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Leadership Highlight: Ja’Viania Conley The President of Delta Sigma Theta at Southern Illinois University Carbondale

In an effort to highlight the young leaders who are leading undergraduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the women of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.’s Zeta Chi Chapter at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and did an interview with Ja’Viania Conley the president of the chapter.

The position of president of an undergraduate chapter of a Black sorority is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. 23-year-old Ja’Viania Conley has used the position to gain new leadership experience, improve the lives of other students on campus and help the community around him.

We interviewed the Sports Administration major, Marketing minor and talked about her position, goals, future and what it means to hold a leadership position on campus in the digital age.

Read the full interview below.

What does it mean to be a chapter president to you?
Being the president of the Oh So Fly Zeta Chi chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. is absolutely an honor. I am able to carry the torch for our chapter and work together with my sisters to create, share, and inspire our campus. As president you have to be open to all ideas and respect others opinions even when you don’t want too. Upon coming into this position one thing I promised that I wouldn’t do, was going into this as a dictator but as a sister who leads. This position has opened up so many doors for me as well as taught me how to be a true leader.

Photo by @im_zackturner

What made you decide to attend Southern Illinois University Carbondale for undergrad?
To be completely honest Southern Illinois University Carbondale was my absolute last choice. It felt like fate brought us together because I was trying my best to get into a HBCU. I ended up committing to Southern Illinois University Carbondale because I didn’t want to be behind in the college process. Just weeks after committing, I got accepted into the HBCU school that I wanted to go too but it was too late. My time at Southern Illinois University has been life changing. The university has shaped me into a leader for the future, attentive student, role model, and an overall great friend.

What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the campus/surrounding community?
This year my chapter and I wanted to definitely touch on mental health, financial stability, and life after graduation. Of course we still have initiatives nationally that we have and will continue to put on for the campus community to improve academic success, self love, and public service. Our campus has changed dramatically so we must change how we put on events which we have exceed in so far. Last year I had people who came out to our events write down what they wanted to see from us for next year. I felt if we had their opinions about events and put them on, it would help bring out others to our events. It worked we took the ideas and made them ours. I really appreciate the support we receive from other organizations on campus and hope to continue to improve our campus and surrounding community.

What made you want to pledge Delta Sigma Theta?
Growing up I was surrounded by different Greeks but never knew what they stood for. Everything was just a color to me, then I was introduced to the names of these orgs and seen first hand them giving back to the community. I never had the best relationship with my mom after my dad had passed, which drew me closer to my dance instructor Florence Walker-Harris. Dancing was my escape and when I met Florence she was open and always there for me when I needed her. When I was feeling down she insured me that everything would be okay and if I needed a place to stay she would open her doors to me. When I got a chance to go to New York with her through my dance studio I opened up to her and was so happy that I was given the opportunity to even go on the trip. She made all of the girls feel like real sisters because we had to be accountable for one another. I broke down because the feeling felt good and made me feel whole again. I never really knew what the letters she wore meant but she always wore them and carried them in a positive way. It made me realize that it’s bigger than me and that I am not only doing this for myself but I’m doing this for others. Which made me want to pledge Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Inc. when I got on campus.

What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Our close connection with a few of our charter members is what makes our chapter unique. This is something that I find really cool because it is a difference between learning about someone and meeting them face to face. Their support for our chapter is truly amazing. They set the bar for us to make sure we are doing what’s needed from us as a chapter. Which I feel helps push us to be strong African American leaders in all aspects of life. I truly believe the love that they have for our chapter has been seen through all generations of the Zeta Chi chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and will continue to be seen for years to come.

We now live in a digital world, what do you think undergraduate chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2019?
I personally feel as though chapters are doing a good job with their online representation. Of course there is always ways to improve our presence on a positive note. Thanks to social media we are able to network better and use our social media pages to reach out and share events that we have. It all starts with supporting each other online instead of tearing each other down. On that note we need to start sharing our events more than our parties we host. Our organizations events are just as important than our parties. The digital world allows us to share events, community service projects, and keep everyone in the world updated on what we are doing for our campus and community. We need to show the world how involved we really are and that it’s more to us all. We shouldn’t take this outlet for granted we can really do a lot with our social media presence as a whole if we stay focused on a common goal.

What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership to me means that you are learning to be a leader as well as fellowship. You can’t dictate when you lead because you will get nowhere. A leaders job is to create a vision for the future, motivate others to see their full potential, and build their team up to achieve the vision. While running a chapter you must motivate others, when everyone is motivated and on the same page it is hard to fail. The one who does not know the word “give up” is a true leader. Knowing the difference between right or wrong is a true leader. One who seizes every opportunity and converts them into success is a true leader. Most importantly leadership means to be transparent at all times.

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
I believe that Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom because the content that is posted outshines the negative outlook upon Black greeks. Not once will you see this page shaming someone or allowing the Divine Nine Greeks to look deranged. The content is always positive, shinning light on the Greeks who work hard to fulfill the commitments they have made to their Fraternity/Sorority. You are able to stay up to date on the latest step shows, probates, public service acts, and a lot of history. Watch The Yard truly does an amazing job unifying the D9 and you can’t find anything like this anywhere else.

What does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood to me means that you will go above and beyond for the people you call your sister whether on good or bad terms. I can lean on all my sisters to help me get through tough times as well as the good. Being able to be around like minded women who come from different backgrounds but will put their pride aside to serve a better cause is the reason why we are Delta women. We learn from each other, we lift each other up, and hold each other accountable. Which is one thing that I love about the bond we all have. It’s a connection that is deeper than words and full of history. It’s courageous, beautiful, strong women making a difference.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?
After graduation, I plan on attending Northern Illinois University to pursue my Master’s Degree in Digital Marketing. I believe that the Digital Marketing program and Northern Illinois University is a great fit for me because of the matching values of success and education we both share. They both go hand and hand, with technology advancing in the way that is it, why not go for something that I am passionate about. Studying abroad gave me a glimpse of how marketing works as well as my current marketing intern experience with Southern Illinois University Saluki athletics team. My goals for graduate school and beyond is to position myself into being professionally disciplined, grow my portfolio, networking, and working for a Chicago sports team.

Photo by @im_zackturner

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Ja’Viania Conley for her work as the president of Zeta Chi Chapter which has a long legacy that spans back to 1969.

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