In an effort to highlight the young leaders who are leading undergraduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the brothers of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.’s Gamma Zeta Chapter at Mercer University and did an interview with Nassim Ashford the president of the chapter.
The position of president/basileus of an undergraduate chapter of a Black fraternity is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. 21-year-old Nassim Ashford has used the position to gain new leadership experience, improve the lives of other students on campus and help the community around him.
We interviewed the Global Health and Global Development double major and talked about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold a leadership position on campus in the digital age.
Read the full interview below.
What does it mean to be a chapter president/basileus to you?
As chapter president, I am tasked with overseeing the future of the chapter and ensuring its legacy of excellence and scholarship. I always strive to lead by example, representing the high standards envisioned by our founders. Being president of the Gamma Zeta chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. has been an amazing experience for me. I am always thinking of ways in which the chapter can continue to grow and be a pillar in the community. While being president, I have genuinely grown to appreciate the position while simultaneously learning a lot about myself.
What made you decide to attend Mercer University for undergrad?
Growing up, my parents always instilled in me the importance of education. In the fall of my senior year of high school, I had no idea where I wanted to continue my education. I applied to numerous schools and patiently waited for my acceptance letters. I knew that if I wanted to go to school I needed to have scholarships. Mercer happened to offer me the most money in scholarships out of all of the schools that I applied to. It also offered many different majors that I was interested in studying. After visiting Mercer University for the first time I knew that it was the place for me. Mercer isn’t a large school yet, it was big enough for me to grow academically and discover more about myself.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the campus/surrounding community?
Every year, my chapter accomplishes the mandated programs established by our fraternity. This includes social action programs like voter registration drives and community volunteering. We also work with our graduate chapter to further foster relationships within the community through workshops, job placement programs, food and clothing donations. One additional initiative my chapter has taken up is fighting the stigmas typically associated with mental health in the black community. Over the past year, we have sponsored mental health awareness programs on campus in which we had mental health professionals teach students how to identify and support those with mental illnesses. By establishing a strong presence in the community, we believe that our resources and programs will be used as motivation to address mental health and encourage people to learn more about it.
What made you want to pledge Omega Psi Phi?
As a young child, I remember going to my mom’s college homecoming and standing under the Omega tent as they grilled chicken and “set out” hops. Growing up, I always saw members of my fraternity doing service work and being leaders in the community. When I was in the 6th grade, I joined a mentoring program under the local chapter of the 100 Black Men of America. At the time, many of my teachers and advisors in the program were members of the fraternity. I watched each week as they took the time out of their day to ensure I got the knowledge needed to become a productive member of society. Once going to college, I saw members of the fraternity on campus and I witness the bond that they shared with one another. I always knew that I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. I also felt that my own principles that I lived by personally aligned with those established by the fraternity. After doing extensive research and talking members who I had grown to know on campus, I set my eyes onto membership.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
The Gamma Zeta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. was founded on the campus of Mercer University on September 19, 1972. We were the first NPHC organization on the campus of Mercer University. We all work closely together to ensure longevity of the chapter. Though our chapter is small, each of our members brings diverse qualities to the table and work hard to ensure that our legacy displays the same standards of excellence our fraternity strives to achieve. This same enthusiasm and call to service lead us to receive our charter on May 2, 1973, and will continue to be seen at Gamma Zeta Chapter where there is no place greater.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think undergraduate chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2018?
We now live in the age of technology. Creating a digital brand for your chapter will help create a record of you are and all the work that you do. Social media can be a great tool to highlight community service projects, campus programs and help you interact with the community. Posts made on social media should be positive and reflect the original ideals of your organization. As you begin to use the media, remember to ensure that each posts represents how you want to be seen by society. Don’t post things that can be used to discredit all of the work done by members of your organization and standards that they have worked to achieve.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is the ability to successfully to motivate others to achieve an end goal; it is what makes you stand out among others. I am a strong believer in the phrase “leadership is defined by results”. Anyone can possess leadership skills but it is difficult for everyone to be an effective leader. Those in leadership positions have a responsibility to help guide individuals towards efficiency and productivity. As a leader, you must know the strengths and weakness of those you are working with so that you can effectively delegate and get tasks done. Also, while in leadership positions, it is also important to seek constructive criticism so that you can continue to improve. Being a leader is of great importance to me which is why I aspire to inspire those who need it most today and those of the next generation.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
I believe that Watch the Yard serves as a positive outlet in the in the Black Greek community. When considering the times we are living in and the impact that the media has on our lives, I believe that it is important to have an outlet like Watch The Yard. Watch the Yard plays a major role in displaying what all of our divine 9 organizations were founded for which is the enhancement of the Black community. The work that every one of our founders envisioned on accomplishing cannot be done if there is no unity among all the divine 9 organizations. We are stronger together than we are alone, and despite the negativity that social media may bring upon Black Greek life, Watch The Yard has been successful in helping to ensure that we remain unified.
What does brotherhood mean to you?
To me, brotherhood is a family outside of your own. You never get to choose your family members they just come to you. Being apart of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., I know I am only facing what other men have met. When I encounter challenges in life, I know that I have someone to call or lean on for support. Throughout my time within the fraternity, I have learned that brothers are facilitators of growth and development. Whenever I see another brother I feel obligated to speak and extend myself as a friend. Through this friendship, we are able to build strong networks, while sharing a deep love for our history and traditions. Everyone is unique in their own way, coming together allows us to spread ideas, memories, and experiences that enable us to advance in our own lives.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
I wish to make a positive contribution in the community from which I come from. Upon graduating from Mercer University, plan to continue my education in the healthcare field. Studying global health undergrad has taught me that there is a lot to be done to achieve health equity for underrepresented populations around the world . After completing my education, I feel that I will be better equipped to find solutions to negative health outcomes. I plan to use my knowledge and resources to make a difference in society. Wherever my life may take me I know that I will continue to give back and help those in need.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Nassim Ashford for his work as the Basileus of Gamma Zeta Chapter which has a long legacy that spans back to 1973.