In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to University of South Florida and did an interview with Britney Deas 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. Deas, who is majoring in Politicial Science, is a current senior.
We interviewed Deas, and talked to her about her 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 have learned since being SG president thus far is that students value clear communication and for their student representatives to be relatable. During my term, I made it a point to effectively communicate with my students on all social media platforms and this has proven successful in not only informing students about the progress made but also holding student government accountable for ensuring that promises made are promises kept. Lastly, having constant communication with students allows me to be more accessible to them and demonstrate that I am just a student like everyone else.
What made you decide to attend University of South Florida for undergrad?
I decided to attend the University of South Florida for undergrad because I fell in love with the beautiful campus as it made me feel at home. After touring the university with my mother, we went into the USF bookstore and I looked at her and said “I want to come here” in which she then suggested that I buy some USF gear to showcase my decision at my high school during dress down days. I proceeded on to buy a USF sweatshirt and sweatpants and the rest was history!
How has University of South Florida molded you into the person you are today?
The University of South Florida has molded me into a better leader of tomorrow. My personal and professional potential has demonstrated encouraging growth throughout the years, particularly with my time in USF Student Government, USF Ambassadors, and USF Board of Trustees. When I was elected as the Senate Relations Committee Vice-Chair, I learned about heading meetings and creating presentations as I was often given the responsibility of chairing the committee. Moreover, I became knowledgeable on how to write professional emails and practice decorum. As president, I have gained leadership skills through conflict-management, general managerial duties, and mentorship. In fact, mentorship has been the most rewarding experience because it allows me to guide and lend words of wisdom to the next student leaders of USF. These roles have challenged me and also propelled me to develop confidence in public-speaking, business etiquette, and networking. In my role as a USF Ambassador, it is also customary for me to interact with university affiliated dignitaries, in which I must conduct myself in a manner that would reflect positively on my university. As a member of the USF Board of Trustees, I work with individuals who are not only older than me, but who are also well-established in their careers. Each of these experiences have allowed for my personal development in recognizing my capability.
What specific initiatives have you headed up this year and how do you think they will improve the school and surrounding community?
In my presidency, I was able to complete many of my campaign initiatives such as providing free professional headshot opportunities for students and creating a win-win outcome with the consolidation process that supports preeminence and protects the autonomy of student government. We were able to help destigmatize seeking mental health help by placing hotline numbers on every student ID across all three campuses, making it the first completed consolidated initiative. Moreover, we produced a “Bullseye” section on SG’s website for students to stay updated on the completion of initiatives in order to hold elected leaders accountable and promote transparency. Also, we advocated at the state level for sales tax exemption on university textbooks, expanded discount services, and facilitated an open forum twice a semester with local/state officials and campus police. We also established a tradition of having a themed USF Homecoming Week and cemented administrative awareness of food insecurity and homelessness.
How is your school currently responding to the coronavirus and what is your SGA administration doing to help students?
My university has created a student toolkit that has important information regarding coronavirus in a centralized and easily accessible location online. Primarily, my university has allowed students to opt-in for a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading option, distributed reimbursements for housing and dining, created a student support fund, and transitioned all mental health counseling to be done over the phone. My SG administration donated over 600 survival kits filled with personal hygiene products to our food pantry to help students in need. Moreover, SG has has partnered with the university and used $35k out of our restricted reserves to account to help expand the laptop loaner program for students who do not have access to a laptop. I have also worked with administration to successfully advocate for the extension of the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading option period and worked with the Director of Commencement to to provide a virtual commencement in May and a physical commencement in August for our graduating class.
How is the coronavirus affecting SGA elections for next year?
The coronavirus has not affected our elections this year, because the new term was elected on March 6th.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership means being decisive and knowing when to take the next step. As a leader, I believe that it is important to deliver results and ensure that progress will continue to be made long after I am gone. Therefore, it is also important to mentor and mold those who are coming after you, because a great leader opens doors for those to follow suit.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2020?
In order for schools to represent themselves effectively in a digital world, I believe that they should provide information that is easy to understand, diverse in representation, and engaging with their younger audience. For example, schools should format their communication in a way that lets their audience comprehend information in a matter of minutes, whether that be via infographics or succinct tweets. Schools should also partake in fun/trendy happenings such as dance challenges to provide comedic relief and increase user engagement.
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 it highlights the accomplishments of underrepresented student leaders, culture creators, and innovators. It is important to document such achievements because one day these occurrences will be regarded as the “past” and those in the future can look back and see how for we have come.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
My goal after graduation is to attend law school in Fall 2021 because I hope to serve my community and make a difference through advocacy. A few careers that have caught my eye are working as a legal analyst on a major news network or serving in public office. I enjoy the combination of media and politics and media and law, which would explain my major in Political Science and minor in Mass Communications.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Britney Deas for her work as the SGA president of University of South Florida.