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Leadership Highlight: Miami University (OH)’s SGA President Jaylen Perkins

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate universities  across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Miami University (OH) and did an interview with Jaylen Perkins 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. Perkins, who is majoring in Public Health and Pre-Medical Studies, is a current senior and a Fall 2018 initiate of Alpha Phi Alpha.

We interviewed Perkins, 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 that I’ve taken away from being Student Body President is being able to work with so many people that are just as passionate about advocacy for higher education and our student body as myself. The people I work with on my cabinet on a daily basis as well as student senators are so creative, diverse, and come from so many different paths of life that shape their approaches to advocating for the things that they believe in. I have been able to grow from and adapt some of these approaches for future experiences.

What made you decide to attend Miami University (OH) for undergrad? 

I decided to attend Miami University because of its rapport as an academic institution, the financial assistance available, and when I was a senior in high school, I attended an overnight program that exposed me to campus and the university’s diverse students and I instantly fell in love with the institution as a whole.

How has Miami University (OH) molded you into the person you are today?

Miami University has provided me with a plethora of opportunities to learn who I am as a person, capitalize on the experiences I already had, and challenged me to experience new things, while preparing me to go into the healthcare field as a culturally competent physician. Some of the great experiences that I have had as a result of my time at Miami University include serving as a Resident Assistant for two years; conducting research in the Behavioral Neuroscience Department surrounding drug and alcohol addiction and presenting that research in various settings including at the Capitol Building in Washington DC; and being a student activist and advocate for our black students when I was a sophomore and being able to work with administration to have our needs as black students met.

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

This year, the greatest initiative that we led is recognizing Freedom Summer of 1964. Three activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, were leaving training in Oxford, OH, where Miami University is seated, and were murdered on their way to Mississippi to register African Americans to vote. Their legacy is essential to the way we view civil rights today, and is an essential piece of our history in Oxford, OH. The Associated Student Government is dedicating three lobbies of residence halls to these three individuals for being trailblazers and leaders in the civil rights movement. I currently am also working with individuals on my cabinet on trying to bring tele-counseling, or “facetime” for counseling to campus to address the negative stigmas of mental health and counseling for college students by making counselors and professionals more accessible for students.

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

Our school has been very helpful in accommodating student needs and concerns, including issuing refunds, allowing classes to be taken for credit/no-credit instead of for a grade, as well as working to make sure our senior students are recognized through a commencement ceremony that is being held next semester. Our student government is currently advocating for our students in the best ways possible, including pushing for the creation of jobs for our student workers or work-study participants that have been affected greatly by coronavirus. We are also diligently working to make sure our student body is informed and up to date on all developments that come from administration.

How is the coronavirus affecting SGA elections for next year? 

We were fortunate enough to have elected our next Student Body President and Vice President before the full extent of coronavirus. However, our cabinet elections are still set to take place this semester, just remotely.

What does leadership mean to you?

“A boss says ‘go’, but a leader says ‘let’s go’.” This is a philosophy that guides my leadership style. I think that leaders, by nature, are expected to be this “fearless” figure that is always strong. But I think that a true leader recognizes that leadership is also an opportunity for them to grow, to be vulnerable, and to stand up for things they’re passionate about. Leadership is also much more than just a title and recognition. Being a leader involves leading whether or not someone is watching, and not wavering their morals or values while standing up for what they believe in.

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

I think that schools need to be ahead of the curve, and recognize that internet and technology are what guide and drive our lives now. Technology, whether or not we like it, has such a stake on our lives, that it is inevitable that we will need to be able to represent ourselves as individuals, companies, organizations, and institutions online in some capacity. I do believe that being ahead of technology serves a great advantage in expanding our reach and easily staying connected with people all over the world.

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

I think that Watch The Yard is an extremely important avenue of highlighting Black students in various lights. I think that it is more important, now than ever, to have this network as an opportunity to keep our black students and college students connected and up to date with each other so that, if necessary, we can form bonds and coalitions to keep each other encouraged, inspired, and uplifted.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

After graduation, I plan to attend a one year Master’s Program in Biomedical Sciences before applying to medical school to pursue a career as a Child Neurologist.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Jaylen Perkins for his work as the SGA president of Miami University (OH).

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