In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Howard University and did an interview with Taylor Ellison 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. Ellison, who is majoring in Marketing, is a current senior.
We interviewed Ellison, 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?
As SGA President the most important lesson I have learned is selfless service. Oftentimes, as SGA President your work can go unnoticed or overlooked. All of the late nights creating proposals , pushing for policy , advocating for individual students and the student body as a whole can become tiring. That being said, the whole dynamic taught me a lot; I have learned to find reward in the small wins!
What made you decide to attend Howard University for undergrad?
To many, Howard University is a longstanding institution that is known for producing top Black talent across the world. To the few who have had the privilege of experiencing Howard , we know it as The Mecca. The Mecca is a home for students across the world to live and learn in Truth and Service. Its made up of past and present to produce the legacy we all know as Howard. Even before I was admitted I knew Howard University was one of the most special places in the world. I can’t help but laugh and smile when I think back on all the memories I’ve had on this campus in just four years, it really did become home and I am so proud to be a graduating senior.
How has Howard University molded you into the person you are today?
Howard Culture is something special that molds each student in its own unique way. Personally, I’ve been molded by the drive on campus — especially in School of Business. I am constantly striving to be the best, most resilient version of myself. Howard’s culture is unapologetic, it encouraged me to be bold and genuine in everything I do as a woman moving forward. Howard University has planted deep roots in my character which will forever guide me towards the calling of Truth & Service.
What specific initiatives have you headed up this year and how do you think they will improve the school and surrounding community?
Carrying out Our HBCU Day of Service initiative which encouraged students from HBCUs within the DMV area to participate in service activities as representatives of their respective institutions was one of our proudest moments. It is important that we celebrate acts of service in the hopes that it will drive others to become more active members of their campus communities and beyond. It was great to see the variety in service options too, we had students cleaning up popular areas on campus, assisting with food drives, volunteering with kids and even gardening with black owned urban greenhouses in D.C. There’s always work to be done and ways to give back, and I hope Howard’s student government continues to seek those opportunities and fill those voids. In part, that’s the goal of planning these large service projects, you hope to inspire others to include volunteerism in their lifestyle.
How is your school currently responding to the coronavirus and what is your SGA administration doing to help students?
The Howard University Student Association was essential in the University’s response. To start we searched and catalogued national academic responses in higher education across the U.S. This helped myself and our Chief of Staff, Kylie Burke, create and write a proposal for the University to utilize a pass/fail system complete with comparative policies already in practice. Our efforts along with others helped advise Howard leadership and the Academic Provost to enact Pass/Fail grade assessments with the option to request letter grades. Howard has also decided to issue partial housing refunds to students who were forced to leave campus due to COVID-19 precautions. Virtual tutoring sessions and online counseling options have been made available for our fellow students. For the beginning, our goal was to ensure an equitable solution was offered and we feel successful in that effort thanks to everyone involved. It’s clear that COVID-19 and the ensuing circumstances have distributed the lives of everyone, and it was crucial that the University accommodate and support students.
How is the coronavirus affecting SGA elections for next year?
Thankfully, the Howard University community was able to hold our general elections before the University was closed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. However runoff elections were held online after students were effectively off campus, momentum was not lost as candidates campaigned virtually and we were able to elect our future leaders. While these circumstances were less than ideal, we are excited to what the next year of Bison leadership will be able to accomplish.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership, especially as an HBCU leader, is the most rewarding act of service one can take on. To be a leader is to be an active listener, confidant and a friend to those you aim to serve. It is a privilege and an honor to be trusted to represent such a diverse, brilliant and dedicated student body, so to me leadership is a responsibility to do right.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2020?
It is imperative that schools exercise transparency in all of their digital communications, especially information meant to be consumed by the student body. Universities should provide fully interactive platforms that allow students to feel seen, heard, and accurately represented. At Howard we have administrators that reply to tweets, redirect concerns & answer questions timely; students notice and appreciate the kind of effort, it helps build a community that goes beyond the physically square miles of Howard. And now more than ever Universities are realizing how important that is.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture?
As an online platform that reaches students where they are and actively celebrates the accomplishments of our fellow HBCU students and alumni, Watch The Yard provides students with examples of what it truly means to be an active member of our respective communities. By celebrating all that it means to be an HBCU student, Watch The Yard not only broadcasts the culture for the world to see, but also allows us who live within it to feel seen and represented authentically.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
After graduation I will work for VISA in San Fransisco, California. I am excited to continue servant leadership in my new California community.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Taylor Ellison for her work as the SGA president of Howard University.