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Leadership Highlight: Southern University and A&M College’s SGA President Donald Dunbar Jr.

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate universities  across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Southern University and A&M College and did an interview with Donald Dunbar 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. Dunbar, who is majoring in Business Management, is a current senior and a spring 2018 initiate of Kappa Alpha Psi.

We interviewed Dunbar, 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? 

One of the biggest things I have learned as an SGA president is how powerful my voice is and how to use it. I truly understood and learned that my voice is the power which creates change for the entire student body. There were times this past school year when I had to speak up and be the advocate I was elected to be for my peers to ensure that their voice was heard and that their concerns were addressed. There is no better feeling in the world than to know that your voice and how you advocated for your student body impacted and changed many of their lives.

What made you decide to attend Southern University and A&M College for undergrad? 

I chose Southern University and A&M College for undergrad for several reasons. Growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I knew about Southern University all of my life. Although I am a first-generation college student, my parents always made sure that I knew what Southern University was and that one day I was going to college. Also, because of the great resources of the university, I was awarded a Dolores Margaret Richard Spikes Honors College Scholarship, which allowed me to attend Southern University at no cost. Lastly, Southern’s legacy impacted my decision greatly. I knew that graduates from Southern University went on to be successful and become productive members in society. I wanted to be a part of that number and continue the legacy of excellence, pride and tradition.

How has Southern University and A&M College molded you into the person you are today?

Southern University has molded me by taking the quiet and reserved kid from South Baton Rouge and turned him into this outspoken and fierce servant leader. When I first stepped on campus, it was unfathomable to me that I would become who I am today. Southern gave me the confidence to step out of my shell and branch out to do new and different things, which eventually helped me find my passion of being an advocate. I went from not being involved on campus at all to becoming a part of multiple organizations, and ultimately a leader for our student body. I believe that I am a true testament as to how Southern can impact and mold a student. I am forever grateful and indebted to The Southern University for that.

What specific initiatives have you headed up this year and how do you think they will improve the school and surrounding community?

One specific initiative this academic year was “Impact the Polls,” leading up to local and statewide elections, including governor, in November 2019. This was an initiative that encouraged students to exercise their civic duty and right to vote. SGA partnered with the Southern University NACCP where its president, Kelsey Perine, played a pivotal role. We also had several other university and community partners who worked with us tirelessly on activities and services, including voter registration, a Town Hall and bussing to the polls. These were available to not only our students but also faculty and staff, and our overall community.

I feel that this was a very important initiative during the early voting period and on Election Day last November because it serves as a blueprint to engage students and the community for the upcoming presidential election.

How is your school currently responding to the coronavirus and what is your SGA administration doing to help students?

Responding to the coronavirus, Southern University has ensured that students continue to have access to education — part of the university’s mission — and to also remain safe. I would like to commend Dr. Ray L. Belton, our president-chancellor, and the administration on their steadfast leadership during this uncertain time. Responding to the coronavirus, my institution has moved classes from the classroom to online for the rest of the semester and the summer. They have also encouraged all residential students to move from campus and return home as a means of social distancing. However, they have allowed those who cannot return home due to extenuating circumstances to stay with continued services such as meals. Additionally, the university, Southern University Alumni Federation and Southern University System Foundation combined resources to create an emergency fund for students who needed assistance to move back home.

An emergency grading policy was also released, addressing the concerns of many students. Southern University has responded very efficiently and effectively by moving everything online from admissions and recruitment to campus administration holding Q&As virtually with students. SGA has been at the table for every discussion when it comes to the students and the university responding to coronavirus. Campus administration has included me on every discussion that took place regarding the students during the response to coronavirus and has made students be one of the most important factors for the decisions made. It has been very hectic at times, but I know my institution’s ability to adapt and preserve. I am extremely confident that we will come out on top and continue to meet the needs of the students.

How is the coronavirus affecting SGA elections for next year? 

Coronavirus has reshaped how we handled SGA elections this spring semester. We usually have over-the-top campaigning with large billboards, T-shirts, pins, and food at the famous “Pretty Wednesday,” but we moved campaigning to a virtual method on social media. Moving to virtual campaigning on social media due to coronavirus gave the candidates a way to be innovative and creative, showing why their peers should elect them to represent them this upcoming year. Virtual campaigning was a success and the newly elected leaders are ready and eager to lead their peers and represent Southern University and A&M College.

What does leadership mean to you?

To me, leadership means to not only lead by listening and speaking but also, most importantly, it means to lead with your actions. With leadership, one must lead, motivate, advocate, and uplift their people when need be. One must know how to not only be held accountable but also to be responsible to effectively do the work that they were called upon to do. I believe one must have it in their heart and be anointed by God to lead because I have learned that it is not for everyone. You must have a true passion and thirst to lead and serve the people.

We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2020?

I believe that schools need to use technology proactively and not reactively. For some institutions, responding to the coronavirus epidemic was the first time that the use of technology was this critical. Now that institutions realize the power of technology and social media, they should consistently use their social media and technology more to spread positivity, to brand their institution and make it attractive to not only recruit students but also stakeholders.

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture? 

I believe that Watch the Yard is important to Black students and college culture because it is one of the few platforms that spreads the positivity and highlights the impactful things that are taking place at our beloved HBCUs.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

After graduation, I plan to go to graduate school and obtain my master’s degree in sports administration.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Donald Dunbar Jr. for his work as the SGA president of Southern University and A&M College.

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