In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Clark Atlanta University and did an interview with Levon Campbell Jr. 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. Campbell, who is majoring in Political Science, is a current junior and a Fall 2018 initiate of Alpha Phi Alpha.
We interviewed Campbell, 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 I’ve learned as SGA President is that holding down an entire active campus community requires a team and no single person can do it on their own. I am extremely grateful for my administration especially my chief of staff Hali E. Smith. It was truly the leadership of her that allowed for many of our initiatives to get done. While we were advocating she made it clear that we had to make sure every aspect was covered. While we became very business from the numerous of situations that effected our campus, we still had to make sure we delivered on the promises we told to the student body. Being the SGA President I was had the opportunity to be in numerous meetings that the students where not and while being in meeting majority of the time, it was in these meetings that decisions were being held that affected the needs of the students. Being able to speak up in a room where not everyone; to not fault of their own, was on the same page in regards to the needs of the students was where I noticed the importance of this position. Being a student allows for me to get others in the room to see where students are coming from and allowing for decisions to be made in the interest of the students.
What made you decide to attend Clark Atlanta University for undergrad?
The culture of Clark Atlanta University during a visit to Atlanta my Junior year of high school allowed me to see that CAU was the only place for me. My mother went to Southern University and A&M College and have always preached the importance of going to a HBCU. Clark is in the heart of Atlanta, GA where black entrepreneur is on the rise. This was a true experience that I knew I could not pass up. Although, I am from Los Angeles, California the dynaimcs of CAU truly made me feel comfortable enough to attend.
How has Clark Atlanta University molded you into the person you are today?
Clark Atlanta University, molded me into the person I am now, by changing my mindset on a lot of situations. Seeing black professional in suits everyday walking down the promenade wanting better for themselves and others around them, showed me the direction I wanted to take my life. Being in an environment where people uplifted on other and were successful in there fields showed me that hard work and dedication will prevail and allow me to move my life to the next level.
What specific initiatives have you headed up this year and how do you think they will improve the school and surrounding community?
Specific initiavtives that I’ve made sure was the focus of our administration was mental health and inclusivity. We were successful in making mental health a comfortable topic on campus, by having numerous safe spaces on campus for students to say whatever is on their mind without feeling judged. We were successful in implementing mental health posters all around campus in both or academic and residential halls. These posters stated what mental health challenges look like, how students can deal with them, and where students can go on campus to get help. Next, being able to successful throw the first ever Mental Health Awareness Conference on campus where we invited Raymond Santana (member of the Exonerated Five), Shanti Das (music executive), and numerous other people in the community to combat the topic on raise mental health challenges awareness. This conference allowed for over 200 students to come and get helped and knowledge on mental health. Also, our initiative being inclusivity allowed for the campus to come closer together with our initiatives for Market After Dark. Normal students would have to pay a fee, have insurance, and a business license to sell there products on campus during regular Market Thursday. Working with administration we was able to throw Market After Dark, which we allowed students to sell their products with one another for free and not requiring our students to have a business license and insurance. We seen that the extra barriers were holding students back from being able to get their products to the student body, and with Market After Dark students had a direct access to get entrepreneurship skills and get their products to the student body to learn about the amazing things their peers where doing for free and no hassle.
How is your school currently responding to the coronavirus and what is your SGA administration doing to help students?
Currently we have worked with our higher administration, board of trustees, and alumni to set up a Emerengy Student Fund that supports any students who has been affected by this virsus. This emerengy funds has allowed many students to get access to laptops, housing, food, gas, and other essential items that they might have needed to support themselves during this time. We were in numerous talked with our University President, Provost, and Dean of Student Services and Campus Life, to express the needs of our students during this time, including but not limited to our grading system. We were happy to inform our student body that our administration was listening to our needs and that we was able to obtain an optional Pass/Fail system for students who needed it and for students who still needed a GPA, for the following semester to keep a regular grading system. Advocating for our of state students who were having difficulties with the different time zones, and allowing an option for professors to upload there classes to canvas instead of making attendance mandatory. We made services such as counseling and disabilities, financial aid, career services, and other services to go online for students to access from home. We are still in communication with both students and administration make sure the needs of our students come first.
How is the coronavirus affecting SGA elections for next year?
We continued to have our election this spring semester, in which everything was virtual and through social media. We had the most responses ever in election history and I am excited for the next administration to take over and see what they have planned for the student body.
What does leadership mean to you?
The biggest thing I’ve learned about being SGA president so far, is that true leadership is not about the things you say but more about the actions you take and keeping your word. Being the SGA President at Clark Atlanta University I had to deal with numerous of issues that had to get address from our campus such as a shooting that reached national news, as well as the tragic situation with our fallen panther Alexis Crawford, and currently the COVID-19 that’s affecting the entire world. All these situations required direct intervention from our adminstartion with our executive administration and the student body. Being able to act fast in all situations and truly advocating for the needs of the students allowed me to see what true leadership meant. Being able to be in a position where I had the opportunity to see these situations from all angles and coming up with quick solutions to support the student body was a true blessing. Leadership is being about to take action professionally and making sure all voices are heard and not allowing personal opinion getting in the way of the final decisions for everyone.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2020?
School need to push our there services to local communities so they can have a positive impact of the surrounding community. Uploading videos to YouTube so people around the world can see what the university has to offer.
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 of the positive light that they shine on black student and HBCU culture. We are living in a world that is ran by hate and at times it seems as if they only time black people are on the news is for something negative. Watch The Yards give the world an opporunity to be educated on all the greatness that is in our communities, and knocking down false information around HBCUs.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
My plans after graduation is to go to law school and return to my communities where I want to invest into my community and give my high school students the opportunity to go to an HBCU. Im planning on implementing mental health programs in south central LA and Gardena to help support the African-American youth in their mental health challenges.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Levon Campbell Jr. for his work as the SGA president of Clark Atlanta University.