This article and interview is sponsored by ETS and the GRE® General Test and done in collaboration with Watch The Yard. Click here to learn more about the benefits of taking the GRE® General Test.
In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard teamed up with the ETS and the GRE® General Test and reached out to Aaliyah Williams the Student Government Association president of Saint Augustine’s University for an interview about campus leadership.
The position of SGA president of an HBCU is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Williams, who is majoring in Sport Management, is a current senior and a Fall 2020 initiate of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. She is also the women’s team captain Saint Augustine’s University’s Cycling Team, the first HBCU cycling team.
We interviewed Williams, and talked to her about her tenure as SGA president, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in 2021.
Read the full interview below.
What is the biggest thing you’ve learned as an SGA president so far?
The biggest thing I learned about being SGA president is to always put the students first because without the students, I would not be in the position I am today. With that being said, everything that I push for, I learned to think of the students first because they are the ones who will be ultimately effected in the present and future.
What made you decide to attend Saint Augustine’s University for undergrad?
I actually did not choose SAU, it kind of chose me. Before I attended SAU, I attended 2 PWIs. I obtained my associates at the University of West Florida and then went to Florida State University for a year. Ironically, I was at a family cookout and my uncle, Tim Chavous, head football coach at SAU at the time asked me if I still wanted to continue playing basketball. With me being who I am, I quickly saw an opportunity and jumped at it. Within the next 2 weeks I was moving into my room, ready to continue my education at my very first HBCU.
How has Saint Augustine’s University molded you into the person you are today?
Saint Augustines Universtiy has molded me into a patient person. Patient in a sense where it helped me realize that nothing will ever be handed to me, I will always have to go out and work for what I feel will make me successful. It has taught me that even though I share love and leadership with my classmates, we are still competing for jobs and internships after graduation. With that being said, I have learned that I should never strive to be better than anyone, the only person I should strive to be better than, is myself.
Being that I am the womens team captain of the FIRST HBCU Cycling Team, it showed me that I can bring something from literally nothing and let it bring me success because it is something the team and I worked hard to build.
What specific initiatives have you headed up this year and how do you think they will improve the school and surrounding community?
Being that this year was altered by a pandemic, it was hard to push for certain initiatives. My main goal was just to make sure the students felt both comfortable and safe on campus to attend classes. I think this will improve the schools image because it shows that the University is willing to adjust to our students safety.
How is your school currently responding to the coronavirus and what is your SGA administration doing to help students?
SAU is really consistent with following the guidelines that North Carolina sets in place. We have devices in high traffic areas such as the cafe and library to keep up with students daily temperatures. We have mandatory COVID-testing every 2 weeks and we even partnered up to participate in the distribution of the vaccine.
As SGA leaders, we do our best to make sure every student participates in these events for their safety and the students around them. We also have implemented “wellness day”, so students can take a mental health day from all of their work due to the fact that the pandemic has limited us to no spring break vacation.
What does leadership mean to you?
In my opinion, leadership means a few different things. I think it means you bring others around you up , show them that I believe in them more than they believe in themselves. Being a great leader means supporting others and making them more productive and effective to help them succeed in the future. It’s tough being a leader sometimes, but when you help someone find their purpose, it honestly makes me feel like I am fulfilling my own purpose in helping others. Lastly, leadership means you trust and respect those that you work with, even when things get hard. Being a student-leader-athlete (basketball and cycling), leadership means to always make sacrifices for yourself and the people you chose to be a leader for.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2021?
I think schools should reach out to the younger demographics via Facebook, Twitter , and Instagram. Younger kids are visually struck and schools should just make sure their media is up to date and thriving at all times to spark interests to recruit students.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture?
I believe “Watch The Yard” is important to black students because it gives a clear insight on what to expect on a HBCU campus and what the culture is like. Ever since I have followed them on Instagram, I have came across some of the most creative individuals in the HBCU culture.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
After graduation I have a couple different options. I am applying to 4 different grad school sport management programs(Harvard, Columbia, Florida State, FAMU). I am currently a mentee for the NFL and they are focused on putting me into a paid junior rotational program (through Columbia University) and offering me a job of my choice by the end of the program. I also have a job offer at a middle school to be a P.E. teacher, girls basketball coach, and Assistant Athletic Director. In all honesty, I plan to continue to pray for new beginnings, but also choose something where I know my purpose will be fulfilled.
Why do you think it is important to take the GRE® General Test?
I believe it is important for potential graduates who plan on going to grad school to take the GRE because it opens up a lot of opportunities. More grad schools would actually start reaching out to you and it definitely would allow students to get more scholarship money (a free degree is the best degree). So, don’t go in thinking it’s just another test, go in thinking it’s another resource to make sure you continue to be successful while furthering your education.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Aaliyah Williams for her work as the SGA president of Saint Augustine’s University.