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Leadership Highlight: Phil Butler The Student Body President of Dickinson College

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and did an interview with Phil Butler 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. Butler, who is majoring in Policy Management and Economics, is a current Senior and a Spring 2019 initiate of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

We interviewed Butler, and talked to him about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in 2021.

Photo Credit: Hill Gilbourne

Read the full interview below.

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

As President during a completely virtual semester, the biggest thing I have learned is the importance of effective communication and collaboration. With everything being so uncertain, to achieve the goals we set as a team there needs to be added levels of transparency and forthright communication with each other and to administration. I have learned how to maneuver organizational hierarchies to advocate for the students I serve.

Photo Credit: @visualizedbymal

What made you decide to attend Dickinson College for undergrad?

I originally chose Dickinson because I as well as my long-time friend were recruited there for football and developed a great relationship with our current Athletic Director. Dickinson is a small PWI in Central PA so I knew that it would force me out of my comfort zone and provide a change of pace compared to living around a city.

How has Dickinson College molded you into the person you are today?

Dickinson has helped instill a lot of the principles that define me as a man today through the support system that has been built around me. No matter what I decide to do on campus, I know that I have the full support of my teammates, line brothers, and other organizations I am apart of. Because of this, I understand the importance of expanding your circles and surrounding yourself with people who care about you enough to push you towards growth rather than complacency. I’ve learned the importance of unlearning different things that limited my perspective as a black man in America and mentorship so that I can instill that change in other young men.

Credit: @rwandanupe

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

My Executive Team and I have 4 main objectives we’d like to accomplish to ensure safety and accountability from students and administration this upcoming semester. Each Class Council will head a goal focused on a specific area of the college (ie. dining, student life, etc) getting data-driven results so that we can give feedback that will improve our overall student experience. We also hope to hold an Arts Showcase event to increase student engagement and provide a space for our students talents to be on display. We really want to create a new experience for first-years and play our part in advocating for student resources and safety this next semester. We are focused on moving forward towards what’s next in the best possible manner.

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

Dickinson has responded in a very cautious and well thought out manner to addressing COVID-19. Unfortunately we did not have sports this year, and have been mostly remote but it has preserved the safety of our community. Our Student Government has been integral in creating college policies related to COVID-19 and being a line of communication between students and administration. Most notable, we advocated and were able to push back the timeline for students to choose Pass/Fail grades.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership is the action you are able to inspire within others. Leadership is ultimately an act of service, it is done best when ego is not a factor; whether it be through community action, mentorship, or creating opportunities for others. The best leaders are able to think neutrally while focused on what the best next course of action is.

We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2021?

Social media has become a business platform. Schools should establish consistent outreach programs to alums, current, and prospective students through optimization tools and other effective marketing platforms. Knowledge on how to excel in outreach as an institution in the digital world is at the other end of their finger tips. I also think that there should be an investment into online student resources related to careers, mental health, and help offered by the school.

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

Watch the Yard is a large platform that gives Black students a chance to highlight achievements, shared experiences, and humor which we all can relate to. It gives added levels of visibility to D9 organizations and the real impact they have not only at HBCU’s but all colleges and their surrounding communities. It is a place for us to network and provide opportunities to one another which have value deeper than what we can see at the surface level. Can’t beat that.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

After graduation, I am entering the field of Commercial Real Estate and Capital Markets. I plan to attend Grad School after a few years of work experience.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Phil Butler for his work as the SGA president of Dickinson College.

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