In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to James Madison University and did an interview with Dela Adedze the Student Government Association president.
The position of SGA president is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Adedze, who is majoring in Economics is a current Senior.
We interviewed Adedze, and talked to him about his position, 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?
As the SGA president, I think the biggest and most important thing I’ve learned is to ask for help. When you’re in a position of responsibility, you often feel as if every concern and issue is yours to deal with. I remember that at the beginning of my tenure, I had received so many questions and concerns immediately, and I pressured myself to respond to all of them. Throughout the year, I understood how important and supportive my leadership team was, and they eased the pressures of SGA presidency, providing assurance in moments of uncertainty. They are indispensable, and the reason that we were able to successfully implement certain policies during the pandemic.
What made you decide to attend James Madison University for undergrad?
Every time I get this question I laugh. I never wanted to go to school near home. I wanted to be as far away from people I knew, in a foreign place where I could recreate myself, where people couldn’t make assumptions of me based on what high school I went too, what city I lived in, favorite food etc. However, when it came to narrowing down my options, I realized that James Madison University was the best decision for my family and me. The education, the small but lively town feeling, and beautiful views were very incentives that could persuade anyone.
How has James Madison University molded you into the person you are today?
JMU provided me with a sense of freedom that I had previously never had. And when I say freedom, I don’t necessarily mean freedom from parental guidance, something that all adolescents often desire once they graduate high school. No, this freedom was psychological. Being in a place where I could express myself without fear of a detrimental reaction from my peers was extremely impactful. This combined with the diversity of thought among teachers and students molded me into the person I am today.
What specific initiatives have you headed up this year and how do you think they will improve the school and surrounding community?
Two significant initiatives our SGA has been working on include the implementation of a student legal services, as well as the creation of racial task forces and working groups between students and administration.
Student legal services is a program that provides free or reduced legal consultation to students and organizations that are on campus. Too many college students (especially those who come from underrepresented backgrounds), aren’t able to afford or seek out adequate legal consultation in situations involving leases, criminal charges, traffic violations, contracts, employment, consumer issues, immigration, etc. By providing this service we are able to eliminate this issue and any misconceptions involving the law.
As an organization our SGA called for the renaming of buildings that glorified confederate leaders through a Bill of Opinion that garnered over 2,000 signatures from our student body. In addition to this, we have formed a collaborative task force including representation from the NAACP and other Black organizations focused on student advocacy, education and engagement for diversity equity & inclusion related issues. We intend to continue to advocate for stronger anti-racist and inclusion training for faculty as well as changes to university policy.
How is your school currently responding to the coronavirus and what is your SGA administration doing to help students?
JMU has provided consistent updates on current COVID-19 testing, as well as created a dashboard for anyone to see that provides data on positive cases and available isolation beds. This is part of an effort to increase transparency and accessibility between students and administration. Our SGA has focused on gauging the needs of students through programs like Madizoom 2.0 which provide an anonymous online Google form for students to voice comments and concerns regarding online classes. This along with improving technological access and resources for students are how we are able to combat negative effects that may result from virtual instruction.
What does leadership mean to you?
When I think of all of the leaders that have existed throughout history, there is one trait that they all had in common: Failure. I think that being a leader requires this in the utmost sense. It’s those mistakes that enable a leader to have a more well informed understanding of certain situations that may occur in the future, and how to best solve them. Once anonymous quote I always look back on is this: “You can’t make the same mistake twice. The second time you make it, it’s no longer a mistake. It’s a choice.”
We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2021?
I think that in a digital age it is imperative for the schools to increase transparency and accessibility to students. Now more than ever students are continuously unsure of how university faculty and administration operate. Students have questions pertaining to costs of tuition, class instruction in a virtual setting, and resources relating to different institutional policies. In addition to this I believe that institutions should seek to include the student perspective in certain decisions that are being made. This prevents a detrimental reaction from the student body, and abolishes the disconnect between students and administration that is often prevalent at some institutions.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture?
Watch the Yard provides an essential platform that recognizes the endeavors of Black students and Black culture. With everything that has happened recently in regards to the murder of Black individuals by institutional forces meant to protect us, platforms like this one highlight positive moments in our community and provide an educational space for those that aren’t aware of Black experiences as a college student.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
After graduation I plan on working in a consulting, tech, or venture capital related role for a few years. After this, I plan on attending law school with the hopes and intentions of serving my community in a multifaceted capacity.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Dela Adedze for his work as the SGA president of James Madison University.