In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the University of Tennessee at Martin and did an interview with Devin Majors the Student Government Association president.
The position of SGA president of a is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Devin Majors, who is majoring in Political Science, is a current senior and a Spring 2018 initiate of Alpha Phi Alpha.
We interviewed Majors, and talked to him about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in 2020.
Read the full interview below.
What is the biggest thing you’ve learned as an SGA president so far?
The biggest thing that I have learnt so far in my two terms as SGA President, is that it is imperative that you put others before yourself, if you want to be a successful leader. Being a leader is both an opportunity and privilege. The power to lead is given to you by the student body because they trust you to represent and advocate for them. I have learned that serving others in a advocacy position is not the easiest task because so many students want different things but it is one of the most rewarding when you successful in helping someone.
You have to meet students where they are at so you can find out what you can do to help them as SGA President. It’s unrealistic to expect them to line up outside your office and bring you a detailed list of concerns instead you have to put in the work, go out to the events, and out your ears to the streets to see what problems they are facing and how you as a leader can resolve them.
What made you decide to attend the University of Tennessee at Martin for undergrad?
I choose the attend the University of Tennessee at Martin because upon graduating high school, I realized that in order for me to grow as a man that I needed to leave the comfort zone of my house and go out into the world.
My university has a good Political Science program which is my field so I was drawn to that as well. UT Martin is also one of the most affordable universities in Tennessee.
How has the University of Tennessee at Martin molded you into the person you are today?
The University of Tennessee at Martin has molded me into the person that I am today because I have learned many lessons, meet great people, and made a lot of memories here. Ever since I arrived, I have been heavily involved and I’ve kept an open mind about life which allowed me to branch out and join various organizations including Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Black Student Association, National Mental Health Alliance, Multicultural Activities Council etc. and I ended up making so many friends across the student and I was encouraged to run for SGA President. Without getting involved, I would have stayed in my shell and wouldn’t have made so many lifelong friends and timeless memories in college.
What specific initiatives have you headed up this year and how do you think they will improve the school and surrounding community?
I have spearheaded several initiatives at my university. I have successfully advocated with the collaboration of Faculty, Staff, Alumni, and other student leaders for the creation of a NPHC Greek Garden which was completed and revealed at this years Homecoming. (UT Martin is a P.W.I yet we have all chapters Divine Nine Greek organizations on campus)
I have worked with the administration to increase in funding to student programming so that our student body can experience more engaging program. Additionally, we created a new organization called the Multicultural Activities Council that hosts events for our growing population of diverse students on campus.
I also helped lead an initiative to begin Diversity & Inclusion training for all Faculty and Staff at my university, so that they are prepared to have those uncomfortable but needed conversation about our similarities and differences, and knowledgeable about microaggressions and how their own actions can be perceived by students.
How is your school currently responding to the coronavirus and what is your SGA administration doing to help students?
My university responded to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus by closing in person classes for the remainder of the year and canceling all athletic events for the Spring. Also our Spring Commencement has been moved to August to hopefully allow the virus to be stabilized so that students can be celebrated for competing their undergraduate degrees.
SGA has been working with the university to get answers out to the student body, ensure that students will receive prorated refunds for housing, dining, etc., we also have been responding to questions and getting information out about resources available to them during this uncertain times.
How is the coronavirus affecting SGA elections for next year?
The coronavirus has caused us to switch from on campus campaigning to entirely online campaigning. Candidates have been using social media to campaign for office and we also have hosted Debates through Zoom and used emails to get information about the candidates to students since we aren’t on campus for the time being.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership to me is the most crucial component to success. Whether it is within a university, a corporation, a nonprofit, a government or even a family. Having strong or weak leadership can make or break an institution. I believe that we always need strong leaders to guide us into the future and we need our leaders to work for us and be held accountable along that journey.
From my own personal experiences, I have realized that you do not simply choose to be the person to in charge, rather you show others that you are capable and then they entrust you with that power. As a leader you must always listen to the people that you lead and also you must be willing to follow others’ lead as well.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2020?
I think that schools must constantly innovate and brand themselves to a diverse population of students. Our world is ever changing and young people have a lot more options than we had in the last so schools have to show the value of an education and more importantly, why their institution is the right choice for students.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture?
“Watch the Yard” is important to black students and college culture because the media industry is primarily dominated and owned by White/Caucasian individuals/companies. This results in the accomplishments and achievements of African Americans being underreported. We need platforms like “Watch the Yard” to showcase our culture in a positive light and to tell the world about what college educated black people have being doing to better our society.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
I will be attending law school in the Fall where I will be working towards my J.D. so that I can become either a Civil Rights or Criminal Defense Attorney and spark change within our legal system so it may become equitable for all citizens regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, etc.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Devin Majors for his work as the SGA president of The University of Tennessee at Martin.