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 Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.’s Pi Alpha Chapter at Georgia State University and did an interview with Donnell S. Ray the president of the chapter.
The position of president 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 Donnell Ray 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 Sports Administration 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 to you?
Beyond the title, holding office as president of the Pi Alpha chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. means serving the chapter and creating a legacy for those who have and will come after me, while honoring the traditions of the servant leaders who led the way before me. It’s an honor to have been entrusted to hold our values high, and to hold my collegiate brothers accountable to be the leaders that we all answered the call to become.
What made you decide to attend Georgia State University for undergrad?
Like many of the students who have built the community that turned Georgia State into a force to be reckoned with, GSU wasn’t my top pick for undergrad. Instead it became my dream school after my first semester. The progressive culture and diversity at Georgia State are one of the reasons I am grateful to attend this school, the opportunities are one-of-a-kind, and the diverse community and explosive growth of the school is amazing to be a part of.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the campus/surrounding community?
The State of Georgia leads the nation in maternal mortality, or mothers who die giving birth. Our chapter has placed an emphasis on our national partnership with the March of Dimes to help give all premature babies a fighting chance and help underprivileged mothers and fathers get equipped with the tools they need not only to survive, but to thrive. Over half of the counties in Georgia have no OBGYN, 64 counties have no Pediatrician, and some counties just don’t have doctors. In addition to fundraising to help families offset the hard-to-navigate health insurance system in Georgia, we are arming the community with awareness of these issues and advocating for change to help get the needle moved on the health crisis in Georgia.
What made you want to pledge Phi Beta Sigma?
My chapter brothers’ embodiment of our Fraternal Motto “Culture for Service, Service for Humanity” is what inspired me to join Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. Growing up I didn’t really have any prior knowledge or experience with Greek life at all except for my father being a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Through a freshman mentorship and stepping organization called Peerless Perfexion, I gained mentors (who would become my brothers) that invested their time in helping me create a legacy of my own. The servant leaders in the chapter at the time provided countless opportunities for growth and development even prior to me pledging Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and inspired me to become involved on campus. Through the “Powerful” Pi Alpha chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. I have been blessed to give and receive more of the same mentorship that has truly transformed my undergraduate experience.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Our never-ending quest to become the best versions of ourselves, and then become even better than that is what makes the Pi Alpha chapter of Phi Beta Sigma very unique. Our chapter was chartered at a university that now consistently produces the most Black Bachelor degrees in the nation. This wasn’t always the case and at a university that has a large black population but a predominantly white history we have to work very hard to reach and impact the students at the school that has become the largest university in the state. Our drive is unmatched because we have an important job to do, and a huge community to serve for centuries to come.
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?
Undergraduate chapters across all orgs need to become very intentional and purpose-driven in their use of all digital media. We need to have transparency and show the “why” behind the step shows, community service, and upcoming events. We need to show the graduating members, the birthdays, the fun times, and the hard work. Above all we need to extend the reach of our orgs’ respective visions and principles. Many PWI schools and large commuter schools face barriers when it comes to reaching the majority of the population that can’t make every yard show or stay late for every event. Pushing content with a purpose allows us to extend our reach into the digital world past the barriers many students face.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership means the inclusive we, and not the exclusive we. Leadership is inspiring and empowering everyone to get involved in the decisions that we make. We all pledge to strive to put our fraternity and chapter at the forefront of prestige. We all lead by example. To be a leader is put yourself in others’ shoes and show them the way, empowering them to tap their potential.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard plays a critical role in preserving the identities and history of All Black Greek Letter Organizations and their traditions. In mainstream media you won’t hear about Black greekdom unless it’s about wild parties, hazing incidents, or other isolated issues that undermine the legacies we all work so hard to uplift. Watch The Yard has taken the pledge to show the overwhelmingly positive work that Black Greek organizations are doing to impact their communities at chapter and national level in undergraduate, graduate, and auxiliary capacities. We know our stories and Watch The Yard shows the world.
What does brotherhood mean to you?
Brotherhood means having your brother’s back and holding them accountable. It’s knowing that if you need something you can call on your brothers to help you no matter what. Despite coming from all types of different backgrounds I know that our love for each other and for our fraternity binds us all together. Whether it’s for something personal or business I know that I have an entire brotherhood of people who are willing to show up when I need them. Even as time has passed and brothers have moved around the world I can always get in touch with them, and our brotherhood will never fade.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
After graduating, I plan on getting an MBA and concentrating in Operations Management. I am currently studying Sports Management and have been and will continue to work in the sports entertainment industry during my graduate studies. I have a lot of promising prospects with different professional sports teams and I’m excited to advance my career. I want to serve as a support system to my chapter even after I graduate, and hopefully create a pipeline of opportunities for future brothers in Sports Management and Business Operations.
I’m also very excited to be launching a digital media and branding company soon with one of my line brothers.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Donnell Ray for his work as the president of Pi Alpha Chapter which has a long legacy that spans back to 1985.