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 Sigma Chapter at Boston University and did an interview with Donovan Shipley 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. 20-year-old Shipley 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 Behavior & Health major and talked about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold a leadership on campus in the digital age.
Read the full interview below.
What does it mean to be a chapter president to you?
Being a chapter president means you are the representation of the values of your chapter. Beyond the social aspects of Black greekdom, the chapter president is the person that the community should know handles their business as well. As a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, I pride myself on what’s displayed in our mission statement: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. develops leaders, promotes brotherhood and academic excellence, while providing service and advocacy for our communities. In the role of chapter president, I ensure that this mission is carried out.
What made you decide to attend the Boston University for undergrad?
I decided to attend Boston University after I entered the interview process to become a Posse Scholar. The Posse Foundation seeks out 10 students to attend a specific set of universities that the host city has a relationship with in order to ensure success for these students in their undergraduate studies. I chose Boston University from the list of schools because it was a unique city and the school was very well known for being academically stimulating.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the campus/surrounding community?
This year my chapter is making a strong push for our national program: A Voteless People Is A Hopeless People. In light of the elections that are coming up, we’re making sure the people in our community have a chance to get registered to vote and that any and all questions about the voting process can be answered. Additionally, my chapter is openly against domestic violence and sexual assault so we make sure to hold that standard up for ourselves and for the community on each of our respective campuses.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha?
My father and my uncles are all brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, so my desire to join this organization started from a very early age. Growing up I saw the kind of work that brothers have been doing in the community, so that passion for service was ingrained in large part because of my close proximity to Alpha. Beyond the work that was being done I also saw the level of love, respect, and healthy debate that occurred between brothers and that was always something that captured my eye.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
My chapter is the 17th House of Alpha. We are home to Bro. Charles Hamilton Houston- “The man who killed Jim Crow”, to Bro. Alonzo G. Moron- the first black president of Hampton University who brought awareness to the impact of black political organizations in the Civil Rights Movement, and Bro. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.- who is the face of black Civil Rights in Americaâ€¦ to name a few. Our legacy is strong and we continue to advocate and give voice to the voiceless to this very day. My chapter embodies the concept of being “servants of All”. Everything we do we hold to a very high standard and every time new initiates arrive, a new chapter president is elected, and a new school year starts, that standard rises.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think undergraduate chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2019?
Overall undergraduate chapters need to show that they are people the community can trust. Many of us in Black greek life attend PWIs, so that makes the mission to be trustworthy even more important. If the black community can’t trust us as organizations, who can they trust? Everyday people can look online and see something that the Divine Nine is doing, whether that be good, bad, or somewhere in between. We need to remember that people are always watching, and that we all have mission statements to carry out in our communities.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is a necessity but it’s also a privilege. It’s not about commanding people to carry out your agenda, it’s about making sure that everything that needs to be done is handled. Oftentimes that means leaders need to learn when to take the necessary steps back and let those on their team take the lead in certain pockets when it’s more reasonable and efficient to do so. People are counting on leaders to continually step up when the time is right- unfortunately, many people try and force themselves into the leadership position without taking into account if that’s truly the best decision for the task.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard provides exposure to Black greekdom. It provides a platform for everyone to see the kind of influence and impact Black greek life has on different campuses nationwide. In the social media age, this is extremely important because if the exposure didn’t come from a positive place like Watch The Yard, where would it come from? We as Black greeks need to have some level of control on the narrative surrounding us.
What does brotherhood mean to you?
Something that I will always remember is when a chapter brother of mine explained to me that “the fraternity comes before the incorporated”. Fraternity- brotherhood- should be at the root of everything I do that concerns my organization. Brotherhood is about the love and respect I spoke about that I saw in the interactions with brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. my whole life. We live in a time where it’s hard to trust those around us but a brother is someone I should always trust because we look out for each other.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
Post graduation I plan on getting my Master’s in Social Work. I became interested in that field of work during my undergraduate studies, so taking the next steps to learn more and begin my career is what I have planned directly after graduation. It all goes back to being a servant of All, I want to be able to uplift the communities that need it.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Donovan Shipley for his work as the president of Sigma Chapter which has a long legacy that spans back to 1915.