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Leadership Highlight: Valdosta State University’s SGA President Jalen Smith

Photo Credit: @mizellphotos

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Valdosta State University and did an interview with Jalen Smith the 2022-2023 Student Government Association president.

The position of SGA president is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes in being elected by their peers to lead. Smith, who is majoring in Political Science, is from Valdosta, Georgia.

Photo Credit: @mizellphotos

We interviewed Jalen Smith, and talked to him about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in 2022-2023.

Read the full interview below.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned as an SGA president so far?

One of the biggest lesson I’ve learned as SGA President is that “energy” is contagious. As a leader if you’re inspired by the organization’s mission or purpose the people who follow you will be inspired. I say it to my team and to our senators all the time, that if we stay connected and engaged our peers will too. It also translates into day to day interactions, you have the ability to empower and encourage people in simple conversations. My hope is that every person who interacts with me is inspired to keep going and living.

What made you decide to attend Valdosta State University for undergrad?

I always tell people that I didn’t chose Valdosta State, but Valdosta State chose me. Upon me graduating high school, a full ride scholarship was offered to me, I accepted it and since Valdosta State has invested in me and gifted me with unique opportunities like only it could.

How has Valdosta State University molded you into the person you are today?

When talking to people about Valdosta State’s impact on me, I often tell people that VSU is like a blank canvas, you come and create what ever masterpiece you chose. VSU offered me unique opportunities and challenges that provided me an environment to become a leader, a better individual, and a more focused student. VSU has taught me the power of being your true authentic self, and living in your purpose unapologetically. VSU has developed me professionally, through internship opportunities, leadership positions, and countless mentors. I’m grateful for the experience I’ve been offered so far.

Photo Credit: @mizellphotos

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

We have several initiatives that our SGA will produce this year, I’ll share two of them that I believe will be most impactful. VSU serves a great population of disabled students and we’ve received a lot of concerns about how accessible our campus is, so we’ve created a SGA workgroup, that will work to create a list recommendations to our campus administration, surrounding areas we should make more accessible. SGA has also been asked to provide feedback and recommendations to our institution on topics like retention, student engagement, and the overall student experience. We are creating recommendations that will improve the undergraduate, graduate, and online/non-traditional student experience altogether. I believe these two initiatives will serve a long lasting impact on our campus.

How is your SGA administration/school currently working on attending to the mental health of students?

SGA works very closely with VSU’s Health & Wellness department to provide support and recommendations surrounding mental health at VSU. We’ve partnered with them to host conversations, destress events, suicide awareness events and more.

Photo Credit: @valdostastate

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership to me means leading a group or organization to a place that will prove to be transformational for the individuals in the organization and the organization itself. I believe that leadership can change the leader, the followers, and the organization as well.

We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2022/2023?

I believe that schools should present to students a community that connects to their individual experiences and backgrounds. Students are drawn to places where they can see themselves reflected. Representation matters!

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

Being familiar with watch the yard, and their posts I notice that they always prove to celebrate, uplift, and empower Black students and college culture. We need spaces and environment where we celebrate black students and speaks to their student experience. Watch the Yard has created a powerful platform that myself and many others respect.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

My plan is to pursue a Masters of Public Policy, and pursue a career in public service and lawmaking.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Jalen Smith for his work as the SGA president of Valdosta State University.

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