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Leadership Highlight

Leadership Highlight: Dillard University’s SGA President Lena Uddyback

Photo Credit: @vellproductions

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Dillard University and did an interview with Lena Uddyback 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. Uddyback, who is majoring in Urban Studies and Public Policy, is from Detroit.

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

Photo Credit: @vellproductions

Read the full interview below.

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

The biggest thing I learned serving in the capacity of SGA President is that as long as you do your best, that is all that matters. I think it is so easy to feel like all of your efforts are not enough or that you are not making enough impact. But, that is far from the truth. You can’t please everyone, but as long as your administration is doing everything in their power to advocate on behalf of students, that is what really matters.

What made you decide to attend Dillard University for undergrad?

I decided to attend Dillard University due to our university being the only university in America to have a full time pre-law program. It was also one of the few HBCUs to offer a Urban Studies and Public Policy undergraduate degree. While I attended Dillard University due to their amazing academic programming, I am a third generation legacy student. My grandparents Dr. Odie Uddyback Jr. and Clory Hayes-Uddyback me and graduated from Dillard University in the 1940’s. My father Att. Odie Uddyback III, aunt Dr. Alyssa Uddyback-York, and my sister Lauren Uddyback; have attended Dillard University. They all have expressed a deep appreciation for the education they have received from Dillard University, which inspired me to do the same.

Photo Credit: @vellproductions

How has Dillard University molded you into the person you are today?

Dillard University has molded me into the student leader and young intellectual I am today. Dillard University is a private, liberal arts, Black Ivy League school. Due to its rich history and legacy, our professors make it their mission to deepen our education of African American history. Since attending Dillard University I have sharpen my public speaking skills, increased the amount of time I read, and I have developed strong self-study habits. Attending Dillard University has given me discipline and courage that I didn’t have before entering college. I grew a strong desire of reading, writing, African mythology and the Arts. As I am leaving Dillard University, I feel more than prepared to enter graduate school or work a full-time job!

Photo Credit: @vellproductions

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?

The Phoenix Administration had three initiatives this year they are as follows:

1) Establish SGA’s brand on campus

2) Improve Campus Facilities + Student Incentives

3) Increase student participation and engagement

We were able to offer stipends, community service hours, pins, and sweaters for current SGA members. We have met with administrators to implement a student engagement fee to fund all of our student organization events. We have held countless meetings with our facilities director, University President Dr. Ford, Vice President of Student Success Dr. Smith, other departments to address student concerns on campus.We have created leadership opportunities for students that are looking to increase their involvement in extracurricular activities on campus and encouraged students to participate in elections! We hosted a Student Leader town hall to hear concerns from student leaders on campus. We also hosted listening sessions for students to feel free to express their concerns. We redeveloped a positive structure within our administration to make sure our administration can work more effectively. We also created a social media series titled “SGA WEEKLY UPDATE Video” to provide students of programming and events taking place around campus. Lastly, we have created a positive space for the future of Dillard University’s Student Government Association for years to come!

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

Our Student Service Senate Committee has hosted a Student Services Meet and Greet! The event allowed students to meet staff and faculty members within our counseling office. Our university has included a health insurance plan for students. The health insurance plan expanded mental health resources for students.We have also advocated for two Mental Health days to be added on our calendar. We also hosted a Student Care Basket Giveaway!

What does leadership mean to you?

The definition of leadership is the state or position of being a leader, it is the act of leading a team or people of an organization. In order to display leadership you must first be a leader. Being a leader means that your take on an extra set of responsibilities to progress your team or organization. Being a leader means that you put others before yourself, you exhibit courage, respect, bravery, and integrity. Leadership is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly and someone shouldn’t seek leadership for titles, awards, or other accolades. You should seek leadership, to make a positive difference in your community.

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

I think schools need to have a full-time press or communications office. This office or department will handle all things social media, news press, and email correspondence on behalf of the university. This will engage alumni, prospective students, staff, and faculty. As well engage members of the community and current students, staff, and faculty. We are in a digital world and it’s time our universities took advantage of it.

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

I think Watch the Yard is important to Black Students and College Culture because it is important for us to see positive content involving African Americans. We see a lot of content on social media platforms that shows young African Americans in a negative light. This page shows educated, community service centered, young African Americans. Watch the Yard also is a great place to learn more information regarding HBCUs. Growing up in Detroit, many African American students aren’t encouraged to attend HBCUs. This page will allow students the opportunity to learn more about the opportunities that can be found at HBCU. Watch the Yard also post a lot of content involving NPHC organizations. While I am not a member of an NPHC organization, I think it is a very important part of student life and culture on campus. They host community service events, parties, and help to push initiatives like financial literacy, mental health, or even mentor children at local schools.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

I plan to attend a law school or enter into a Master’s Degree program at an HBCU.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Lena Uddyback for her work as the SGA president of Dillard University.

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