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Leadership Highlight: University of the District of Columbia’s SGA President Brent Thigpen

Photo Credit: Hunter Waldon, @hunter.waldo

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to University of the District of Columbia and did an interview with Brent Thigpen the 2022-2023 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. Thigpen, who is majoring in Mechanical Engineering, is from Waldorf, MD. He is a proud Spring 23 initiate of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

We interviewed Brent Thigpen, and talked to him about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in 2022-2023.

Read the full interview below.

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

As an SGA president at UDC, I have learned that effective leadership requires a deep understanding of the needs and concerns of the community that you serve. Through my experience, I have come to realize that listening to and engaging with students is crucial to addressing their needs and advocating for their rights. I have also learned that collaboration and teamwork are essential in achieving successful outcomes for the student body. Being an SGA president has taught me to be patient, diplomatic, and innovative in developing solutions to complex issues. Finally, I have learned that leadership is not just about making decisions, but also about inspiring others to act and create positive change in their community.

What made you decide to attend University of the District of Columbia for undergrad?

My decision to attend the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) was more than just convenience. During the challenging year of 2020, when COVID hit and turned our world upside down, I realized that staying close to home was important to me. I wanted to be able to continue to see my family and close friends even as I pursued my college education. UDC not only offered me a scholarship, but it also had everything I was looking for an HBCU, a lacrosse team, and a mechanical engineering program.

But UDC offered me more than just convenience and academic programs. I wanted to attend a university where I wouldn’t be just another face in a crowded lecture hall. UDC’s small class sizes allowed me to connect with my classmates and professors personally, making it easy for me to build a network of like-minded individuals who share my passion for success.

I also wanted to impact my university, and UDC’s smaller size allowed me to do just that. By coming here, I can be a big fish in a smaller pond, which allows me to make a bigger impact on my school and community. As the Student Government Association president, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc, and an ambassador for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and my school of engineering and applied sciences, I am proud to represent UDC and help bring recognition to this great institution.

So, while staying close to home was important, my decision to attend UDC was about more than that. It was about finding a university that offered me the chance to pursue my passions, build meaningful relationships, and make a difference. UDC has provided me with all of that and more, and I am proud to call myself a Firebird.

Photo Credit: Hunter Waldon, @hunter.waldo

How has University of the District of Columbia molded you into the person you are today?

Attending the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) has significantly shaped me into the person I am today. UDC has provided me with a challenging yet nurturing academic environment that has allowed me to grow personally and professionally. The university has a small class size, which has enabled me to establish close relationships with my professors, classmates, and other members of the UDC community. This environment has made me feel valued and supported throughout my academic journey.

Moreover, UDC’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity has exposed me to various perspectives, cultures, and ways of thinking. This exposure has broadened my worldview and helped me develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the unique experiences and challenges that people face.

Additionally, UDC has given me numerous opportunities to get involved in extracurricular activities, such as student government, fraternity life, and ambassador programs. These opportunities have allowed me to develop leadership skills, become more socially aware, and foster meaningful connections with individuals who share similar passions and interests.

Overall, attending UDC has molded me into a well-rounded individual who is committed to making a positive impact on society. The education, experiences, and relationships I have gained at UDC have prepared me to succeed professionally and personally. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such a supportive and inspiring community.

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?

As an SGA president, I have several initiatives that I have been working on this year to improve the school and the surrounding community.

One initiative I am working on is to increase student engagement and involvement on campus. This includes creating more opportunities for students to interact with each other, such as hosting more events and activities that are inclusive and fun for all.

Another initiative is to improve the campus infrastructure, including updating classroom technology and providing more study spaces for students. This will make it easier for students to focus on their academic work and achieve their goals.

Regarding the surrounding community, I have been working on creating partnerships with local businesses and organizations to provide more resources for students. This includes working with community leaders to create mentorship programs, job fairs, and student internships.

Additionally, I have been advocating for mental health resources and support for students, including hosting mental health awareness events and increasing access to counseling services.

Overall, my goal is to make the school a more supportive and welcoming environment for all students, while also strengthening the relationship between the school and the surrounding community

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

At UDC, we are working towards promoting mental health and wellness through a variety of initiatives. This includes physical activity programs, healthy eating options, and social events that encourage community building and connection among students. Our SGA organization is also taking an active role in supporting the mental health of our fellow students. We are advocating for mental health resources and awareness campaigns, organizing events and initiatives that promote mental health and well-being, and providing a supportive and inclusive environment for students to discuss their mental health concerns. We believe that creating a culture of open dialogue and support is essential to promoting the mental health and well-being of our students, and we are committed to continuing our efforts in this area.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership, to me, means the ability to inspire, guide, and empower others towards a common goal or vision. A true leader is someone who not only has a clear understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses but also recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of their team members. A leader should be able to effectively communicate with their team, listen to their feedback, and make informed decisions that benefit the team as a whole.

Leadership is not about being in a position of authority or having power over others. Instead, it’s about serving others and putting their needs above your own. It’s about being a role model and setting a positive example for others to follow. A good leader is someone who can adapt to different situations, remain calm under pressure, and be able to motivate and inspire their team even during difficult times.

In essence, leadership is about fostering an environment of trust, respect, and teamwork. It’s about creating a culture where everyone feels valued and empowered to contribute their unique skills and perspectives towards achieving a common goal.

We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2022/2023?

In the increasingly digital world we live in, it’s crucial for schools to have a strong online presence. Here are some things schools can do to represent themselves effectively online in 2022/2023:

  • Develop a user-friendly website: The school’s website should be easy to navigate, visually appealing, and contain all the necessary information that parents, students, and teachers need.
  • Implement social media accounts: Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can be great tools to showcase a school’s culture and events. Schools can share updates, photos, and videos to engage their audience and promote their brand.
  • Offer online learning resources: With more students and parents turning to online learning resources, it’s essential for schools to provide access to quality online educational materials.
  • Foster online communication: Schools can use communication tools like email, messaging apps, and video conferencing software to keep parents and teachers connected and informed.
  • Emphasize online safety: Schools need to ensure that their students and staff are aware of online safety practices and monitor their online behavior to prevent cyberbullying and other online risks.
  • Overall, schools need to embrace technology and stay up-to-date with digital trends to maintain relevance and effectively communicate with their stakeholders in 2022/2023.

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 for several reasons. First, it provides a sense of community and connection for Black students who may feel isolated or marginalized on predominantly white college campuses. By showcasing the accomplishments and contributions of Black students, Watch The Yard helps to create a sense of pride and belonging for Black students and their allies.

Second, Watch The Yard helps to promote the positive aspects of Black Greek life and counter negative stereotypes and misconceptions that have been perpetuated by the media and popular culture. By providing an accurate and nuanced portrayal of Black Greek life, Watch The Yard helps to dispel myths and foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the contributions of Black Greek organizations to the college community and beyond.

Finally, Watch The Yard serves as a platform for networking and career development for Black students and alumni. Through its online directory and job board, Watch The Yard helps to connect Black students and alumni with potential employers and mentors, providing opportunities for professional growth and advancement.

Overall, Watch The Yard plays an important role in promoting and celebrating Black college culture and empowering Black students to achieve their goals and make a positive impact in their communities

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

My future plans after graduation in May 2024 are brimming with passion and purpose. I am committed to pursuing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at an HBCU, a choice that is deeply significant to me as it offers an opportunity to immerse myself in a rich tradition of excellence and academic rigor.

But that’s not all. I am fueled by a burning desire to contribute to society in a meaningful way, and I am confident that a career in higher education is the path for me. As the SGA president, I was inspired to help young black educated minds achieve their potential and become change-makers in their community. This experience has awakened a deep-seated drive within me to uplift and inspire others.

My long-term goal is to become a president at an HBCU, a place where I can continue to make a positive impact by advocating for students and creating an environment that fosters growth and excellence. I believe that a career in higher education is not just a job but a calling that requires dedication, passion, and a deep commitment to making a difference in the lives of others.

Before embarking on this career path, I intend to fulfill my childhood dream of becoming a pilot for Delta or United Airlines. I am excited to take on this challenge and plan to fly for 10 to 15 years before retiring. In doing so, I will have achieved a personal goal while also gaining valuable experience and a unique perspective that I can bring to my work in higher education.

Overall, I am excited about the possibilities that the future holds and am committed to making a positive impact in the world. Seeing individuals elevate themselves, especially those who share my identity, is a profound and meaningful experience that fuels my drive to serve and make a difference.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Brent Thigpen for his work as the SGA president of University of the District of Columbia.

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