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 Alpha Chapter at Howard University and did an interview with Russell Edmonds 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. 20-year-old Edmonds 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 Mechanical Engineering major and talked about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold a leadership on campus in the digital age.
Read the full interview below.
What does it mean to be a chapter president to you?
For one, being a Chapter president is a lot of work. My primary objective is in ensuring that we are always working towards the goals we have set as a Chapter and balancing the things that go along with that. In a perfect world we would put on a program every day of the week and do community service on the weekend. In reality, I have to ensure that I manage the morale and fatigue level of the Chapter as there is no point in trying to win awards if we are all burnt out come April. Another aspect of the position is acting as an ambassador for the Chapter so-to-speak. When it comes to Regional and National fraternity engagements I am expected to not only be in attendance but also be knowledgeable about what we are doing as a Chapter and speak on our needs and concerns. In many cases I have to represent the Chapter when it comes to relations with other organizations and students on campus. If I mess up or say the wrong thing that reflects poorly on the whole Chapter, regardless of my intent. While this sounds negative, I consider it a privilege because I have the equal opportunity to make lasting impressions for the Chapter and the ability to take us to new heights.
What made you decide to attend the Howard University for undergrad?
There were two major factors that led me to choose Howard. First and foremost, Howard gave me the most money in scholarships which made the decision pretty easy. But also, the legacy and reputation of the institution. Like many, I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book ‘Between the World and Me,’ where Coates wrote at length about the many ways Howard influenced his life. The Mecca is a very unique place with so much rich history and tradition, not to mention the roots of the Divine 9. The privilege of being able to study alongside the brightest and most talented people of color in the word is not lost on me. I knew that if I went to Howard I would not only leave with a degree from a quality engineering program but also an experience that cannot be replicated anywhere else.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the campus/surrounding community?
I would not want to spoil what we have in store for this school year, but we are heavily focused on implementing Bigger and Better Business programs. Bigger and Better Business is Phi Beta Sigma’s principal initiative which seeks to encourage business ownership in the Black community. We want to use our platform to highlight Black business owners both on campus and in the DC community.
What made you want to pledge Phi Beta Sigma?
I wanted to join Phi Beta Sigma because I sought an organization that would allow me to be my full self. I feel that Sigma does not carry narrow stigmas associated with how we should act and carry ourselves. Sigma pushes me to be the best version of my self as opposed to pushing me into a box. Sigma was founded on the idea of the ‘inclusive we’ as opposed to the ‘exclusive we’ and that shows in the Brothers of the organization. We come from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences but can find common ground in the work of Sigma.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
The most obvious answer to this question is that my Chapter is situated on a campus that hosts seven single letter chapters, five of which are alpha chapters. It is a unique experience to navigate all that comes with so much history right here on the campus of Howard University.
In addition to that, one unique thing I appreciate about my Chapter is the emphasis on branding. We stress the importance of maintaining a positive image in as many areas as possible. That extends from how we dress on MAB Mondays, to our social media posts, to even minute things such as our meeting minutes. We strive to have everything you see us do as a Chapter to be polished and professional.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think undergraduate chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2019?
I appreciate this question as this is something we focus on heavily in the Chapter. I think the most important considerations are knowing who your audience(s) is, figuring out what messages you want to send them, and what platform(s) is best to reach them. As undergraduate chapters, we of course want to interact with students on campus and other collegiate members of the organization but also those members of our alumni chapter as well as the surrounding community. Each audience expects different information and on different platforms. It is our responsibility to reach them in the best way possible. More now than ever, your online brand is just as, if not more, important than what you do in person and we should all take the time to ensure we are best using the tools at our disposal.
What does leadership mean to you?
To me leadership means bringing out the best in those that work for you. I try to figure out the unique talents that my brothers have and give them the room to express those talents and grow in areas that they excel. But also, seeking out areas of growth for both myself and my brothers and challenge them to expand on their talents and expertise.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard is crucial for Black greekdom. It is easy for negative messages and news about the Divine 9 to spread, and Watch The Yard does a good job to highlight the positives that we are doing in the community. As members of Divine 9 organizations we rely on and are thankful for platforms like Watch The Yard to continue spreading the good work we do.
What does brotherhood mean to you?
To me, brotherhood means accountability. My Brothers will hold me accountable when I make mistakes and fall short of the mark. They want to see me grow just as much as I want to see them grow. A lot of the most difficult conversations I have had have been with my line brothers because they will never let me skate by without always doing what I know I should be doing and acting how I know I should act. I am forever grateful for them for holding me to such a high standard.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
After graduation I plan to attend graduate school to study engineering and/or business administration. I hope to transition to the energy industry and work to develop renewable energy technologies and be the drive towards sustainable energy generation and consumption. I am passionate about global warming and I feel I can leave my mark working in that field.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Russell Edmonds for his work as the president of Alpha Chapter which has a long legacy that spans back to 1914.