In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to The University of Nebraska at Omaha and did an interview with Jabin Moore the 2020-2021 Student Government Association president.
The position of SGA president is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Moore, who is majoring in Business Administration with concentrations in Entrepreneurship and Real Estate & Land Use Economics, is originally from Omaha, Nebraska.
We interviewed Moore, 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?
The biggest lesson that I will walk away with from my term as Student Body President is that it is okay, and sometimes necessary to challenge the norm. This was the unspoken lesson that revealed itself in numerous ways over the first half of my term. Whatever was “normal” quickly turned upside down, and we were forced to reimagine everything that we knew. In doing so, we recognized the disparities in our community that were magnified due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we had an opportunity to respond in a way that we never had before. We had to make incredibly tough decisions, but at the end of the day, our student body was able to thrive and we ended up seeing record numbers in enrollment and retention. Turns out, what was “normal” may have contributed to existing barriers to student success, and it took a pandemic for us to be able to address those barriers. I think this highlights the importance of diverse perspectives and reminds me that if something doesn’t sit right with me- even if it has always been that way- it may be because of a different perspective I bring to the table, and even if I have to stand alone, I represent a significant number of people who have historically not been represented. This definitely reinforces the importance of using my voice and not being afraid to speak up.
What made you decide to attend University of Nebraska at Omaha for undergrad?
I made the decision to attend the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) for undergrad based on a series of events that led me to believe this was the place I needed to be. Upon touring campus and meeting a lot of the staff and faculty I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of support and resources that were available to students, which really stood out to me as a first-gen student. After receiving many scholarships and recognizing the amazing support system that I have in Omaha, it was kind of a no brainer.
How has University of Nebraska at Omaha molded you into the person you are today?
UNO has molded me into the person I am today through countless opportunities to grow and stretch myself. I am surrounded by amazing people who support me and genuinely want me to succeed. I believe we have the best administration in the world, who truly value student voice and would often seek my input on challenging questions, even before I became President. The continual reaffirming of my value as a student leader challenged me to think more critically to add value to the rooms I am placed in, and that is what ultimately led me to run for Student Body President.
What specific initiatives have you headed up this year and how do you think they will improve the school and surrounding community?
We kicked off our term with a very important addition of a Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to our executive team, as well as a University wide DEI committee facilitated by Student Government leaders to address the equity barriers that exist on our campus. We led a variety of listening sessions to hear and understand student frustrations, and we used their feedback to fuel various initiatives such as including hate and bias reporting Information on Class Syllabi, as well as supporting learning outcomes for system impacted or justice involved students who are oftentimes overlooked or disregarded on college campuses. We also had a unique term in which we headed initiatives to promote civic engagement in both the 2020 elections as well as the 2020 census. We invested in TurboVote, a platform to promote voter registration and education around local and national elections, and developed partnerships with student leadership across campus to assist in promoting voter registration and civic engagement on our campus. Additionally, with the overwhelming impact and public outcry after the killing of George Floyd, our campus was able to come together and boldly condemn racism, bigotry, and hate. We launched a review of our general education diversity requirements, to help evaluate and make recommendations for what changes may need to be made to best represent the cultures, histories, and experiences occurring right now in the country. We also launched an academic review of naming of all buildings, spaces, and statues to ensure all are aligned with the values we intend to uphold. One of the most important issues that we wanted to address was the trauma and mental health strain imposed by not only the Covid-19 pandemic, but the equally damaging racial injustice and the civil unrest that occurred over the summer. We partnered with administration to develop a Tedx salon series entitled “Culture Shift” where we invited three Black professionals to talk about mental health and trauma and address the significant shifts in our collective culture, how we find ourselves in relation to what we’re experiencing, and what steps we can take to maintain our mental, spiritual and emotional wellbeing. We continue to promote mental health resources through the UNO Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), which offer counseling services via phone and telehealth during the online learning period, as well as a 24hr emergency hotline.
How is your school currently responding to the coronavirus and what is your SGA administration doing to help students?
Our SG administration has been involved with the Covid response planning from the time the University first transitioned to remote learning. Our response for returning to campus in the fall was to invest in PPP for all students, faculty and staff, and to “de-densify” and offer various modes of course administration to limit the number of bodies on campus. We offer free testing to students as well as an app developed by a group of our students called 1-Check Covid which allows for self screening. Since then, we have been putting a lot of our efforts toward promoting regular use of the 1-check Covid app. We also assisted in addressing the disparities that were magnified by the pandemic. Many students did not have personal computers, or Wi-Fi at home, which led us to invest in laptops and mobile hotspots to be requested by students who need them. We also took steps to encourage re-enrollment in the Fall by offering free course retakes, various scholarships to support students in qualifying degree programs, and we reduced the cost of tuition and student fees which resulted in record numbers in enrollment and retention.
What does leadership mean to you?
My style of leadership has always been to lead by example. I was raised to understand that no matter what I do in life there is always someone watching, and through my actions I can either uplift or tear down. This guides me to believe that leadership is about selflessness and service. I think society is aimlessly searching for direction and I feel as though a lot of us are searching for it in each other. I see selfless leadership as striving to be a light in a dark place and giving others a reason to have hope, and having a heart to serve is finding ways that I can be an answer to someone else’s problem.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2021?
I think 2020 proved to us the true power of the digital world, in that we were able to seamlessly transition all of our in person learning to online and remote learning in a matter of days. Moving into 2021 and beyond, I think it is important to strive to embrace the digital world that we now live in to perhaps offer more online and remote courses, and to expand in person classes to be more accommodating to students in empathizing with their individual situation. Currently my in person classes have a Zoom option in case students do not feel comfortable coming into class. I think this option should extend beyond the COVID era.
I also think, in building an online presence, it is important for universities to highlight students more strategically. As a Black male, when I applied to colleges I was looking for students who looked like me. I chose to attend a PWI but I was confident in my decision because I didn’t have to go to the diversity section of the university’s website to see someone who looked like me. I think intentionally representing underrepresented students, as well as faculty and staff in all areas of the university’s social media presence and website will speak volumes louder than any statement of diversity and inclusion, and this is critical in changing the narrative about marginalized identities in higher education.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture?
I think Watch The Yard is a powerful platform to uphold and reclaim the narrative of Black students across the country, and to affirm our identity and culture by highlighting Black student leaders excelling in tough majors, being active in various organizations, and leading in every capacity- all while being themselves. This is important not only for students in college but also those younger generations who aspire to pursue their degree. It’s that much more inspiring to aim for high achievements if you see others doing the same.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
After graduation I plan to pursue a Masters in Public Administration while continuing to expand my knowledge in the intersection of real estate and urban economics. I am passionate about social equity and understanding the disparities that contribute to the vast economic inequality that exists in our country, and I am hoping to be engaged in policy intervention to affect change in our underserved communities.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Jabin Moore for his work as the SGA president of The University of Nebraska at Omaha.