counselors here to talk about any issues.
Failing classes, mental health issues, death in the family, anything. Any time you’re going through any type of hardship the health center is there for you. So I just really want to stress that. On top of that, I think some departments should definitely be utilized. So looking at it from a standpoint of just being healthy and successful college students- we’ve got University Recreation, Carmichael and other complexes and places around campus for physical health, that’s important.
Then there are other departments like MSA, I think that’s really a big thing that may not impact a large percentage of students but the impact that it has and the impact that it can make on select groups of students can be crucial in making sure that they’re feeling comfortable here and make sure they’re sticking around for four years and finishing their degree at NC State and not transferring out somewhere else.
Lastly, Student Involvement would be one that I really want to push. We have 600 plus organizations, so I think another thing to retention and getting students to stick around, finding their community is to figure out what organizations to get involved in. Whether that’s Fraternity or Sorority life, Student Government, UAB, whatever it may be. Nubian Message, Technician, all that type of stuff- just finding a specific community and how you want to express yourself, finding your outlet… Take advantage of that.
What’s been your biggest obstacle that you’ve faced during your undergrad career?
My biggest obstacle took place freshman year. I came in as a Biology major, all of my high school experiences and classes were curtailed to me being a doctor and going to med school and things like that. I got here, and it all just kind of fell apart. I got a terrible grade in organic chemistry and I just realized that maybe I actually didn’t want to be a doctor anymore. Didn’t want to go to med school, didn’t want to be pre-med.
At that point in time, I really just had no idea what I wanted to do. It started going downhill from there- I stopped going to class because I didn’t enjoy what I was learning, I felt like I couldn’t find where I should fit in, what major I should choose, all that good stuff. That just made a negative impact on my overall grades and all that good stuff. So I think from there I was able to just kind of talk with other students around campus and sit down with some faculty members, mentors, student mentors and talk over what I was going through and figure out what I wanted to do.
The thing that bothered me was that people kept telling me “oh, it’s not too late to figure out what you want to do, you still have time to figure it out” and that bothered me because at that point I was already in college, I felt like I needed to figure out what I wanted to do and get on the right path and get going.
But there I was, second semester freshman year, the year was about to end and my GPA was terrible. To get through that I just had to talk with people, got some really great advice, explored some other classes. Finally I found political science, and the rest is history.
What kind of organizations have you been involved in throughout your time at NC State?
The first organization I joined was Student Government, and I stuck with that all four years. Some advice from one of my mentors was to ‘dabble before you commit’. Just finding one or two things that you might want to be involved with and then just leave it at that. So Student Government was one of those. My sophomore year I became an alumni ambassador with the Alumni Association of Student Ambassadors Program (AASAP). I did that for a year. When that ended, I joined my Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.
How do you think that campus involvement affects college life for students?
I think it has a huge impact on your potential success. So, one part is just retention and you have that community that you’re working with, people with similar goals and similar ideas. For me, I find those partially with Student Government and the others within my Fraternity, so between those two I have a wide network of people I can turn to for advice, friends I could get lunch with, people I could hang out with. That just makes your college experience that much better, being involved on campus and getting the opportunities to interact with administrators and people like that [is good].
A lot of times you have the Chancellor, or Dr. Mullen- they come and interact at Student Government [events] and things like that. We have a lot of administrators, and one of the best way that they can interact and reach out to students is through student organizations. I think that getting involved gives you opportunities to not only expand your community and have a strong sense of home at NC State but it also gives you the opportunity to interact with the people up top: administrators, Chancellor, Provost, etc.
What is the biggest piece of advice you can offer our incoming first-year students?
I’d say just start to think about what you want your lasting impact to be, how you’re going to contribute to NC State, or your community, the Raleigh community and make a difference over the next 4, 5 or sometimes longer years of your life.
So, start thinking about the type of impact that you want to have, and then once you figure out what that is and set your eyes on the prize, then don’t let anything shake you from that path. Like for me, going through that transition of majors, and not knowing what I wanted to do, that was an obstacle- but just still having my eye on the type of impact that I wanted to have on NC State allowed me to try to keep going and not let that interrupt my success at NC State.
So just think about what will be your lasting impact at NC State? What can you provide for the community? What can you give back? I think that’s a great first question a student should ask themselves and then go from there.