In an effort to highlight the young leaders who are leading undergraduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.’s Upsilon Zeta Chapter at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and did an interview with Brian David Hanson, Jr.
the president of the chapter.
The position of president of an undergraduate chapter of a Black fraternity is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. 21-year-old Brian David Hanson, Jr.
has used the position to gain new leadership experience, improve the lives of other students on campus and help the community around him.
We interviewed the Computer Engineering major and talked about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold a leadership position on campus in the digital age.
Read the full interview below.
What does it mean to be a chapter president to you?
The Upsilon Zeta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. has been at the campus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County since February 28, 2016. Being Chapter President of this up and coming chapter is an honor. I have the opportunity to continue pioneering a legacy based on brothers who have crossed before me while developing my own with the current brothers on the yard. I am grateful to be the Chapter President this year to create a precedence that will only continue to illustrate how high we hold the light of Alpha.
What made you decide to attend the University of Maryland, Baltimore County for undergrad?
I attended Chesapeake High School STEM Academy in Essex, MD which is 30 minutes away from the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMBC). I have spent numerous summers at UMBC during high school through the Classic Upward Bound Program which established many meaningful relationships with staff and faculty at UMBC. Among the staff and faculty, who I admire the most is the current president of the university, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, III. The admiration for Dr. Hrabowski was instilled in me by my mother who is a 100% Permanent-Total Disabled Gulf War Veteran who has been pivotal role-model and given nothing but unconditional support to my undergraduate academic career in STEM. Fortunately, she discovered the Meyerhoff Scholars Program which was my main inspiration for applying to UMBC. With this program I could gain exposure towards pursuing a research-based terminal degree as an African-American male while learning what studying science entails. UMBC is known for its innovative and inclusive research culture which has continued to help other research-focused and post-baccalaureate programs flourish. As a Meyerhoff and McNair Scholar, I have sought after numerous opportunities that UMBC has afforded to progress towards earning a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the campus/surrounding community?
This year we have committed our programming to these three main areas for the fall and spring semester.
– Civic Engagement and Voter Education
– Mentoring and Academic Preparation
– The Promotion of Healthy Relationships
Some of our on-going projects are:
– Voteless People Is A Hopeless People
These are a group of programs that are designed to enhance the communities knowledge and awareness in civic and voting matters.
– Go-To-High School, Go-To-College
These are a set of mentoring and campus tour sessions that we provide to local schools in the community.
– Project Alpha
These are a series of workshops that teach young men how to avoid toxic masculinity and foster relationships that can have better growth for young men.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha?
Growing up as an only child, I had no Greek background or information before entering college from siblings or even my parents. Nevertheless, my exposure changed when I became a member of the 27th cohort of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program. This was when I was able to meet Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, III who, I did not know was a brother of Alpha at the time, but always role-modeled exceptional leadership qualities of an Alpha male to me. As one of the founders of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, Dr. Hrabowski continued to encourage and inspire scholars like myself to pursue our highest potential academically while exploring opportunities to be leaders. It was after my first semester at UMBC that, I met older scholars who were very distinguished African-American males and were more than just leaders in the classroom. Their influence and service for the black community were most appealing factors that exemplified both Dr. Hrabowski, III and these older Meyerhoff Scholars were examples for me to follow on a path that lead me to Alpha.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
My chapter is very unique because of its age but even more importantly its history. This chapter was born out of a desire to maintain close association and unified support for all of its members being that UMBC is a PWI. The same spirit that birthed Alpha at Cornell was established on the campus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) through the chartering of the Nu Kappa Chapter on December 16, 1977. A successful foundation in firm values of Brotherhood, espousing the principles of good character, sound scholarship, fellowship and the uplifting of humanity was demonstrated by the brothers of Nu Kappa. After a brief hiatus, the spirit of Alpha was reactivated at UMBC through the chartering of the Upsilon Zeta Chapter on February 28, 2016. We as the brothers of Upsilon Zeta whole-heartedly believe bringing from the past and ushering a continuous effort towards building upon our fraternities distinguished history of involvement, achievement, and leadership in civil human rights efforts, as well as in many charitable service projects at UMBC and the surrounding communities.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think undergraduate chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2018?
I personally attend a PWI, and not many people on campus are aware of rich culture and history associated with Black Greek Fraternities & Sororities. This is why I am also currently the president of the National Pan Hellenic Council at UMBC. My vision being that we live in a digital age, is that we can cultivate the presence we established on social media to build a network with individuals and groups to share content ubiquitously. The opportunity to show people in real time the impact that organizations are having in the community is incredible. Personally, I am grateful that we use Instagram to document and showcase all of the programs and activities we do. However, we pride ourselves in using this platform to be mature and responsible for the content we make available to forever more build our brand as a chapter. Each member of this chapter is doing something great and it is important to let the community know about it. As a brand, our representation is critical in this day and age to continue fostering relationships with other chapters and organizations. We realize that we are not limited to just our campus and chapter.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership to me is the ability to demonstrate self-confidence when having to make difficult decisions. As a leader for my chapter and the NPHC, I believe I was elected to these positions because of my ability to influence the behavior of others through a capacity of organizing and inspiring a common vision. Sometimes I have found the difficult decision to be what kind of vision encompasses the values and beliefs of everyone and can be implemented in either a semester or a given school year? As a student leader on UMBC’s campus, I try to role model that anyone can help me make a difference in our campus community.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard is a platform for both Greeks and non-Greeks to celebrate and encourage one another, as we collectively work to uplift the communities in which we live, work, play, and most importantly, serve to ensure that Black greekdom can continue to flourish.
What does brotherhood mean to you?
Brotherhood to me means that we as brothers demonstrate reciprocity no matter what. I can always call my brothers in times of need, to study, and fellowship. We all come from many different backgrounds and cultures, but we share the same love for this fraternity and watching each other grow. I can never take for granted the opportunity I was given to join this illustrious fraternity and the time those who came before me have dedicated to my development. No matter how long the bonds have been between my brothers, we are always willing to take out the time to check in and look out for each other. As we continue to cherish the strength of our bonds, I desire for us to continue exemplifying what true brotherhood is.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
I still have a year left to complete my Computer Engineering major so I am focused on completing this task first. However, I am interested in applying for Ph.D. programs in Biomedical Engineering in the field of Rehabilitation Sciences and Technology. As I mentioned before, my mother’s disability has not stopped her from being who she is to me in my life. Therefore, I know there are other people in the world with similar or worse conditions that just need some kind of support to be an inspiration to others. By doing research on how to improve their quality of life, I believe anyone can serve others to help them better themselves so that they can do the same for anybody.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Brian Hanson, Jr. for his work as the president of Upsilon Zeta Chapter which has a legacy that began in 2016.