2014-2015 SGA President and Miss Southern University
Students at Southern University cast ballots on Monday, April 7 for their candidates to represent SU's 2014-2015 Student Government Association and Royal Court. Polls closed Monday evening and votes were tallied.
SU's Director of Student Life, Jonas Vanderbilt announced Nicholas Harris, a junior biology major, as the new SGA President. Then he declared Shanice Mae Sam, also a junior biology major, as the 2014-2015 Miss Southern University.
The student body's new campus leaders will take over officially in May.
Nicholas "Nick" Harris came to Southern University with a vision. He saw himself as someone who could make a difference on the Baton Rouge campus.
For the 20-year-old Rosedale native and SU Laboratory School graduate, it's time to get things done.
"I want to open the SGA up to anyone who wants to make a difference," said Harris, who is taking applications for his executive cabinet.
Harris said it was a "surreal moment" when the vote totals were read showing that he had won the top student leadership position. "It was a sense of accomplishment."
"I'm anxious to get started," added Harris, who has been involved in student issues since he was Student Government Association president at the Laboratory School and freshman senator on the Baton Rouge campus.
Harris said he wants to increase the number of on-campus activities for students, including events where student artists can showcase their talents. "They shouldn't have to go off campus to show their painting or musical talent," he said.
How Harris wound up at Southern, shows this is the place he was supposed to be. He admits he had dreams of going to Morehouse College, "that's Martin Luther King's alma mater" and even other schools around Louisiana.
However, Harris said, that while he was a senior at the Lab School he took classes on the Baton Rouge campus "and I felt comfortable with everyone."
"I had a good feeling about Southern," he said, adding that receiving a scholarship from the Dolores Margaret Richard Spikes Honors College, helped considerably. Harris said he eventually plans to attend dentistry school.
Harris praised his campaign team, adding that they helped him with speech and debate preparation and meeting students on campus. "They really went hard for me," he said.
One of oddities of the race is that his competitor, Charissa Carroll, is a dear friend. Carroll received 438 votes. "She helped me when I was a freshman," he said. "It was really awkward because we are so close-knit."
He said they are still friends and that she has promised to help him in his post as SGA president.
Among his goals, Harris said, he wants to start a Students Assisting Students program in which upperclassmen will advise younger students about campus life, what is expected of them in college, basically how to navigate the college landscape both socially and academically.
He also wants more students involved in the recruitment process, which he says could be pivotal in continuing to stabilize and boost enrollment.
The 2014-2015 Miss Southern title goes to Shanice Mae Sam, a junior biology major from Maurice, La. And what a relief and feeling of excitement it was for the 20-year-old when she received a text from her sorority sister saying, "You're Miss SU!"
The "Southern Sweetheart," which she used as her campaign theme because "everyone knows me as a sweetheart and I'm also sweet," said Sam, was too nervous to get out of the car on Election Day. Sam said she did not want to look nervous in front of cameras and be too emotional.
Sam described the past few days as "a tough campaign week with a lot of ups and downs, and at times I wasn't too confident I would win." For guidance through the whole process, Sam looked to former Miss Southerns Erin Rogers, also a sorority sister, and Sabrina Whitney.
As she sat in the car to await word of the winner, Sam replayed the week in her head, making sure she did all she could do and attended every event.
The North Vermilion High School alum is not new to the Royal Court. In her first year at Southern, she served as the 2011-2012 Miss Freshman. She said it was exciting to be on Miss Southern's court and to get a chance to experience her first Bayou Classic.
That was a great way to break into the university's culture.
Sam said she came to Southern for a change in scenery after attending a predominantly white high school. She knew Southern was the place for her, as it was the place for her father who had attended Southern.
Why did she decide to run for Miss Southern? Simple. Sam said she competed because "I wanted to bring back the student moral and I felt that I was the person that could do it with grace, poise, and charisma."
One of the first things on her agenda as Miss Southern is to unify the student body by incorporating the new diversity being brought to the campus with the growing enrollment of students from Brazil, Turkey and other countries.
Sam would also like to see more student involvement at sporting events, such as softball and soccer games. "I reached out to the softball team and realized there should be more students at the games...we should do better as a student body and support," said Sam.
Recruiting will also be something Sam pushes for as Miss Southern. One thing she would stress to high school students is that "Southern is a great school. I fell in love with Southern because professors here really and genuinely care about their students and want to see their students strive. At other institutions you are just a number and may not get to know your professor personally. So that is one thing that attracted me to Southern."
She also feels that Southern teaches beyond education. "It teaches you life lessons. It is a school where you will leave well rounded," said Sam.
Sam wants to continue Community Outreach Programs and Services, an initiative 2013-2014 Miss Southern Ayanna Spivey started. In addition, Sam would like to work more closely with the Baton Rouge American Heart Association and Baton Rouge Sickle Cell. This past semester Sam developed a love for the American Heart Association and she would like to work with BR Sickle Cell because she has the sickle cell trait. One of her parents also carries the trait.
"It is important to me that I give back to those who do have sickle cell," said Sam.
Besides taking on the roll of Miss Southern, Sam is also a member of Association for Women Students, Beta Kappa Chi South Region Vice President, Honors College and also a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
With a biology degree, Sam plans to attend physical therapy school after graduating in 2015. She wants to attend a two-year program, maybe at LSU, and receive her license as a physical therapist.
Sam's advice to the women currently in a run-off for Miss Junior is to "stay humble to yourself throughout the entire race."
Like most Miss Southerns, Sam said coronation is on her mind. She wants it to be elegant. But really she is taking it one day at a time!
Harris, sporting a big smile said, "I want to get a lot of things done early."
First on the list of events for the Harris and Sam will be attending the National Association of Student Affairs Professionals. Following that they will head to the Student Government Association retreat bringing all of SGA and the Royal Court on one accord for the event year ahead of them.