In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Morehouse College and did an interview with John P. Bowers III 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. John P. Bowers III, who is majoring in Economics, is a current senior.
We interviewed Bowers, 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?
The biggest thing I’ve learned is that the fight of equality and justice from a student standpoint. It is a subject that never sleeps, and in that, you have to continually be forwarding thinking not to allow the unimaginable to become the unthought-of reality. This is accomplished by consistent planning and the virtue of patience in regards to your fellow officers. The phrase that sums this all up for me is “chess, not checkers.” This symbolizes the mentality that you must possess never to let the unknown outcome become the obstacle that sinks the ship.
What made you decide to attend Morehouse College for undergrad?
My mother, State Representative Rhetta Andrews Bowers, is also a Spelman Alumna. With this said from a young age, I knew about the Atlanta University Center and Morehouse College. However, my original thought was that I was going to attend the University of Texas at Austin. This sentiment changed when a Morehouse Man named Bryant X. Phelps came into my life and suggested I go to Morehouse several years after my mother first mentioned the institution to me in the 3rd grade. The realization came to me that I wanted to go to Morehouse after I attended Admitted Students Weekend in the spring of 2016. When I returned from that trip to Atlanta, I said I wanted to be SGA President at Morehouse college to show I had the leadership capacity to lead an entire institution. Instead of the alternative of being looked at as the leader of the minority students at a predominately white institution.
How has Morehouse College molded you into the person you are today?
Morehouse College has molded me into the person I am today by instilling in me the school motto “et facta est lux.” This translates to, and there was light, the lessons learned here mold you to take on the dark or evil places in the world and be confident that you can bring upon change to every injustice. Along with the school’s mission statement being “The mission of Morehouse College is to develop men with disciplined minds who will lead lives of leadership and service.” This continually reminds me of my obligation to the service of the black community and to give back just as was given to me. This is essentially how Morehouse has molded me into the person I am today by letting the schools’ teachings and traditions reside within me and develop me on my path from being a man of Morehouse to becoming a Morehouse Man.
What specific initiatives have you headed up this year and how do you think they will improve the school and surrounding community?
This year the Indelible Administration of Morehouse SGA has headed several initiatives such as Being Black Is Not A Trend, Project Footprint, Campus Improvement, and Morehouse Save, Our Students. These are just a few, but Being Black Is Not A Trend was intentionally created to improve the inner campus community on the subject of mental health. The specific target was the subject of being black in modern-day America and how to destroy negative stereotypes surrounding young black men. This initiative led to the implementation of an annual SGA led mental health week that will take place every year from here on out. Project Footprint focused primarily on the footprint that Morehouse has in the west end Atlanta community. In regard to this, we visited and hosted different Atlanta Public School system students to give them a closer look into what college and Morehouse are all about. Campus Improvement is essentially the name, this year alone, we completely renovated our on-campus library Douglass hall and brought an entirely new barbecue restaurant onto campus as a new food option for students. Next year on this list, King Chapel, our school’s most significant gathering space will be completely renovated as well. Lastly, Morehouse Save Our Students, this initiative is currently taking place as it is our main effort in fighting for our students in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
How is your school currently responding to the coronavirus and what is your SGA administration doing to help students?
Morehouse is currently responding by setting all the prevention tactics into play. The school has begun online remote learning as well as the clearing campus of all students that were in residential halls. The Institution also has been putting together an emergency relief fund for students in need of lodging, travel, and meals. Now for what the SGA is doing, we have started Morehouse Save, Our Students. This body of work began with the monetary contribution of a portion of our budget to ensure that students could travel safely away from campus. Secondly, for the senior class, it dealt with finding an alternative time to hold commencement, which was scheduled for May 17th, 2020, is now taking place on December 13th, 2020. Thirdly, the ongoing discussion of a grading policy change to ensure student success while facing an unexpected pandemic. As an SGA, we were able to adopt a pass/fail option policy for students to have control over there own academic destiny. Currently, the grading policy is still in question as to the student body as started a petition requesting the college to shift the grading policy to a universal pass A-C grading scale.
How is the coronavirus affecting SGA elections for next year?
Here at Morehouse, the coronavirus isn’t affecting our SGA elections for next year at all. This movement to hold an earlier election came in collaboration with my Vice President Alexander Cherry as we discussed different issues that would face the college in the year to come. The President and Vice President-Elect are Cameron Markell Nolan and Gabriel Cloud for the 2020-2021 academic year. Having the two of them in place has been beneficial as the two of them have been front and center in helping without current coronavirus relief efforts. However, the SGA election wasn’t touched, but the Miss Maroon & White pageant to determine our next campus royal court has been delayed until next semester.
What does leadership mean to you?
When I think about this question, a quote by Warren Bennis comes to mind that states, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” This is precisely what leadership is to me, along with being able to be a tremendous follower. Leadership is the unique middle ground between imagination and reality. In that, you must combine time management, strategy, and communication skills to develop a course of action all while bringing others up alongside you, because success is much sweeter when teamwork is involved.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2020?
In embracing the normal of online engagement, merely is thinking student first always. Schools should focus not only on building a bigger digital footprint, but also strive to attain better resources for students who aren’t able to transition smoothly. In thinking that this abrupt change can truly change the life trajectory of so many students, so it is imperative that schools put the best foot forward to educate and provide for the leaders of tomorrow continually. One suggestion is to start hiring younger communications professionals. That people in closer age to the student population will be more able to target the student body via different social media platforms and services that aren’t your student email, which can become very cumbersome.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture?
I believe that Watch The Yard is essential to the college culture because it brings upon a sense of unity amongst all-black college students. This unity gives us the network of all HBCU’s and Watch The Yard serves as that bridge between all institutions; that is why it’s Imperative not just important.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
After graduation soon, I will be starting a full-time role with JP Morgan Chase & Co. In the sports entertainment marketing division. That isn’t all for my plans after graduation as I also plan to pursue my MBA and JD at a top tier program after finishing a few years in the workforce.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend John P. Bowers III for his work as the SGA president of Morehouse College.