In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Susquehanna University and did an interview with Donovan Gayles 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. Gayles, who is majoring in Political Science and Public Policy, is a current senior and a Spring 2017 initiate of Phi Beta Sigma.
We interviewed Gayles, 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’ve learned in this position as SGA president is to remain headstrong and motivated. In positions of leadership, it is important to remember that you won’t please everyone and that even though your peers elected you into the position, they will not always see visions as you see them. In this instance it is important to trust your team and trust yourself. I have always reminded myself that anything our executive body does is to, in some shape or form, benefit the student body at my university. Not everyone will see what goes on behind the scenes, so not everyone knows the amount of preparation is required or the numbers of meetings and email exchanges you go through. However, my mindset remains unfazed because I know that I try to advocate for the students with everything that I do.
What made you decide to attend Susquehanna University for undergrad?
I decide to attend Susquehanna because I would have the opportunity to study abroad and compete in Division athletics in track and field. This university also provided me with an academic scholarship to help with cost of attendance.
How has Susquehanna University molded you into the person you are today?
Susquehanna has shaped me in many ways but it has ultimately made me a better leader. Throughout my many positions on campus I have been able to set further outside of my comfort zone and accept new challenge with the confidence to overcome them. I have been put in situation to think critically and strategically as well as perform well under pressure. With this institution, i have been able to grow and learn in ways that have prepared me to become an active contributor to not only my community, but to communities around the world.
What specific initiatives have you headed up this year and how do you think they will improve the school and surrounding community?
This year we have opened up many different allocation programs to help students be leaders on and off campus. We have improved our “Clean Sweep” initiative to help keep the campus and town clean on weekends and even included leaf raking and snow shovelling. We added more money to our Enrichment Fund, which helps students with financial needs participate in conference, fellowships, job interviews and any other on or off campus opportunities. We started a Green Fund, which allocated funding to students who want to oversee sustainable projects. As an SGA body we have not only headed up many fundraising events but we have also expanded our body to be more inclusive to different students and organizations. At this moment we are currently looking at methods to use our allocations to open up more scholarships for students on campus.
How is your school currently responding to the coronavirus and what is your SGA administration doing to help students?
Like many other universities, Susquehanna has moved to remote learning and a large percentage of the student population has returned home. For those who were unable to leave, the university is accommodating for those students and providing them with the services they need. The university is still function and providing support to all students, it is just being done remotely. Our SGA has been helping in this situation by funding to send essential supplies home to students who were unable to retrieve them before the lockdown. Anything from textbooks to toiletries to help students transition well to online learning while being at home.
How is the coronavirus affecting SGA elections for next year?
Coronavirus has forced us all to continue on virtual platforms and SGA elections have also fallen to that avenue as well. Normally, we would host speeches during the Public Forum session of our weekly meetings but since we are off campus we have done everything virtually. Through the use of online platforms such as email, social media and YouTube we were still able to broadcast speeches and host our online voting booth to elect new members for next year.
What does leadership mean to you?
The definition of leadership can be highlighted in different ways but to me it means successfully utilizing your team and harmonizing their talents to effectively and efficiently achieve an objective. I view leadership more of the ability to build cohesion in group rather than use it as a source of power. I believe in delegating tasks and being a hands-off supervisor because that allows people you work with to tackle the obstacle with their own creativity and problem-solving process. I relate more to the wolf pack style of leadership where the head of the pack leads from the back in order to offer guidance and help those when it is needed.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2020?
Universities worldwide need to take advantage of the digital age we have moved into by investing more in advertising methods. If they want to appeal attractive to students and draw their attention it is important to meet them where they are at. This means using interactive online platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok to highlight what they offer for students. This method is also helpful to show how they have been responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
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 create a platform for students of color from different organizations across the nation to connect with one another and share in successes. It highlights a common culture that many of us are familiar with and has create a safe space where students of color can contribute and be themselves.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
Post-graduation I plan to commit to year of public service. I have been accept as a Peace Corps Volunteer but I am also waiting to hear back from other programs such as AmeriCorps, Fulbright and other public affairs fellowships. After my time as a public servant I plan to pursue a Masters in Public Policy and a Juris Doctorate and work with men and women who have been taken advantage of by the criminal justice system.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Donovan Gayles for his work as the SGA president of Susquehanna University.