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Leadership Highlight: Cheyney University of Pennsylvania’s SGA President Niya Simone Danzy-Ghaffaar

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and did an interview with Niya Simone Danzy-Ghaffaar the 2022-2023 Student Government Association president.

The position of SGA president is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes in being elected by their peers to lead. Danzy-Ghaffaar, who is majoring in Hotel, Restaurant, Tourism Management, is from Philadelphia. She is a proud Spring 2022 initiate of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

We interviewed Danzy-Ghaffaar, and talked to her about her position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in 2022-2023.

Read the full interview below.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned as an SGA president so far?

The biggest thing I have learned as SGA President is how to unbiasedly assess tough situations to create fair, equitable, and valuable solutions. Often when challenges arise in student government, there are many aspects to the situation that must be assessed to conclude the best possible solution. SGA has taught me to always think with the big picture and small priorities in mind.

What made you decide to attend Cheyney University of Pennsylvania for undergrad?

Other than the fact that Cheyney University of Pennsylvania is the first historically black college/university with 185 years of rich history and successful Black graduates, I decided to attend Cheyney University because she offered me the opportunity of a lifetime. I was awarded the Keystone Honors scholarship which is a merit-based scholarship that covers my full tuition, room, board, and textbooks. I knew that graduating with no debt would put me ahead of the curve in the career field I aspire to be in. I also chose Cheyney because it is my mother, MarQuita L. Danzy’s, alma mater. It is an honor for me to walk the same paths as my biggest role model and inspiration and to continue her legacy.

How has Cheyney University of Pennsylvania molded you into the person you are today?

Cheyney has molded me into even more of a handworker. Cheyney is a place where anything is possible, any goal achievable, but you must put in the hard work that is required. I do not want the bare minimum for my university and my administration, so Cheyney has taught me how to continuously strive to achieve more. She taught me how to not just accept the bare minimum out of anyone or anything but how to surpass all expectations. Cheyney has molded me to always fight for what is right and to do so in a manner that is respectful and impactful. I know that the lessons and skills I learn here are preparing me for my life and career after college.

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

My main initiative as SGA President for my university is to provide the best college experience to my fellow students. I strive to improve the students’ everyday lives so that their complete experience is something worth having pride in. With that, we support any campus organization in any way we can. We provide student organizations with monetary stipends to support their continued success. We also have made our administration one that is present and dependable by proving that we will be there for students and student organizations when called upon. In addition, we ensure that we train other campus leaders so that their organizations can reach their full potential. If our campus feels supported by our administration, then we are improving the functionality of our community.

How is your SGA administration/school currently working on attending to the mental health of students?

Our administration is working on tending to the mental health of our students by ensuring that our campus is a home away from home for them. We strive to ensure that every student has a place to fit in here and that we support them by supporting their interests and goals for their college experience. Cheyney’s campus is separated from the surrounding community and city so it can often feel like a completely different world. We work to make sure that this campus is a community and that students have the proper resources to be successful in college and after college.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership to me means being adaptable to all situations. There is not one perfect way to lead but the best way to lead is to use the strengths and areas of growth of any group of people to achieve a common goal. Leadership does not mean that you are always at the forefront of something but that you are always a constant dependable support.

We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2022/2023?

Now that we live in a digital world, universities need to be active and present on different social media platforms to accurately represent themselves. Social media is an amazing way to highlight the history, community, and vision of any university. It is also a way to attract and recruit new students for the sustainability of the campus. Here at Cheyney, our history is rich as we are the first Historically Black College/University. Our community is vast because our beloved alumni never cease being invested in the success of Cheyney. And our collected vision is only one of prosperity for Cheyney and all students that walk across her historic Quad.

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

Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture because it is another platform for black excellence. It proves that there is endless success within the Black experience and that we as the Black community are thriving, growing, leading, and becoming the reference points in so many areas and arenas where we have been oppressed and marginalized in the past. We are educated, breaking generational curses, and redefining and reclaiming pride in our culture and history. Watch The Yard promotes all of that and so much more.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

After graduation I plan to continue my education by attending graduate school. I also plan to invest in real estate. I will continue to be a voice for my people, my community and will continue advancing as a leader.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Niya Simone Danzy-Ghaffaar for her work as the SGA president of Cheyney University of Pennsylvania.

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