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Leadership Highlight: Mississippi Valley State University’s SGA President Cajanique Ollie

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Mississippi Valley State University and did an interview with Cajanique Ollie the 2023-2024 Student Government Association president.

The position of SGA president is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes in being elected by their peers to lead. Ollie, who is majoring in Elementary Education, is from Greenville. She is a proud Spring 2023 initiate of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

We interviewed Cajanique Ollie, and talked to her about her position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in 2023-2024.

Read the full interview below.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned as an SGA president so far?

Being an SGA president at Mississippi Valley State University during this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic has been both challenging and rewarding. As the SGA president, I have had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the resilience and determination of our campus community. Through this experience, I have learned several valuable lessons that have shaped my understanding of leadership and the importance of adaptability.

1. Communication is Key

Effective communication has been a critical skill that I have honed during my time as the SGA president. In times of crisis, clear and concise communication is essential to maintain a sense of unity and direction. I have learned that reaching out to students, faculty, and staff regularly, providing them with regular updates, and addressing their concerns promptly is crucial.

2. Resilience and Adaptability

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to adapt and find new ways to continue working and engaging in activities. As an SGA president, I have had to be flexible and agile, quickly adjusting to the changing circumstances. I have realized that resilience is an essential quality for leaders, as it enables them to navigate unexpected situations and find solutions.

3. Collaboration is Key

Collaboration has been essential in navigating the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have learned the importance of working closely with other student organizations, faculty members, and administration to make informed decisions and ensure student well-being. By fostering a collaborative environment, we have been able to address issues collectively and provide meaningful support to our students.

4. Empathy and Compassion

The pandemic has brought about unprecedented challenges for students, both academically and personally. As the SGA president, I have had the privilege of witnessing the resilience and strength of our students. However, I have also recognized the need for empathy and compassion. I have learned to listen attentively to their concerns, provide them with resources, and offer emotional support whenever possible.

5. The Power of Collaboration and Partnerships

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of collaboration and partnerships. By working closely with the faculty, administration, and community organizations, we have been able to provide essential support to our students. I have learned the value of leveraging resources and expertise from different sectors to create a cohesive support system. In conclusion, serving as an SGA president at Mississippi Valley State University during this challenging time of the COVID-19 pandemic has taught me valuable lessons about communication, resilience, collaboration, empathy, and the power of partnerships. These lessons have not only shaped my leadership abilities but have also deepened my understanding of the importance of empathy and community during times of crisis.

What made you decide to attend Mississippi Valley State University for undergrad?

The decision to attend Mississippi Valley State University for my undergraduate studies was motivated by several key factors. Firstly, I reside in Mississippi, and since I wanted to stay close to home, this proximity played a crucial role in my decision. Additionally, being the first person in my family to pursue a college degree, I wanted to remain in close proximity to my family and support system.

Another factor that influenced my decision was the dedication to my Grandma. Taking care of her during her final years, I realized that education is a powerful tool that can transform lives. Witnessing her enjoy books and educational documentaries inspired me to further my own education.

Furthermore, when I found out that Mississippi Valley State University offered an elementary education major, it felt like a perfect fit. Growing up, I had a natural affinity for teaching and had aspirations of becoming a teacher myself. By having my desired major available at MVSU, I knew that I would be equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the field.

By attending Mississippi Valley State University, I gained the opportunity to stay close to home while pursuing my educational goals. Being close to family provided me with the necessary emotional support, especially during challenging times. Additionally, the opportunity to study elementary education at MVSU provided me with a fulfilling career path and the knowledge to make a positive impact on young lives.

How has Mississippi Valley State University molded you into the person you are today?

Mississippi Valley State University has played a pivotal role in shaping me into the person I am today. The institution has provided countless opportunities that have shaped my character and values. One such opportunity that significantly impacted me was when I was recognized at the Vice President of the United States’ residence as a representative of an HBCU (Historically Black College and University).

Attending Mississippi Valley State University has provided me with invaluable experiences that have shaped my mindset and outlook on life. The rigorous academic curriculum has challenged me to excel and pushed me to strive for excellence. The diverse student body and faculty have exposed me to different cultures and ideas, fostering a more inclusive and understanding perspective.

However, the specific opportunity that allowed me to live by my saying of “why complain about a problem when you can be in the position to fix it” was when I was selected to represent the institution at the Vice President of the United States’ residence. This recognition gave me a chance to highlight the importance of HBCUs and the impact they have on their communities.

As we boarded the plane to Washington DC, the gravity of the occasion hit me. I realized that this moment was not just about representing Mississippi Valley State University, but also about advocating for the HBCU community as a whole. It was an opportunity to shed light on the challenges faced by HBCUs and propose innovative solutions.

During the reception at the Vice President’s residence, I had the opportunity to engage with influential individuals from various backgrounds. It was inspiring to hear their stories and share my own journey. This experience reinforced my belief in the power of collective action and the need to address issues head-on.

Being a part of the HBCU delegation at the Vice President’s residence also taught me the value of perseverance and resilience. Despite all the challenges and obstacles that HBCUs face, there are success stories that can serve as an inspiration to others. This recognition served as a reminder that we have the power to change the narrative and make a difference.

Mississippi Valley State University has not only provided me with a quality education, but it has also instilled in me a sense of responsibility and commitment to making a positive impact. This recognition at the Vice President of the United States’ residence served as a validation of my beliefs and aspirations. It served as a reminder that no matter how small, everyone has the opportunity to make a positive impact in their own lives and in the lives of others.

In conclusion, Mississippi Valley State University has molded me into the person I am today by giving me numerous opportunities. The chance to represent an HBCU at the Vice President of the United States’ residence was one such opportunity that allowed me to live by my saying of “why complain about a problem when you can be in the position to fix it.” This experience has solidified my belief in the power of collective action and reinforced my determination to make a difference.

What specific initiatives have you headed up this year (or are planning) and how do you think they will improve the school and surrounding community?

Throughout my tenure as a student at Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU), I have actively pursued several initiatives that aim to enhance the school and its surrounding community. One of my most notable initiatives is the planning of a senior week specifically tailored for MVSU seniors. This initiative aims to provide a unique and unforgettable experience for our graduating seniors, allowing them to enjoy a final week of festivities and activities that may not have been available to them during their high school years.

By organizing a senior week, I want to show that even when opportunities are delayed, they can still be realized. This initiative aligns with my campaign’s philosophy, which is centered around the acronym CLAP: Collarborate, Lead, Advocate, and Perform. By embodying these values, I aim to create positive change and make a difference in the lives of both fellow students and community members.

The planning and execution of a senior week involve careful consideration of various aspects. It involves collaboration with different departments and organizations on campus to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience for all seniors. Additionally, I plan to involve local businesses and community members in the planning process, fostering a sense of engagement and support within the broader community.

The objectives of a senior week extend beyond simply providing a fun and exciting experience for seniors. It also aims to create opportunities for professional development, leadership skills, and personal growth. Through various activities and workshops, seniors can develop skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving, preparing them for future endeavors.

Moreover, a senior week can serve as a platform to showcase the talents and achievements of MVSU seniors. I plan to organize talent shows, art exhibitions, and other cultural events to showcase the diverse talents and interests of our students. These events will not only provide entertainment but will also be a source of inspiration for others within the school and community.

Overall, the senior week initiative that I have planned aims to not only create memorable experiences for our graduating seniors but also contribute to the improvement of both MVSU and the surrounding community. By fostering collaboration, leading by example, advocating for positive change, and performing at our best, we can make a difference in the lives of those around us and leave a lasting legacy.

How is your SGA administration/school currently working on attending to the mental health of students?

Awareness Campaigns

One of the key ways in which MVSU’s SGA administration and school are attending to the mental health of students is through awareness campaigns. These campaigns aim to educate students about the importance of mental health, provide resources, and promote open conversations on the topic. Through various mediums like billboards, flyers, and social media campaigns, MVSU’s SGA administration/school strive to create awareness and remove the stigma surrounding mental health.

Counseling and Support Services

Recognizing the need for specialized support, MVSU’s SGA administration and school have implemented counseling services. These services offer confidential and professional help to students dealing with mental health issues. Trained counselors are available to meet with students, assess their needs, and provide guidance and assistance. Additionally, counseling services may be offered on-campus or remotely, ensuring that students can access support regardless of their location.

Mental Health Workshops and Seminars

MVSU’s SGA administration and school organize workshops and seminars on mental health topics. These workshops provide students with valuable information about stress management, self-care techniques, and strategies for managing anxiety and depression. By equipping students with knowledge and skills in these areas, MVSU’s SGA administration/school hopes to foster mental well-being and empower students to take proactive steps in maintaining their mental health.

Student-led Support Groups

Recognizing the importance of peer-to-peer support, MVSU’s SGA administration/school encourages the formation of student-led support groups. These groups allow students to connect and share their experiences, concerns, and challenges related to mental health. This platform allows students to support each other, create a safe space for sharing, and gain insights from others who may be going through similar experiences. Student-led support groups also provide an opportunity for students to develop leadership skills and get involved in promoting mental health on campus.

Collaboration with Faculty and Staff

MVSU’s SGA administration and school collaborate with faculty and staff to address mental health concerns. Faculty and staff are encouraged to be supportive and receptive to the mental health needs of their students. Through regular training sessions and updates, MVSU’s SGA administration and school educate faculty and staff on how to recognize signs of distress, refer students to appropriate resources, and create an inclusive and supportive learning environment.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership has, over the years, become an integral part of my personal journey. It has allowed me to find my purpose and inspire others along the way. During my time as a student in various capacities, I have had the opportunity to develop and refine my understanding of leadership.

Starting in 6th grade, I embarked on a journey as a student representative, where I gained invaluable insights into how to engage with my peers and represent their interests. In this role, I learned how to listen, communicate, and collaborate with others.

Moving into 7th grade, I was elected as the historian, a position that allowed me to delve into the past and preserve important memories. I learned the value of organizing and documenting information, which would later become crucial skills in my leadership journey.

The following year, in 8th grade, I had the honor of becoming the president of my class. In this role, I had the opportunity to lead my peers and make decisions that affected our collective well-being. It was an experience that taught me the importance of empathy, resilience, and effective communication.

Throughout my high school years, I continued to embrace leadership roles, taking on the position of class president for my freshman, sophomore, and junior years. Each role provided new challenges and allowed me to grow both personally and as a leader.

In college, my journey continued as I was elected as the freshman class president. In this role, I worked closely with my peers to organize events and initiatives, fostering a sense of community and unity among my classmates.

During my sophomore year, I transitioned into the role of SGA secretary, where I honed my organizational skills and learned how to effectively manage various responsibilities. This experience provided me with a deeper understanding of the intricacies of leadership within a college setting.

As I made my way through my junior year, I served as the SGA secretary. This allowed me to further develop my administrative abilities and collaborate with various organizations within the university.

Finally, during my senior year, I had the honor of being the SGA secretary once again. This role allowed me to give back to the community and serve as an advocate for my fellow classmates.

Throughout my journey, I have learned that leadership is not limited to a single position or title. It is a mindset and an ever-evolving set of skills that can be applied in various aspects of life. Leadership means setting an example, inspiring others, and fostering a collaborative and inclusive environment.

As I reflect on my journey in leadership, I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to develop and refine my abilities. Each experience has shaped my understanding of what it means to be a leader, and I am excited to continue growing and making a positive impact in all aspects of my life.

We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2023/2024?

In today’s digital age, schools need to adapt and represent themselves effectively online in order to engage with students, parents, and the community. As technology and communication continue to evolve, it is crucial for schools to leverage online platforms to effectively convey their messages, showcase their achievements, and establish a positive presence. This document explores some key strategies that schools should consider implementing in 2023/2024 to represent themselves online.

1. Establish a Strong and Professional Online Presence

In 2023/2024, schools should prioritize developing and maintaining a strong and professional online presence. This includes having a well-designed and user-friendly website that serves as the face of their institution. The website should include clear navigation, informative content, and features such as virtual tours, photo galleries, and online applications to enhance user experience. Additionally, schools should consider utilizing social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to connect with stakeholders and promote their events, announcements, and achievements.

2. Utilize Online Learning Platforms

With the growing popularity of online learning, schools should explore and implement online platforms that enhance the learning experience for students. These platforms can provide interactive course materials, video lectures, virtual classrooms, and real-time communication with instructors and peers. By embracing online learning platforms, schools can stay ahead of the curve and provide flexible learning opportunities that cater to the needs of diverse students.

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture?

Watch The Yard is an important film that sheds light on the experiences of Black students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). It delves into the complexities and challenges they face while navigating college life, offering a unique perspective on the dynamics and culture of these institutions. Here are some reasons why Watch The Yard is important:

1. Representation and Validation: Watch The Yard provides a platform for Black students to share their stories and experiences, which are often underrepresented in mainstream media. By showcasing the HBCU experience, the film validates the experiences and struggles Black students face, giving them a voice that often goes unheard.

2. Cultural Identity and Pride: HBCUs are renowned for their strong sense of cultural identity and pride. Watch The Yard captures the essence of this culture, showcasing the traditions, rituals, and values that are unique to HBCUs. The film celebrates and preserves this rich legacy, giving Black students a sense of identity and belonging.

3. Brotherhood and Sisterhood: HBCUs often foster a strong sense of brotherhood and sisterhood among their students. Watch The Yard highlights this bond by showcasing the rivalries, friendships, and alliances that form between fraternities and sororities. The film portrays the positive impact of these social organizations on students’ sense of belonging, support, and personal growth.

4. Cultural and Social Activism: HBCUs are known for their rich history of cultural and social activism. Watch The Yard explores this aspect, highlighting the student-led movements and initiatives that challenge societal norms and fight for social justice. The film highlights the importance of activism and civic engagement within the HBCU community, inspiring students to continue advocating for positive change.

5. Overcoming Challenges and Resilience: Watch The Yard portrays the resilience and strength of Black students as they face various challenges and obstacles throughout their college journey. The film showcases the perseverance and determination required to succeed academically and personally, providing Black students with inspiration and motivation to overcome their own obstacles.

In conclusion, Watch The Yard is important not only to Black students but to the entire college culture. It sheds light on the experiences, traditions, and challenges faced by Black students at HBCUs, offering representation, validation, and a platform for their voices. The film also celebrates cultural identity, brotherhood, sisterhood, cultural activism, and resilience, providing viewers with a deeper understanding of the HBCU community.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

Upon graduating from college, I plan to pursue my major in elementary education and become a teacher.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Cajanique Ollie for her work as the SGA president of Mississippi Valley State University.

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