Campaign Season. This isn’t like the race to be Prom King or Queen in high school. The stakes are high during Campaign season at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. It’s almost like another Homecoming. ANYTHING goes! The ambition to represent one’s college or university intensifies every semester. HBCU Students around the nation find new and innovative ways to grasp the attention of prospective voters. Prospective candidates at HBCUs are known for pushing the envelope in order to get what they want. If they don’t, they have no chance. So, let’s talk about campaign season in a real way and get to the bottom of what it is and how you come out on top.
The Student Leadership Track
Believe it or not, you can’t just come out the gate campaigning the Spring of your junior year and think you’re gonna be set. Only few people have done that. You have to walk what we call the “Student Leadership Track”. The Student Leadership track is almost like working a job and getting promoted for excellent service. You might start off as Miss Freshman, then win Miss Sophomore, then work your way up to be the Queen of your own Greek or Organizational court before running for Miss of your university. Another person might start off as an SGA senator then work their way through the Executive Board before they run for SGA President. These people are often successful because they have a track record of success in student leadership and making a change on campus.
Student leadership is an art within itself. It takes months, if not a couple of years to truly earn the trust of the student body. We advise this because, as it aids your in your rise to prominence in student leadership, you also learn the necessary skills and mindset that it takes to be the leading ambassador for your campus. You don’t just hop in a car and start driving. You have to practice. You don’t just hop in the kitchen at a restaurant and start cooking. You have to be trained on the proper procedure to make things happen. Every well-received at renowned student leader at the very least has had previous experience that made them fit for the title.
Remember To Run For The Right Reasons
There’s this ideology that folks assume if you become this, then you’ll make ‘line’ for that. Unfortunately for most, it’s ONLY an assumption that winning on-campus positions will entitle them into the sorority or fraternity of choice. A little piece of advice for those who are aligning their endeavors to ‘Go Greek’. DROP OUT! There’s an importance in showing others that you’re capable of exemplifying leadership qualities if you plan to carry out those qualities throughout your reign or tenure. Going Greek is not a valid excuse to drop the crown and pick up letters instead. So again, DROP OUT of the running if you’re building an entire collegiate resume to cross in a chapter that would have taken you as yourself regardless… and not just as Mister/Miss ‘Whatever’. We need students who care about the institution and not just themselves.
Campaign season is one of the most anticipated times on any HBCU activity calendar.. For some it’s an interactive experience to learn about the candidates and what they have to offer for the school. For others… it’s free pizza on the yard. You basically don’t have to spend any flex dollars on meals and the cafe is out of business. My favorite part of campaign season is seeing what creative themes and graphics students will use to highlight their accolades and platforms. How many times can we bring up Jahkia Gray’s AMAZING Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme for Miss Alcorn State University (HBCU Pulse Founder Randall Barnes wrote about this in the spring, calling it the best campaign of all time) or Kyra Freeman’s LIT Beyoncé campaign for Miss FAMU? At HBCU’s we’ve seen everything from festivals to catered food, even free haircuts! Anything to convince the students that they’re the right representative. How does one pull off such a successful run for student office?
Having the right intentions will get you far. Ensuring that your advocacy correlates with the school’s values and that your platform will bring about change will show voters that you’re the right person for the job. Being genuine is always the best way to go. Yes, giving out free Popeye’s Chicken Sandwiches in the student center can help capture a few undecided voters. However, your peers want to see an ‘agent of change’. This past school year, I ran for Miss Junior at the unshakeable Virginia State University. I never considered myself as popular or well-known. I wasn’t Greek or in any prominent organizations. Instead. I had a passion for the university as a whole and people felt it. I also was passionate about mental health epidemic that affects our community. So, I based my platform around it.
While everyone was out on the Yard giving out free meals, I spent my time knocking on doors and introducing myself. Some had no idea that Election Season was even taking place! I talked about my personal advocacy and what I planned to enforce at VSU if I won. Although I didn’t walk away as Miss Junior, I still believe that this made an impact on the campus at large. Student leadership isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about putting on your best effort to effect change. Although I wasn’t victorious, I still aim to make change on my campus and empower young men and women that anything is possible. That’s why I’m writing this to you today.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Competing for such prestigious positions can come with stress, drama, blood, sweat, tears, and more. At HBCU Pulse, we’ve seen it all. The road to the throne isn’t easy, but maintaining the momentum is the hard part. As stated before, campaigning requires strategy. One wrong move could mean the difference between Queen and First Attendant. Not only do you have to focus on your own strategy, but it’s imperative to learn your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses as well. You may excel in public speaking but is your talent up to par as the next girl? Your implementations for the next academic school year impressed the staff members but are your graphics just as fire as the next person running for SGA president?
Competing as a well-rounded student will differentiate you amongst your running mates. Competition can help motivate you in many different ways, but they can also knock you down in a sense. You announce that you’re giving away free nachos to the first 50 students and it just so happens the girl running against you for Miss Sophomore got Chipotle to cater FREE burritos to the entire student body the next day. Mhmm… interesting.
God forbid another contestant tries to get you DISQUALIFIED due to jealousy. This happens all the time in real life. It was even confronted in the popular book ‘A Queen’s Pain’ written by HBCU Pulse founder, Randall Barnes. The main character Raynetta Duram almost was out of the race for Miss Laketon State University (a fictional HBCU) because her opponent envied one the ways she promoted her run to become queen! So yes, competing for Royal Court or an SGA position isn’t as glamorous as Instagram makes it seem. It’s a grind that isn’t for the faint of heart. But it shouldn’t be. If everyone could do it, what would make you stand out?
In conclusion, you must play your cards right if you want to successfully campaign to be in campus leadership. I’ve seen both sides of the game. You have to walk the right path to the position you vye for, have the right intentions, be strategic in your campaign and rise above everything that goes on to secure the crown or successfully book your SGA inauguration. It may be hard, but all of this will aid you in becoming a more effective leader on your campus and after you graduate. And, if you were to win, it gives you a concept of how you can effectively make change on your campus.
If you need any assistance for your campaigning, please fill out the Google Form linked below. We’d love to assist you in crafting the right message about your campaign and effectively making sure your message is heard.