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ETS Leadership Highlight: Samuel Mendenhall Jr. the SGA President of Stillman College

This article and interview is sponsored by ETS and the GRE® General Test and done in collaboration with Watch The Yard. Click here to learn more about the benefits of taking the GRE® General Test.

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard teamed up with the ETS and the GRE® General Test and reached out to Samuel Mendenhall Jr. the Student Government Association president of Stillman College for an interview about campus leadership.

The position of SGA president of an HBCU is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Mendenhall, who is majoring in Marketing, is a Fall 2018 initiate of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

We interviewed Mendenhall, 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?

Thus far, the biggest thing that I have learned as SGA president is that you can’t do everything yourself, and to trust those around me. I often found myself trying to be at every meeting or event, and quickly learned that I am only one person. Delegation was a major key!

What made you decide to attend Stillman College for undergrad?

I attended Stillman only two weeks after graduating high school for the Summer semester. I came with all intentions of leaving the upcoming Fall and was just using the credits for a jumpstart; however, I fell in love with the history of the campus. Stillman has such deep roots in throughout history that spread worldwide. I was was engulfed by such rich history which is why I stayed.

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

Stillman College has molded me much like all HBCUs mold their students. When I first came to the college I was so head strong and was a know it all, but Stillman humbled me and taught me how to channel my gifts. Stillman taught me to stand when I’m speaking, how to perfect my resume, how to be competitive in the real world and so much more. When they we say Prepare you for a Different World, we mean it through and through.

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

This year, I wanted to steer SGA in a new direction. My focus is strictly policy and programming. One special initiative is our Graduate School Readiness Initiative that prepares our students for navigating to and post grad; this includes testing information, funding options, and school placement. Another initiative is the Scholarship Initiative which now is apart of the SGA Constitution, that 10% of the budget must go towards student scholarship. This year, part of my stipend is donated toward a scholarship. Lastly, I’ll mention our Beautification Initiative. This was jumpstarted by Stillman College winning Retool Your School last Spring. We used the funds for our newly named Melissa Davis Patio where students can eat lunch, do homework, or hang with friends – post covid of course.

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

I was extremely proud of how quickly the Stillman and administration responded to the pandemic. Every student received the relief grant and a Chromebook laptop when we first switched to online last Spring. We are still taking every precaution to keep our students safe by taking measures such bringing more to the students so that they won’t have to leave campus as much. SGA and Student Life has partnered with Five Horizons and now we have a STI/STD testing cite on campus that student can access everyday. We also have weekly testing to make sure that with help control the curve. Knox Hall is designated for infected students who can’t travel home and need somewhere to stay during their quarantine. Furthermore, though we are mostly online, we still opened our residents halls and dining services for students to take part in, and no student shares a room if they are staying in Stillman Housing.

What does leadership mean to you?

Stillman and Alpha have shown me that leadership is both being a servant leader and knowing how to lead from the back. Most times we get leadership confused with being the boss, which can be your biggest setback. Leadership is knowing when your strengths and weaknesses, and building them to not only make you better, but those around you better as well.

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

Schools must keep up with the times! Simple things such as going paperless could save so much time and it helps keep track of things easily. Also, schools much shift in how they market themselves, finding new and innovative ways to showcase their attributes that can connect with future students, currents students, and alumni.

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

Watch The Yard is important to black students and college culture because you all show the positive in the black college community. Before students come to college they can get a glimpse of what college life can be like for them. Following Watch The Yard, we have on one page: comedy, therapy, relief, joy, hopes and dreams. Its goes beyond the borders of college culture, Watch The Yard has forged a path for black culture to see what they can become, what we’ve accomplished, and where we’re going.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

After graduating, I will be attending Purdue University, pursing a Masters in Economics with a Specialization in Public Policy. I have a few job offers but I am waiting to decide to see where God takes me, I am simply walking the steps that were order by him.

You are going to grad school, why do you think it is important to take the GRE® General Test?

Taking the GRE is pertinent because it’s opens gateways to a plethora opportunities for you, like securing you merit-based fellowship. Also your score is good for up to five years, so even if you aren’t ready to make the leap to grad school right away you have time to make a decision! Even if schools aren’t requiring the GRE, it’s best to still take it to at least have a safety net for yourself!

Follow the GRE® on Instagram at @GREgeneraltest to keep up to date on taking the test.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Samuel Mendenhall Jr. for his work as the SGA president of Stillman College.

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