In this Q&A, the Interim President Dwayne Smith and Student Government Association President Kyle Mashia-Thaxton, senior history major, answer questions about being leaders on campus.
1) Why did you decide to come to Southern?
SGA President Kyle Mashia-Thaxton: “I value Southern’s institutional message about making access to higher education more equitable and affordable. I decided Southern because [it] gave me enough finances to be able to attend and access higher education. I wanted to be at a smaller school because I believed there would be a better community aspect.”
SCSU Interim President Dwayne Smith:
“I knew the specialness of Southern before I even arrived. I knew it was a diverse campus, there’s a strong belief in equality and strong ignition in social justice. So, when I was asked to take on the reins as the interim president, I just thought it was a perfect fit.”
2) What is your favorite spot on campus?
KMT: “For studying, it used to be Buley Library, now it’s the School of Business. For hanging out with friends, or anyone else who comes and visits, I really like to show them the [Remembrance] Garden for Sandy Hook victims. I also love sitting in the West residence Quad, laying in the grass and reading a book.”
DS: “The Adanti Student Center. Mainly because that is where students are, but also for the [second floor] workout center. I love the facilities to work out and I’m able to carve out the time to go there.”
What is something you are passionate about outside of Southern?
KMT: “My biggest passion is politics. I am active in my local community in Groton where I’ve served on municipal campaigns, getting the word out about local issues and referenda. I love reading nonfiction, just about any historical or political topic.”
DS: “I’m passionate about social justice, that people have the ability to reach their fullest promise. Regardless of what they decide to do, there are barriers that always prevent people from reaching their fullest promise.”
4) What are some things you believe could be improved at SCSU?
KMT: “A few issues that we’ve been tackling for student government are dining variety; expanding the food court to have an Asian cuisine option. Another, is space equity in the student center. We’re going to be looking into getting in contact with clubs to measure how successful the renovations have been. We are also trying to advocate for the Ballroom to be free for student use. To me, it’s the student center, hence the name ‘students’ so clubs should be able to do their programs, activities, whatever they need for free.”
DS: “Our student outcome. Our focus for this year is on enrollment, retention, persistence and degree completion. That first year is so critical to the success of our students, so that’s our priority.”
5) What has been your biggest professional challenge at SCSU so far?
KMT: “I would say my biggest professional challenge as student government president would be having to navigate being the intermediary between administrators and students. On one hand, there are students who are telling you their issues and expecting a change, especially one that is immediate which does not happen because it takes time. On the other hand, administrators and faculty have more power than students, allowing them to have the final say in decision making. My job is to find a way to make sure students’ voices are heard in a way that the faculty will understand. I have learned to compromise, and wait for progress which has helped my leadership.”
DS: “There [haven’t] been any challenges at this point. I believe that we have opportunities to grow the campus through enrollment and graduating students with the credentials to be successful in life.”
6) What is something you wish students/administrators understood about your position?
KMT: “My goal is to serve the public on this campus, however, my power is limited, and I don’t have much authority over a lot of things. I am very much just like everyone else; I am a normal student. I’m just the primary student representative [to] the faculty and administration.”
DS: “It’s very complex. They are all internal stakeholders; those are the things that I must successfully navigate.”
7) If you could ask the president/students of the university any question, what would it be?
KMT: “For [President Smith] I just want to get to know [him] personally, learn about who he is, what is the most important thing to him? What life advice would he give to a student to be successful? Students: What can I do to help? What can SGA do specifically to help? What are the most important things on campus to you? Do you feel safe? How are faculty treating you? How can we make sure that you feel welcome here?”
DS: “Why did you choose to attend Southern?”
8) What is something you look forward to doing every day you come on campus?
KMT: “One thing I look forward to every day is my walking commute through campus and seeing everyone so busy and active. It felt good seeing the community, especially after experiencing the pandemic.”
DS: “Greeting the campus community.”
9) What is your overall vision for students attending SCSU?
KMT: “My vision for students is that you feel more confident advocating for yourselves and your needs and aspirations. Also, knowing that you are not doing this alone because you have a community and there is a spot on campus for everyone. If there is something you’re passionate about, go for it.”
DS: “I want students to fly high. They reach their fullest promise through our assistance. That we provide curricular and co-curricular programs that will transform their lives.”
10) What do you want to be remembered for at Southern?
KMT: “I hope in student government, which has been my focus, people will remember me as a president who tried to open [it] up in ways that it hadn’t been before. I’ve really tried to push it out there more, invite more people to come give their perspectives. I hope people recognize the effort that was put in to go the extra mile and are similarly inspired.”
DS: “As a caring servant, intentional leader.”