In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Fisk University and did an interview with Sydnei Patton 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. Patton, who is majoring in Psychology & Spanish, is a current senior and a Fall 2019 initiate of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
We interviewed Patton, 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 that I’ve learned as the SGA President is that you should never take support for granted and never take criticism too personally. There will always be nay-sayers. Your reaction to criticism is what will determine how great of a leader you will be. Throughout my tenure as president I have worked extremely hard to make each student’s “Fisk Experience” positive and life-changing. My cabinet has made changes for the benefit of the student body. However, there are always those few people who think you should have done something differently. My presidency has taught me that no leader has a 100% approval rate, and one shouldn’t expect to have everyone’s support. However, my phenomenal Vice President Jose, and the rest of my cabinet always had my back. As a cabinet we only did what was best for the student body.
What made you decide to attend Fisk University for undergrad?
I decided to attend Fisk University for undergrad because of the family environment. After going on a campus tour as a volleyball recruit during high school, I knew this was the place for me. From the moment I stepped on campus, I was treated like part of the Fisk family. Fisk is a small HBCU with less than 1000 students. I knew that I would be able to thrive at this university because of the student to teacher ratio and the personal attention that Fisk offers. Another aspect that caught my eye was the rich history of Fisk University. Every HBCU has history but the stories about the Fisk Jubilee Singers and W.E.B. Dubois are unmatched. I wanted to attend a university with more to offer than an amazing homecoming. Fisk was the perfect fit for me with athletics, academics, and the family environment.
How has Fisk University molded you into the person you are today?
Fisk University has truly made me the woman that I am today. To begin, Fisk has shown me the importance of family. Through my participation on the Women’s Volleyball Team, Women’s Basketball Team, and Student Government Association, I have learned what it means to be a family. The students at Fisk may disagree sometimes but at the end of the day each “Fiskite” knows that we will always protect and love one another. Throughout my matriculation at Fisk, I have never felt alone. My university is made of up students who will stand by your side through ups and downs. Fisk University has also molded me into a professional woman. With our “Dress for Success” initiative and other programs, Fisk ensures that each students understands how to look, act, and present themselves in a professional environment. Fisk University prepared me for the “Real World.”
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 that I created was our Administrative Town Hall meetings. Of course most schools have town hall meetings or something similar, but our Town Hall Meetings are unique. My cabinet hosted monthly Town Hall meetings for the students that included our administration. Each month our University President, Vice Presidents, and student body attended the meetings. This allowed students to ask questions face to face with our leaders. Before I was elected, the biggest complaint from the student body was that there was no communications between students and administration. My goal was to bridge this gap. The Town Hall meetings provided a space for students to voice their concerns about anything and gives the Administration the opportunity to be transparent with each answer. These were very successful and it built trust between the students and the University Administration.
How is your school currently responding to the coronavirus and what is your SGA administration doing to help students?
In response to the coronavirus, all students have been moved off campus for their safety. Fisk has done its best to ensure that online learning is just as effective as it would’ve been in a classroom setting. My university has also continued to keep essential offices working from home so that students can contact these offices with questions and concerns. One thing that my SGA administration has done is held online Town Hall meetings for University Administration to explain changes to students and answer questions. We have also continued to host events online so that Fiskites are still socializing with one another in a safe way. Lastly, we helped to ensure that students who were unable to fund their trips back home had access to our University’s emergency fund.
How is the coronavirus affecting SGA elections for next year?
When Fisk University decided to begin online learning, we were in the middle of Student Election Week. Fortunately, most of the candidates had a chance to host their events. However, we were not able to host the “Miss Fisk Pageant”. In order to complete election week, the pageant was conducted online through Zoom and Instagram live. Each contestant was able to complete all parts of the pageant as if it were in person. We were able to making voting online for current Fisk students and the new SGA and Royal Court was elected!
What does leadership mean to you?
To me, leadership means having the ability to make a positive impact and change for the greater good of those around you. Leadership can come in many forms and there is no exact definition of what leadership should look like. I do not believe you need a title to be a leader, but you do need passion, drive, and your “why”. Your “why” is what motivates you to influence others and stand up for what you believe is right. There must be a reason for every decision or change a leader makes. Ultimately, leadership is using your “why” to make the world a better place.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2020?
Universities should continue to use current students as their main form of recruitment and representation. Having video testimonials online and on social media is an efficient way to show the impact that a University has on its students. Although prospective students look at a University’s past, the school’s current situation is most important. The public wants to see what life is like at a particular school and the best way to demonstrate this is through the eyes of current students. Also, it is imperative that Universities stay up to date on their official websites and on social media. Too often, the websites are difficult to navigate and social media is months behind. A consistent internet presence will help any University represent themself.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture?
Watch The Yard and other HBCU based media is extremely important to Black students and college culture. It allows people who are not in an HBCU environment to see how phenomenal our Universities are. It also encourages future college students to become part of the HBCU family and Greek family. Watch The Yard is a great source for positive images of educated Black men and women which is exactly what America needs.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
After graduation, I will be pursuing a master’s degree in education. I plan on having a career in student affairs at a University. My ultimate goal is to become the President of an HBCU.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Sydnei Patton for her work as the SGA president of Fisk University.