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Leadership Highlight

Leadership Highlight: Valdosta State University’s SGA President William Burnett

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Valdosta State University and did an interview with William Burnett 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. Burnett, who is majoring in Music (Vocal Concentration), is from Douglasville, Georgia.

We interviewed William Burnett, and talked to him about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in 2023-2024.

Photo Credit: @vizionsbyalexx

Read the full interview below.

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

One of the biggest lessons I have learned as SGA President is that it is okay to feel, as well as lean on those around you. Going into this position, I thought that since I was the leader of SGA, I had present myself as stoic. I realized throughout my first semester of presidency, that it was completely normal to be a leader who has feelings and a leader who has days where they’re down, because at the end of the day, I am still human.

What made you decide to attend Valdosta State University for undergrad?

It’s actually a funny story. I graduated high school in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic. Due to the effects of the pandemic on my mental health, I decided to take a gap year. During my gap year, I got tons of emails and physical mail from Valdosta State University. I took this as a sign and decided to do some of my own research, as well as apply. Fast forward after getting accepted, on the way back to Atlanta from a trip to Florida with my mom, I accidentally took a tour of the campus, and instantly I fell in love. I knew that VSU was the school for me, so I gave it a shot and now I’m here!

How has Valdosta State University molded you into the person you are today?

I believe that Valdosta State has given me a great sense of self. Before attending VSU, I was not the most sure of myself and my purpose, however VSU has pushed me way out of my comfort zone. As someone who was once afraid to speak up, I have now built the confidence to speak up for myself, and for an entire student body. As a Music major, I have been afforded opportunities to travel and perform at Carnegie Hall, and eventually Portugal in May of this year. I have built lifelong relationships, and gained some of the best mentors a young Black man could have.

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?

This year, my team and I were focused on bringing back the morale of our campus. Post-pandemic, VSU took a major hit with the amount of incoming students, as well as student involvement on campus. We’d heard all of the amazing stories of how VSU was before the pandemic, and we wanted to bring back that college experience (safely). We have collaborated with many other campus organizations to put ourselves out there, and get our students to show up. With the help of our senate, as well as our administrators, we have seen a tremendous difference in the amount of involved students on campus.

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

SGA has been working closely with our Student Health Center to host events to promote the mental health resources on campus. Our Campus Wellness Committee has also hosted numerous mental health awareness panels, for our student body to come together and discuss the importance of mental health, as well as get tips on how to improve it.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership to me means authenticity and resilience. I believe that in order to be an effective leader, you can’t be afraid to be your authentic self. It’s completely normal to fall or make mistakes, however as a leader, it is all about how you recover.

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

I believe schools should adapt and evolve their online presence to effectively represent themselves and meet the needs of students, parents, and the broader community. Schools can use social media to share news, showcase student achievements, communicate important updates, and engage with the school community in real-time.

Photo Credit: @will.ez

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

I believe that it is important for young Black students to see themselves highlighted for their accomplishments, and I believe Watch The Yard does a tremendous job at that. As a younger student, being able to see other young Black men and women achieve their goals was inspiring for me. For me to now have the chance to share my story, and be apart of that is truly an honor to say the least.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

After Graduating from Valdosta State University, I plan to teach vocal music on a high school level, as well as be a vocal/performance coach for upcoming artists.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend William Burnett for his work as the SGA president of Valdosta State University.

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