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Leadership Highlight: Tennessee State University’s SGA President Katelyn Thompson

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate universities  across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Tennessee State University and did an interview with Katelyn Thompson 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. Thompson, who is majoring in Criminal Justice & Psychology, is a current senior and a Spring 2018 initiate of Delta Sigma Theta.

We interviewed Thompson, 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 as SGA President so far is being patient. This is due to the fact that I was not only SGA President but also the president of the Alpha Chi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. While patience is an essential leadership attribute, it also demands skills more often associated with management. Our ability to lead patiently requires us to manage the situations in which we find ourselves. You have to understand the situation and establish the facts. How important is this problem? How urgent is its resolution? You must leverage your skills and the skills of others to gain an understanding of the situation you face. Also, Have the patience to create your plan then to execute your plan on schedule. Lastly, be prepared to respond to the unexpected. Nothing ever goes as planned. Unforeseen events are always a test of patience, and so we must have plans that enable us to respond.

What made you decide to attend Tennessee State University for undergrad? 

I decided to attend Tennessee State University for undergrad because of its culture. TSU has been empowering for the HBCU culture in the state of Tennessee. With this unique location in Nashville, TN and its prestigious alumni was a strategic move for my future endeavors. By being an Memphis native I grew up knowing about TSU and wanted to continue on the legacy.

How has Tennessee State University molded you into the person you are today?

Since entering Tennessee State University as a first year student in Fall 2016, I’ve been on a journey to BECOME a student leader poised to lead a revolution of change that will not only impact current students, but future students who will become tigers. Through my matriculation, I’ve trained to lead this University community through my multiple involvement. Becoming an involved student leader, has not only strengthen my love for my HBCU, but also, pushed me to seek opportunities to use my authentic voice for the positive progress of TSU and myself.

In March of 2019, I took a leap of faith and did something that would allow me to serve TSU using all the attributes TSU has poured into me, that aided me in becoming the woman I am today. I ran for the 79th SGA President over the last year, I have worked endlessly to ensure that TSU could become everything it is destined to become.

“For every door that’s been opened to me, I’ve tried to open my door to others. And here is what I have to say, finally: Let’s invite one another in….It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about where you get yourself in the end. There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.” – Michelle Obama

What specific initiatives have you headed up this year and how do you think they will improve the school and surrounding community?

Beginning of the fall semester I implemented Tiger TV. The purpose of tiger tv is to display news as well as upcoming events for our student organizations and student entrepreneurs. With Tiger TV it falls under what I call Tiger Tuesday as I changed our spirit day from Friday to Tuesday, that initiative increased our student moral. Another initiative I worked diligently toward was to improve transportation and communication between our students and shuttle drivers. After several months of planning and taking action, I was able to release an app specifically for TSU students who utilize the shuttles. This app is titled BusWhere. Buswhere allows students to track the shuttles on their cellular devices so that they are able to gain an approximate arrival time. As a result this app has allowed for a more efficient and effective experience for our campus. Lastly, raising money to have our first bronze tiger statue. Having this addition to our campus will not only increase student engagement through institutional pride but it will also add to the beautification of our beloved campus as well as assist with enrollment and retention.

How is your school currently responding to the coronavirus and what is your SGA administration doing to help students?

Tennessee State University has responded in the best way possible to have students finish the year successfully even with the mist this global pandemic taking place. The Redefined 79th Administration has been working extremely hard to accommodate students. Our first mission I pushed for us to fight was graduation. We were able to have university officials postpone graduation instead of cancel. We have been in constant communication with university officials whether its been about grades, refunds, and housing. For example, we have supplied laptops to students and continuous housing for those in need while providing food. Also, we have had virtual programs to keep students engaged and school spirit alive. This includes, courtyard Wednesday, spirit week, fit challenges, and TSU virtual preview day just to name a view. Our administration is the definition for redefined meaning to be reexamined for the purpose of change. The purpose being a student leader poised to lead a revolution of change that will not only impact current students, but future students who will attend Tennessee State University.

How is the coronavirus affecting SGA elections for next year? 

Due to COVID-19, SGA elections will be postponed until the fall. When everyone returns from school elections will be the next following week. This is new to us as now the upcoming freshman will be campaigning with the rest of the classes. Usually, we have elections and then the freshman will have freshman elections when school starts. This is actually a positive moment for the entire university as it leads to no vaccinates and having SGA start together and ending together creating even more unity.

What does leadership mean to you?

While being in the Air Force, I learned through Lieutenant Colonel Presley about leadership as she provided us readings from John C. Maxwell. “Leadership is Influence, nothing more, nothing less.” – John C. Maxwell. A leader is someone who is compassionate, patient, a person with integrity, confident, and a leader betters their environment. A leader understands in order to connect and better their environment, they must first know self. A leader not only helps position themselves for success but the people around them as well. In order to lead, you must first learn to follow.

We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2020?

I think a lot of schools are already doing a great job of representing online. If you look at most of our HBCUs they are hosting amazing virtual programs and some are even holding their Student Government elections online, and that’s going great. They are representing for their schools in a fantastic way.

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture? 

I think Watch The Yard is important because of it highlights on all the positive amazing things that our black men and women are doing. Watch the Yard allows everyone around the nation to see what are kings and queens are doing not only educationally but personally as well. This allows others to have inspiration to continue on the black legacies.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

After graduation I will continue my education at Tennessee State’s Graduates Program. While also continue to build relationships with university officials and alumni. This will lead me to better my endeavors in public administration.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Katelyn Thompson for his work as the SGA president of Tennessee State University.

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