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 Omicron Zeta Chapter at Fairleigh Dickinson University and did an interview with Shawn Ajavon 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. 22-year-old Ajavon 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 Finance 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?
To be a chapter president means being a role model, to be someone others can depend on, having the ability to delegate, the ability to relate to others, give back knowledge and inspire. Additionally, it is a very prestigious honor to carry, as I must be a leader amongst leaders. The Omicron Zeta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc has been at the Fairleigh Dickinson University Metropolitan campus since May 16th, 1981. I have the opportunity to continue the legacy of all the brothers who have crossed before me, and at the same time work on the yard to create our legacy.
What made you decide to attend the Fairleigh Dickinson University for undergrad?
The decision to attend Fairleigh Dickinson University Metropolitan Campus really happened by surprise. Initially senior year in high school I had my eyes set on going to school out of state then circumstances changed. Following this, I was going to enroll into my county college. Before I made my decision FDU contacted me and introduced me to the program that afforded me the opportunity to attend college [the Education Opportunity Fund program]. The curriculum and opportunities offered through the university reassured me that attending Fairleigh Dickinson University was the right decision for me.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the campus/surrounding community?
One of the initiatives we will be carrying out this year is called DeclassiPHIed College Survival Guide. This is an initiative/program where chapter members/alumni engage with underclassmen and give them the knowledge to help them better navigate through there college years. Topics range from dealing with roommates, finding a work life balance, financial aid, how to save money on books and life lessons they have learned along their college journey.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha?
I grew up in an inner city (Irvington, NJ) in a single mother household. Greek life was not something I was exposed to in my environment; I had no knowledge of it before entering college. Upon entering university, the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha were everywhere. In my sophomore year as I got more involved in student life/campus life and I noticed there was always an Alpha doing what I aspired to do. From being building mangers, to being founding members of clubs, to being on the executive board of already established clubs; they were very active on campus and were always willing give back knowledge to us underclassmen. The first upperclassman I met on campus was Brother Olabisi Gbayisomore and he was always “giving game” on how to successfully navigate campus life. However, I did not know he was a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha until much later. When I became a Resident Assistant on campus Brother Dante Phillips was my Graduate Assistant. I remember him for always being willing to help, answer my questions, which helped me transition in that role on campus successfully. Aside from the connections, the rich history and legacy behind the Oldest and Coldest Fraternity in the world attracted me. The motto of the organization “First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All” deeply connected with me. I understand the motto to mean that a leader is first a servant, someone who desires to meet the needs of people. These details coupled with my early experiences with the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha on campus ultimately led to my decision to pledge.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
The thing that makes my chapter Omicron Zeta unique is that all brothers from “new school” to “old school” still keep in close contact. We have brothers in every industry from business, medicine, law, entertainment, engineering and business owners. Within New Jersey they call our chapter the “family chapter” due to our close-knit bond. From new school to old school it is all love anytime we all get around and host our Annual chapter BBQ. The Omicron Zeta Chapter has had many different faces throughout the 38 years but remained true the meaning of what it means to be a brother.
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?
All undergraduate chapters across all organizations need to represent themselves online in 2019. The social platforms that we have access to help us engage with a bigger audience than just our fellow students on campus. Social media has impacted the way we can communicate with one another both directly and indirectly. We use it today to brand ourselves, highlight some key initiatives/services/events, and display accomplishments/achievements of the chapter.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is when someone possesses a clear vision, is brave, honest, humble and is focused. It is knowing the importance of the example you set and molding leaders of tomorrow. “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch” A leader is one who needs to be able to communicate to large groups and not let them influence your belief yet remain open minded. One able to walk with people of power and influence but still understands and never forgets the needs of the common person. One who does not allow the power and influence to make them arrogant but remains humble. The character of a leader is defined by the way they rebound from adversity, which is just as important as the successes they have.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard is highly important to Black Greekdom because there are not many positive platforms that display the achievements and the positive aspects of Black Greek Lettered Organizations. Many people have negative thoughts on Greek Life, and the Watch The Yard platform shows that Black Greek Lettered Organizations are more than step and strolling. Additionally, it acts as a vessel to enlighten people on Greek Life (and College Life in general) especially for African Americans.
What does brotherhood mean to you?
Brotherhood means to me someone who has your back no matter what, a person who will not leave even during troubling times. Someone who can carry your burden when you’re in need and not ask for anything in return. Someone who has the attitude of “He Ain’t heavy, He my Brother!!” in your time of need, or aid for anything, someone willing to be that shoulder to lean on through your trialing times. It’s amazing knowing we all comes from different backgrounds and cultures, but due to our love for the fraternity we are forever intertwined.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
This May I will be graduating with a Bachelors in Finance. Following this I will be returning to earn my Masters degree in Business Administration. My career aspiration is to work in the banking industry. My interest in the banking industry came from me noticing the lack of African American representation in the finance field. I also plan to own my financial advisory firm one day.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Shawn D. Ajavon for his work as the president of Omicron Zeta Chapter which has a long legacy that spans back to May 16th, 1981.
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