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Leadership Highlight

Leadership Highlight: Auburn University at Montgomery’s SGA President Sierra Powell

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Auburn University at Montgomery and did an interview with Sierra Powell the 2023-2024 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. Powell, who is majoring in Social Work, is from Montgomery.

We interviewed Sierra Powell, and talked to her about her position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in 2023-2024.

Read the full interview below.

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

Serving as the SGA president has been an enlightening journey, filled with valuable lessons that have shaped my perspective and leadership style. Among these lessons, the most significant one that has deeply resonated with me is the importance of standing up for what you believe in, even when it feels like you’re standing alone.

In the role of SGA president, you often find yourself making decisions that affect the entire student body. These decisions can sometimes be unpopular or controversial, and it can be easy to sway to the pressure of public opinion. However, it’s crucial to remember that the role of a leader is not to please everyone, but to make the best decisions for the greater good.

This has taught me that standing alone is not a sign of isolation, but rather a testament to your courage and conviction. It’s about staying true to your principles and values, even when faced with adversity. It’s about having the strength to make tough decisions, regardless of the potential backlash.

In conclusion, serving as SGA president has been a transformative experience, teaching me the importance of resilience, conviction, and the courage to stand alone when necessary. It’s a lesson that goes beyond the confines of the SGA office and applies to every aspect of life.

What made you decide to attend Auburn University at Montgomery for undergrad?

As a non-traditional student, the decision to resume my academic journey six years after high school was a significant one. Among the multitude of colleges and universities, choosing Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM) felt like a natural choice for me.

Coming to college as a single mom presented certain challenges, but AUM was incredibly accommodating. They provided me with the opportunity to live on campus with my daughter, which was a major factor in my decision to attend.

The moment I set foot on the AUM campus, I was immediately drawn in by its vibrant and engaging atmosphere. It felt like a home away from home, providing a nurturing environment that supported not only my academic growth but also my personal development.

How has Auburn University at Montgomery molded you into the person you are today?

If you had told me back in June 2021 that I , a single mom and a high school dropout, that I would accomplish all that I have, I would have been skeptical. Yet, here I stand today, not only graduating a year early but also having served as the Vice President of the Student Veteran Association, the Campus Activity Board Director, and culminating my journey as the SGA President.

Throughout my time at AUM, I have faced the loss of three of my grandfathers, my stepfather, and my auntie. These personal challenges have shaped me, teaching me resilience and the importance of perseverance.

AUM has molded me into a person who never gives up, who continues to believe in the goodness of people despite adversity. It has shaped me into a fighter who is not afraid to challenge the status quo if it means advocating for what’s right.

In essence, AUM has played a pivotal role in shaping my character, instilling in me a strong sense of resilience, leadership, and unwavering belief in my abilities. It has transformed me into a stronger, wiser, and better woman, ready to face the challenges of the future.

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?

As part of my legacy project, I am planning to upgrade the laundry facilities in our dorms. The current setup, with a single washer and dryer per floor, can be quite inconvenient for our students in the courtyard dorms. By replacing these machines, we can ensure a more efficient and less stressful laundry experience for all.

In addition to this, I am also keen on initiating a program in collaboration with the administration at AUM. This program would provide childcare assistance for our single parent students during their class hours. This initiative is designed to offer our aspiring educators valuable hands-on experience in a classroom setting, all while being conveniently located on campus.

By relieving the stress of arranging adequate childcare, we can support our parent students in focusing more on their academic pursuits. This initiative aims to create a more balanced and supportive environment for all students, particularly those juggling parental responsibilities alongside their studies.

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

Our administration is actively addressing the mental health needs of our students by providing free on-campus counseling services. This initiative ensures that our students have easy access to professional mental health support, which is crucial in managing the pressures of college life.

In addition to counseling services, our honor society has established a food pantry on campus. This pantry provides students with free food and personal hygiene products daily. While this may seem like a simple solution, it significantly reduces the financial stress associated with maintaining basic needs, thereby contributing to improved mental well-being.

We also organize self-care events throughout the semester. These events provide students with opportunities to relax, unwind, and focus on their well-being amidst their busy schedules.

Personally, I maintain an open-door policy for all students. Regardless of the issue at hand, students can approach me knowing they will be heard, understood, and supported. This policy ensures that no student feels alone in their struggles, reinforcing the message that they always have someone on their side. In essence, our administration is committed to creating a supportive and inclusive environment that prioritizes the mental health of our students.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership, in my perspective, is about making a tangible difference in the lives of others. It’s about standing firm in your convictions, even when faced with opposition, and never backing down from your goals. It’s about demonstrating resilience amidst adversity and having the courage to challenge the status quo if it means fighting for what’s right. Leadership also encompasses creating an inclusive environment where every voice matters.

In essence, leadership to me is about leaving a lasting positive impact, being a champion for those who might not have a voice, and continuously striving to make things better for those around me. It’s about creating a legacy that continues to inspire and uplift others long after I’ve moved on.

We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2023/2024?

I am confident that our school is currently making substantial strides in enhancing its online presence. However, I believe there is always room for growth and improvement. One area where we could focus our efforts is on increasing our visibility on various social media platforms.

By actively engaging with our students and the wider community on these platforms, we can foster a stronger sense of connection and belonging. This not only helps to promote our school’s image and values but also provides a platform for our students to share their experiences, achievements, and aspirations.

Involving our students more actively in managing and curating our online presence would also be a valuable step. This could include tasks such as moderating social media pages, creating content, or even brainstorming ideas for future initiatives. By giving our students a voice in this process, we can ensure that our online presence truly reflects the diverse and vibrant community that we are proud to be a part of.

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

“Watch The Yard,” plays a crucial role in the lives of Black students within the college culture. It serves as a platform that connects us with other colleges, fostering a sense of unity and shared experiences. By showcasing the achievements and experiences of Black students across various institutions, it provides us with inspiration and motivation to strive for excellence.

It highlights the resilience and determination of Black students, underscoring their journey towards academic success despite the challenges they encounter. It reinforces the message that our struggles are not insurmountable and that we are capable of overcoming any obstacles that come our way.

In essence, “Watch The Yard” is more than just a news and media platform ; it’s a testament to Black excellence and a beacon of hope for Black students navigating their college journey. It reminds us that our experiences, while unique, are part of a larger narrative of Black students’ resilience and triumph in the face of adversity.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

After graduation, my aspiration is to become a social worker, initially dedicating a few years to the Department of Human Resources. This experience will provide me with a solid foundation in the social work field and enable me to understand the intricacies of the system.

However, my ultimate goal is to establish a boarding school for foster children in Alabama. This school will serve as a sanctuary for these children, providing them with a stable, long-term home where they won’t have to live in constant fear of uncertainty. They will be able to grow and thrive in an environment that fosters their personal, academic, and social development.

My vision for this school extends beyond just providing a home. I aim to equip these children with practical skills and knowledge that will empower them to lead independent lives. They will graduate with a trade, equipped with life skills, and a sense of belonging.

In essence, my post-graduation plan is to dedicate my life to making a positive impact on the lives of foster children. Through my work in the DHR system and the establishment of my boarding school, I hope to provide these children with a stable, nurturing environment where they can thrive and realize their full potential.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Sierra Powell for her work as the SGA president of Auburn University at Montgomery.

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