Shepard New SGA President At WSU
Joseph Shepard will be sworn in Wednesday as Wichita State University’s new Student Government Association President. The organization is governed by students and committed to their issues and concerns. Shepard will be a lead advocate for about 15,000 students with a student fee budget of more than $9 million. KMUW’s Carla Eckels talks with Shepard about his new role…
Well first of all tell me, how does it feel to be the new president?
"It’s humbling, I’m grateful; sometimes it’s so unrealistic. I woke up saying, 'Do I really have the honor to serve 15,000 students from diverse backgrounds?' And I’m a man of faith, so overall, it’s a blessing to me."
Tell me about your platform. What is one of the significant thing that you’d like to accomplish year?
"Absolutely. So one of our main pillars is cultural competency--we ran on four pillars, and communication, campus enrichment, and service outreach--and cultural competency was the number one. So we are really going to be working with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to see what trainings we can provide for students so that they become more culturally competent. Whether that’s having students to become allies of the LGBTQ community or maybe it’s holding more discussions in the evenings so that individuals on this campus can become more aware of the cultural backgrounds that they come from and the cultural backgrounds that others come from. So often we let the fear of the unknown stop us from getting to know someone that doesn’t look like us, walk with us, talk like us, and we really want to work to break down those barriers here at Wichita State."
What about the Innovation Campus? How do you want to be involved with that?
"We want to sit down with President Bardo and look at bringing local businesses to campus. We want to support our own. I think of T.O.P.S. [A Taste of Philadelphia, near 21st and Grove in Wichita], the subway sandwich restaurant. That’s a local business that we would love to have on campus."
How else do you want to influence the students at WSU?
"I really want to make sure that Wichita State students are proud to be a part of Wichita State. That we are no longer a commuter campus by the time my term is up. That students are living on campus and they’re studying on campus and they are proud to be on campus."
One of the ways you were about to attend WSU is because you received the California Legislature award, tell me about that.
"The California Legislature award is given out to about 25 high school recipients in the State of California every year and I was one of those recipients in 2011 when I graduated. It’s given to you based on your academic performance, your community service involvement for college and it was a blessing. It really helped me realize my potential and really helped me realize I really can do anything that I put my mind to because I wasn’t supposed to graduate high school on time. I suffered from being a child in a low-income community and I really didn’t like who I was. I didn’t have the cool shoes and I didn’t have all the nice things so I didn’t get the attention that some of the other kids got. They would come to school with their new shoes and people would say, 'Oh I love your shoes.' So my way of doing that was acting up. It definitely wasn’t a good thing, but doing that, it almost held me back and it took my father and my mother to tell me, 'You bet get your act right,' and really sitting down with me, having those heart-to-hearts, it help me realize 'I have to do this for me I have to be better for me, I have to be better for my family,' and that’s when I woke up and got my life together." [laugh]
That’s incredible that you tell that story because I think it will resonate with folks to say, 'If Joseph can do it, I can do it.' I mean, here you are (SGA) President now.
"Yes and that’s why it’s so unbelievable, because if you look back a couple of years ago, me and my family, we didn’t have a roof over our heads. We didn’t have a car. Me and my siblings, I remember we were waking up for school in the morning and having to get dressed in a McDonald’s restaurant for school, wearing the same clothes over and over again and then going to school and being questioned about that. That’s hard for someone who’s 10, 11, 8–that’s hard to take on. And then just watching my father sacrifice. My father sacrificed so much for us and I didn’t realize it then but I realize it now."
Sobering isn’t it?
To go from there, to now, to what’s ahead because the future looks so bright!
"It looks so bright and I’m definitely not going to slow down. I’m not going to stop, because like I said, I have to be an example for those who are going through some of the same situations I went through. My little brother and my nephew and my nieces, I want them truly see that they can do anything they put their mind to regardless of where life has taken them."
That’s Joseph Shepard. He is the new Student Government Association President at Wichita State University. Thank you so much Joseph!
"Thank you so much for having me."