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Leadership Highlight: Virginia Union University’s SGA President Syiyanna Finch

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Virginia Union University and did an interview with Syiyanna Finch 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. Finch, who is majoring in Cyber Security, is from Baltimore, Maryland. She is a proud Fall 2023 initiate of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

We interviewed Syiyanna Finch, 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?

The key lesson I’ve gained from my role in the Student Government Association (SGA) is accountability and effectively managing my responsibilities as President. Being in this position involves more than just leading and serving the student body; it also entails collaborating with the administration to ensure our goals are achieved. It’s a collective effort, and I must proactively fulfill my duties to enable my team to contribute effectively. Rather than solely relying on my team, I strive to consider what I can do to support them. For instance, this academic year, the Zeal Administration and I prioritized finding solutions to challenges instead of merely highlighting the problems we faced. We learned to analyze both sides of an issue and implement measures to prevent its recurrence.

What made you decide to attend Virginia Union University for undergrad?

I opted to attend Virginia Union University for my undergraduate studies due to its commitment to fostering a boundless future. The institution’s nine noble core values have equipped me with the necessary tools to continually expand and articulate my academic, spiritual, and professional odyssey. VUU affords its students the platform to evolve into their authentic selves and extends opportunities to those who refuse to be defined by their past. At VUU, students are actively realizing the divine blueprint set forth for them by providence. I am honored to proclaim that I have been selected as one of these students.

How has Virginia Union University molded you into the person you are today?

VUU indisputably stands as a preeminent urban institution of higher education, embodying the essence of liberal arts excellence. What’s more, it transcends mere academic prowess. I have found myself in situations where opportunities sought me out, rather than my seeking them. The myriad student-led organizations, athletic teams, academic initiatives, and mentors have not only shaped me into the leader I am today but continue to facilitate my evolution into the most authentic, inspiring, and supportive version of myself. Drawing wisdom from pioneering leaders, I’ve acquired the skills to procure resources necessary for navigating the professional landscape, elevating my academic pursuits, and reciprocating knowledge within the communities that surround me. Through this journey, I’ve discovered my innate role as a fervent advocate for the triumphs of others, relishing collaborative endeavors and relishing the opportunity to inspire the next generation to realize their boundless potential. I’ve come to understand that I thrive in environments characterized by positivity and intellectual enrichment. Armed with the invaluable tools imparted by Virginia Union University, I am equipped to not only enhance my own life but also empower others as they uncover the depths of their leadership potential.

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?

I’ve collaborated with my university’s Executive Leadership Council (ELC), facilitating meetings between my administration and theirs to identify areas for enhancing student needs. We’ve focused on bolstering academic resources, campus safety, and student morale. Engaging with the ELC prior to the academic year allowed the Zeal administration to forge relationships with our counterparts, enabling us to serve as effective liaisons. Additionally, we’ve been actively engaging with the library faculty to advocate for extended library hours, recognizing its role in supporting students’ academic endeavors. The library offers invaluable resources such as study spaces, tutoring services, access to technology, and printing facilities, all of which contribute to student well-being. We’re persistently advocating for extended library hours to better serve the student body. Leveraging standing committees, particularly the campus safety committee, SGA has coordinated initiatives like self-defense training and collaborations with campus police to enhance safety awareness. Moreover, we’ve organized a protest in solidarity with victims of Title IX violations, advocating for a campus culture of accountability and safety. Our protest motto, “If you see something, say something,” encapsulates our commitment to fostering a supportive community. To uplift student morale, SGA has partnered with various student-led organizations and Student Development Services (SDS) to arrange transportation to sports games, spontaneous events, and campus-wide activities promoting career readiness, mental health awareness, and financial literacy.

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

My tenure as SGA president has been bolstered by the steadfast support of two remarkable individuals, who not only stood by me during my campaign but also continue to champion mental health advocacy within our administration. Under the purview of the Zeal administration, my executive vice president, Michiaah Roberson, assumed the noble responsibility of conducting regular mental health check-ins. Recognizing the inherent challenges of assuming a leadership role on a grand scale, Michiaah prioritized self-care and wellness. Meanwhile, my executive secretary, D’Anna Davis, presides over the student-led initiative, “4yourmental”, aimed at fostering mental health awareness and resilience within the VUU community. This initiative provides a sanctuary where students can navigate mental health challenges, seek support, and cultivate a sense of belonging. Complementing our efforts, the Department of Student Development and Success (SDS) houses the office of “Total Wellness”, helmed by two faculty members who offer an array of resources encompassing mental health support, counseling, sexual wellness guidance, and spiritual mentorship. Furthermore, VUU hosts weekly forums dedicated to mental well-being, including “Mindfulness Mondays”, “SOULFlow”, “Regroup Wednesdays”, and “Reclaiming my MIND”, which are open to all members of the VUU community. At VUU, we espouse a steadfast commitment to prioritizing mental health and ensuring that every student is afforded the opportunity to be acknowledged and heard without fear of judgment.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership, in my view, embodies the ability to demonstrate maturity as a team player, attentive listener, and adept problem solver. Possessing these qualities exemplifies true leadership prowess. A leader is someone driven by a passion to enhance the performance and atmosphere of their surroundings. They exhibit selflessness, passion, and unwavering support for the mission statement, the community they serve, and those who will continue their legacy of leadership.

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

I firmly believe that featuring a student leader like myself on a prominent platform to showcase the caliber of students VUU cultivates for a boundless future is an excellent representation of the school’s ethos. Utilizing every available social media platform is imperative for schools. Establishing a dedicated marketing team to promote the institution on TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and other platforms is essential. Inviting local news stations to campus-wide events to spotlight the university’s offerings is also significant. It’s crucial to seize every opportunity for publicity and maximize visibility.

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

Being able to highlight the significance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the experiences of Black students on campus, Black excellence, and the celebration of higher education achievements is vital for providing support to the black student community. Recognizing their accomplishments on a global scale instills a sense of encouragement and motivation to persevere. Platforms like Watch The Yard play a crucial role in fostering a community of like-minded individuals, offering a platform to showcase their talents and achievements. Knowing that a wider audience is observing and acknowledging our shared goals and aspirations reinforces our collective determination to succeed.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

Following May 11th, 2024, I envision utilizing my passport to immerse myself in diverse cultures, environments, and experiences. Embarking on my career journey in the cybersecurity sector within the government sector marks the beginning of my professional trajectory. Additionally, I intend to pursue graduate studies to obtain a master’s degree in data analytics, fostering continual growth in my career path. I aim to advance with the acquisition of knowledge, certifications, and invaluable experiences over time. Furthermore, I am committed to remaining an engaged alum, with plans to join the John W. Barco alumni association chapter, thereby contributing to the community that has played a pivotal role in shaping my journey thus far. Post-graduation, my focus will revolve around furthering my education, advancing in my career, and actively participating in community service, thereby reciprocating the support received and maintaining a commitment to community involvement.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Syiyanna Finch for her work as the SGA president of Virginia Union University.

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