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Leadership Highlight: Langston University’s SGA President Nathanael Rakestraw Edwards

Photo Credit: @thed1rector

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Langston University and did an interview with Nathanael Rakestraw Edwards 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. Nathanael, who is majoring in Organizational Leadership, is from Chicago. He is a proud Spring 2022 initiate of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

We interviewed Nathanael Rakestraw Edwards, and talked to him about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in 2023-2024.

Photo Credit: @thed1rector

Read the full interview below.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned as an SGA president so far?

I’ve learned the importance networking and collaboration. Working between the student body and administration showed me the power we have when working together.

What made you decide to attend Langston University for undergrad?

I decided to attend Langston University because they invested a full ride scholarship opportunity in me. I was recruited by the Langston University Marching Pride Band and the faculty were very adamant about having a strong communication process with me. In the midst of the pandemic I ultimately decided to bring my talents to an institution that was already pouring into me.

How has Langston University molded you into the person you are today?

Langston University has molded me into the person I am today by positioning me to lead and create any opportunity I wanted to see. Being at a rural HBCU it’s no doubt that we experience a shortage of resources and opportunities that others have. The adversity this brings teaches me the strength in community and it also reinforces my purpose to create, lead, and serve. I’ve been granted opportunities that some could only imagine and I’m very confident that my attendance at Langston University has truly prepared me to “enter to learn and exit to serve.”

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?

Under my administration, I have implemented a freshman internship program to empower freshman to lead and understand the workings of SGA so our legacy can live through them. We have allocated $45,000 to different organizations and departments across campus. We’ve also given out over $15,000 in scholarships back to the student body. On the legislative side, we’ve continued to create legislation that represent to the voices our students and we were extremely happy to see our university administration approve a resolution that allowed students to enroll in the spring semester with up to a $1,000 bill with in the past, the account had to be paid down to $200 in order to enroll per semester. This initiative supports students experiencing financial uncertainty and gives them the opportunity to continue their education.

Photo Credit: @bluetooth1914

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

We have actively been working for our university to implement mental health days within the academic calendar. This initiative supports students the same way regular health absences help, however it identifies health specifically as a growing concern in our nation and something that needs to be taken serious. Our student senate, led by Vice President Hannah Wall, is putting on a mental health week to address and support the mental health of our students.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership is a relationship between leaders and followers to achieve common goals. It’s an area to me that you can learn and grow through everyday. The stronger the relationship, the more effective I see the leadership being. One example of this relationship could be a manager and their staff. They are all tied to the one goal of making a profit for the company and the more the manager grows in their leadership as well as develops their relationship with the staff, the company would benefit from what the team is able to produce because of the leadership.

Photo Credit: @thed1rector

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

Schools can continuously grow in their digital marketing and growing their brand, but it is also important to stick to the mission of the university. Many people nowadays can get caught up on a digital look or what’s appealing to the eye but it’s important to ensure there is substance behind the digital footprint. Schools can also ensure our students are becoming more educated on artificial intelligence and how to use it moving forward. While attending the White House HBCU Celebration Day, we discussed the important topic of AI and how universities oftentimes are behind societal trends. It is ever important that we are pushing students forward ands not holding them behind. The world is moving forward with AI and the train will keep moving. We must hop on it.

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 they continue to highlight the beauty within. There are several outlets that tear us down as a community and Watch The Yard makes an effort to push the positive and tell our story from within. We must take control of the narrative that is placed on Black students and college culture and that starts with how we display ourselves and highlight our successes.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

After graduation, I will be entering the corporate workforce thanks to my university’s career development office and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. I will also continue my affairs in community development and programming and I plan to grow my non profit organization that targets young black youth to teach them financial literacy, college and career development, and other life skills that will prepare them for their future. I want to pour back into the youth the way I was poured into and I want to give them opportunities that people within low economic backgrounds may not get to experience.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Nathanael Rakestraw Edwards for his work as the SGA president of Langston University.

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