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Leadership Highlight: UCLA’s SGA President Naomi Hammonds

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and did an interview with Naomi Hammonds 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. Hammonds, who is majoring in Psychobiology with minors in Cognitive Science, Entrepreneurship, and African American Studies, is from Las Vegas. She is a proud Fall 2023 initiate of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

We interviewed Naomi Hammonds, 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?

As the Undergraduate Student Body President, I have learned how to meet people where they are. In all of my interactions with others, I approach communication with empathy and openness. One of my daily affirmations is that “we are all a work in progress”, which reminds me to maintain a growth mindset, be receptive to feedback, and we all are growing and adapting. You have to take the time to understand different perspectives and concerns. In my role, I strive to create a safe and welcoming space for others to express themselves freely, while still holding people accountable. Whether in one-on-one conversations, group meetings, or larger forums, I seek to foster an environment of respect, where every individual’s input is valued and acknowledged. Lastly, this role has made me more receptive to feedback and I now actively seek opportunities for constructive dialogue, always seeking to improve my communication and strengthen my connections with others. From the very beginning, I knew this role would push me outside my comfort zone, but I welcomed the challenge and ended up learning so much in this academic year.

What made you decide to attend UCLA for undergrad?

I’m originally from Las Vegas, Nevada and we are not known for our education system, in fact, Nevada has one of the lowest rankings. I’ve always imagined myself at a place committed to academic freedom, while striving for excellence and inclusivity. When I visited UCLA, I witnessed a vibrant Black community and genuine happiness of the students that attended, making it a campus I looked forward to calling home. I knew UCLA was the place for me, not only to excel but to explore myself. A university that invites learning not only in the classroom but among the community was the university for me. Not to mention, we are the No. 1 public university in the United States.

How has UCLA molded you into the person you are today?

A bit of panic, a helping of fear, a splash of terror, and a dash (maybe more than a dash) of anxiety is how I felt when I first entered UCLA. Moving from out of state, I was simply a shy girl that couldn’t break down the walls that I built. Pursuing higher education, I’ve had to hold full-time jobs, while balancing (sometimes juggling) my academics, mental health, and extracurriculars. For me and many other historically excluded students, learning how to navigate UCLA was like learning how to jump through hoops. And I know that I am not alone in this experience. UCLA has been such a rewarding experience, but at times I have found myself feeling as though there wasn’t enough space for me. However, UCLA has been the place to teach me how to make space, and that no one can do, imagine, or think in the way that I do.

It wasn’t until I joined organizations, like student government, where I began to find my place and sense of belonging on this campus. From that point on, I have continued to advocate with my peers to enhance our experiences and ultimately our success on these campuses through the betterment of diversity, inclusivity, equity, collaboration, and retention. I’m now a person that builds bridges whenever I go, through open and transparent communication as I hope to make a meaningful impact in whatever it is I do.

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?

As President, I am responsible for all executive functions of the Student Government. I chair all student government meetings and operations, oversee a $10 million budget and represent 32,423 undergraduate students.

In my role, I appoint more than forty undergraduates to administrative committees. Through their participation on these campus-wide committees, UCLA undergraduates have had input into the decision making process at a high level. Throughout my term I will be working to achieve the platforms below that I ran on (and more)!


Planning The Dinner: Before we can think about a seat at the table, someone needs to plan the dinner. Hosting bimonthly town halls, grouped by club categories, I want to give these clubs their flowers, promote collaboration, discuss funding, hear about their issues, and determine how USAC can best support.

Rewriting the Script: I aim to make sure all elected officials are well-supported, informed, and feel comfortable asking for my help. I want to provide resources and guides for present and future USAC members, among other student leaders, all in hopes to better support the student body.

CommUnity: Far too many Bruins on this campus still don’t know what USAC is, what we do, and importantly, who we are. Working alongside the elected officials, I intend to use all available channels to keep students updated while working closer with the Daily Bruin and other student media groups.

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

This is a continuing discussion at UCLA, in thinking about what we can do better to support students. My office and our council has hosted a multitude of events aimed at de-stressing and educating those on the importance of mental health. In addition, we have recently allocated funds to UCLA’s Economic Crisis Response Team to support students who need it most. In addition, UCLA has a fantastic RISE (Resilience In Your Student Experience) Center whose core mission is to uplift and support every Bruin’s well-being by providing the education, resources, and tools needed to foster health, healing, and hope. It is an extension of our Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), but with input from our council’s Student Wellness Commissioner and I, we are committed to helping students in caring for their mental wellness.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership is not defined by the “title” of a person, nor does being older always equate to a leadership role. When I tend to think of leaders, I think of myself and the people in my life who have accomplished a great deal to help others. The Oxford Dictionary defines a leader as a person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country, but I believe that leadership is not about controlling people, it’s about standing with them. Leadership doesn’t require an iron fist, it takes heart and a connection with people.

Being a leader is wanting to succeed not only for myself, but for the team. I have always operated on honesty and integrity, compassion and accountability, and simply doing what is right. This is what I believe partly qualifies my leadership. I believe that every exceptional organization needs someone who is willing to make things successful. As a leader, I truly care about what I am doing, continuously learning and improving, and I am willing to fail along the way. I am a person who takes great respect and responsibility in all that I do, giving everything that I do 110%. I have a responsibility not only to myself, but also to others. With every meeting, event, and conversation I learn from others as they learn from me.

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

Social media presence continues to be important in many aspects of life. Schools need to maintain active and engaging social media profiles on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and LinkedIn. This will help showcase the school’s culture, achievements, and communities. In addition, schools can and should prioritize transparency and accountability in their online communication by providing accurate and up-to-date information about their campus. This will continue to build trust with community stakeholders, plus increase the reputation of the school.

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

Watch The Yard highlights Black culture through many avenues. From the Divine Nine to leadership spotlights like this, it gives the stage to present Black culture. Young Black people can see themselves and their experiences reflected positively in the media as we collectively celebrate Black excellence. Overall, Watch The Yard serves as a vital resource, helping to uplift, amplify, and empower the Black community.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

I plan on obtaining my Master’s in Public Health and applying to medical school this year in hopes of one day serving marginalized communities as an emergency physician.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Naomi Hammonds for her work as the SGA president of UCLA.

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