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Leadership Highlight: Jesmelia Williams the President of Delta Sigma Theta at the University of Southern Indiana

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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 Kappa Nu Chapter at the University of Southern Indiana and did an interview with Jesmelia Williams 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. 21-year-old Jesmelia Williams has used the position to gain new leadership experience, improve the lives of other students on campus and help the community around her.

We interviewed the Theatre and French double major 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?
The Kappa Nu City-Wide Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated established presence on the campuses of the University of Southern Indiana and the University of Evansville beginning on Sunday, May 6, 1973. With the positive presence of three of our charter members, along with the Evansville Alumnae Chapter, my presidency in this chapter has been fulfilling. To know that the support in this chapter reaches back for decades makes me feel like my challenges only lie in our commitment to progression. The role of chapter president varies upon need and location; it requires me to be steadfast in educating this community on the needs of the Black communities of USI and UE. I am so honored and excited for my work as president, and I am even more thankful for the support and collaboration I have with my sorors on campus.

What made you decide to attend the University of Southern Indiana for undergrad?
Moving to Evansville, Indiana from Montgomery, Alabama was a major life decision for me. After many people pressed the pursuit of a “practical” degree, I decided to follow my passion of performance and theatre, and the theatre department at the University of Southern Indiana is dynamic in its facilities and instruction. I was certain to receive experience with directors that I have never worked with before, so with a full ride offer, I knew I needed to take this uncomfortable opportunity for growth.

What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the campus/surrounding community?
Moving to Evansville, Indiana from Montgomery, Alabama was a major life decision for me. After many people pressed the pursuit of a “practical” degree, I decided to follow my passion of performance and theatre, and the theatre department at the University of Southern Indiana is dynamic in its facilities and instruction. I was certain to receive experience with directors that I have never worked with before, so with a full ride offer, I knew I needed to take this uncomfortable opportunity for growth.

What made you want to pledge Delta Sigma Theta?
The values of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated have been instilled in me throughout my childhood. Many of my aunts and older cousins exemplified what it meant to be a Delta Woman through their love for community service, emphasis on academics, and intentional actions to uphold familial love and understanding. Much to many people’s surprise, I was not encouraged or pressured to consider Delta as one of my life aspirations, but because it was so obvious to me that my ideals and vision for life were parallel with this beloved organization, I knew I would miss out on a growing experience and wonderful commitment if I passed up the opportunity to seek membership. The Kappa Nu City-Wide Chapter opened my eyes to new ways of teaching and helping develop the campuses surrounding me. I saw and read about the work that the Redz led before me, and my prayers that this was the right chapter for me to pledge through have been blessed.

What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
A city with demographics like Evansville, Indiana provides difficulty in ways that more diversely populated cities rarely have to face. Our first step always lies in the explicit educating of our students and faculty about the issues that affect the Black community. Only then can we successfully move forth in the problem-solving aspect that comes with our Delta work. The great challenge to break down blissful ignorance is a constant effort for each of our chapter members. Since each of our members are actively involved in other commitments across campus, we have witnessed the benefits of representing Delta everywhere we go and educating our peers every chance we get. I love watching my Sorors on campuses all over executing huge campus and community outreach events. My prayers for Kappa Nu are to positively impact our community with ways and numbers like never before, but we undoubtedly shine in the ways that we have helped our communities, even in our small numbers.

We now live in a digital world, what do you think undergraduate chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2018?
At my PWI (Predominantly White Institution), we come across students who have no idea what makes NPHC Organizations different from Panhellenic or IFC Organizations, and for the hundreds of members who never get to have a personal conversation to receive an understanding, the best way to reach them is through sending out email invitations, sharing events on FaceBook, and interacting on Instagram. Because of the impression that social media has built into our everyday lives, it has become even more important that we are conscious about the images we use to portray the organizations in our unified council. Social media platforms have also created an accessible form of sharing successes and ideas. Despite the negativity that floats throughout the Greek community on social media, I believe that if each individual member of an organization was intentional about using his or her platform for the betterment of the entire Greek community, undergraduate Greek organizations may experience less humility, and more opportunities for improvement.

What does leadership mean to you?
An explicit explanation given by Bill George comes to mind when I think about what leadership means to me: “Authentic leaders are real and genuine. They acknowledge their shortcomings and admit their errors, which enables them to connect with others and inspire teammates. Their leadership is built on their character and values, as they embrace the vital experiences that shape them, and are comfortable in their skin.” In shorter words, leadership encompasses the ability to listen to needs and desires and effectively apply them in a way that suffices the overall vision.

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard is the perfect example of the way our organizations should be presenting ourselves to the world through media. It uplifts everyone within the diverse Greek communities, educates people who are interested in learning more about Black Greeks, and takes every opportunity to present Greek unity as the standard of service and brotherhood/sisterhood.

What does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood in terms of Greek organizations refers to a bond between women who honor and love each other in truth. It requires us to intentionally consider the wellbeing of each sister as much as we are considerate of ourselves. It is truly amazing to watch women of totally different upbringings be bonded together under similar circumstances until reaching a point of effective communication, more selflessness than selfishness, and a genuine respect for one another. I have 4 sisters, but since joining Delta, I have gained a multitude; any time I am traveling, the love and respect from my Sorors, as a whole, gives truth to what it means to be in “the bond.” OO-OOP, my Sorors!

What do you plan on doing after graduation?
When taking on the journey towards a successful acting career, we must consider the environment we want to immerse ourselves into just as much as we consider the level of opportunity that surrounds us. My goal for this school term is to decide whether I want to pursue film or stage theatre of, if both, which one first. Right now, I am considering graduate school for theatre and performance therapy. Just check back in two years to see how far God has brought me.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Jesmelia Williams for her work as the president of Kappa Nu Chapter.

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