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Minorities pursuing passions more valuable for future goals, success in leadership

MOHAMED SALEM, Guest columnist

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For many years, WSU student minorities have been struggling to have proper representation at ASWSU. Our minority peers are discouraged from public service by the cronyism, bias and cliquey circles in student government. The path to success and involvement should never be restricted to fitting in such structure.

ASWSU is the official voice of the student body to the administrators. It also plays a central role in the distribution of student fees to organizations and agencies. The prestige of student government titles facilitates professional networking for various career opportunities and many minorities on campus feel denied from that prestige due to the fixed engineered votes from Greek Life every election.

From my own experience as an observant voter and a student leader, campaigning with Greek Life has been the ticket for hundreds of votes compared to a few dozen from clubs on campus.

“People of color are not confident enough to go into positions within ASWSU,” said Mariela Frias, a WSU first generation Afro-Latina student, “Greek Life has a say in who gets elected. It’s understood that if you’re Greek you have an advantage.”

Frias argues that Greek Life organizations are ideally built to help communities get better and individuals evolve. However, most have lost this purpose for personal endeavors.

The multicultural Greek community is significantly smaller than traditional Greek chapters, according to Frias and many students on campus. In the history of WSU, the bulk of votes from the Greek row chapters have been critical no matter how many students vote. Both the Rogers-Parchem and Hyllseth-Holze campaigns received significant endorsements from Greek Life throughout their campaigning efforts

The Rogers-Parchem campaign was especially a demonstration of this stereotypical structure that minority students are affected by. Their campaign efforts have followed the paths of those previous generations.

As frustrating as this has been, it’s essential for WSU student minorities to develop a different understanding of leadership. Altruism and integrity, not titles, are the simultaneous qualities that define leaders.

“I define leadership as an opportunity,” Frias said, “Leadership is every opportunity you’re given whether you’re working anywhere on campus or even by having a job working with people. It is a way to grow and become better.”

Courtney Benjamin, College of Education doctoral student, said leadership is taking whatever role one is in and making it better. It’s also collaborating with different people.

“You have to be able to work with people who don’t have the same outlook as yours for the greater good,” Benjamin said. “Wherever you are, there are many opportunities to showcase your integrity and work ethic.”

Titles and positions on a resume surely impress employers and admission boards but will not guarantee you employment or acceptance at a graduate program.

“Your personal statement can help determine if you are unique enough from the other qualified applicants to actually be admitted,” according to the University of California, Irvine. This can be built with experiences that cater to your individuality.

Your sense of individuality and meaningful experience will show your true passion for your areas of interest. This is demonstrated in personal statements, cover letters and interviews which most graduate programs and jobs require.

“If you didn’t get an opportunity with ASWSU, it’s not the end of it,” Frias said, “If you have a vision, an idea or want to make a change, showcase your vision to all undergraduate students and your community.”

In order to make ambition become reality, one must start from the bottom and inspire others after failing many times. ASWSU is one way to making a difference, but not the only one. WSU has funds and resources for students to start different clubs that can help flourish various interests.

In addition, public services and networking is not restricted to ASWSU. Local churches, charities, non-profits, on-campus internships and employment are all alternatives to how you can grow and be a leader.

“There’s fantastic student activism on campus. It’s one way to get involved, but is not the only way,” Benjamin said, “If it’s not with student activism, GPSA or ASWSU, it’s okay. Start from where you are.”

Your sense of individuality gives the title its value and not vice versa. No matter how different your talents or qualities are, they can be a component of your unique leadership. Every student minority on our campus already has an advantage pursuing a college degree over thousands nationwide. The wealth of knowledge and education we gain are what we contribute to how we think and approach problems. This can help us pursue our goals more strategically.

“Be yourself,” said Frias. “I wish other people understand that you don’t need to fit in these norms to pursue leaderships.”

Compromising and seeking acceptance at the cost of losing your sense of individuality is a great shame and motto for weakness. The real world doesn’t have the popularity contest some campuses like ours do. It has employers with real interests in diversity and working with non-traditional applicants.

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Take advantage of more unique opportunities for career development