Every senior’s road to graduation is bound to be unique, but there’s one path that few are given the opportunity to take part in: Serving as the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) president. However, it’s a challenge that Ama Appiah, the USG president for 2018-2019, was no doubt suited to tackle.
“I am someone who has been attracted to leadership and I always want to be active in my community,” Appiah, who will be graduating as a double major in molecular and cell biology and communications, said. “I wanted to make sure that I was being involved in those discussions [about improving academics and the student experience] and that the student experience is being cultivated by students.”
Luckily for the UConn community, Appiah decided the best way to do that was to join USG. Before serving as president, she had served as CLAS senator and chairwoman of the Academic Affairs Committee.
“I wanted to run for president because I felt that based on my experience at UConn, I had gained the different perspectives needed in order to pursue [the] position,” Appiah said. “I had the skills, had worked with administrators and at the state level - all these things cultivated to becoming president.”
With a holistic approach to her tenure focused on prioritizing students, building relationships with students and USG members and cultivating an environment that will best facilitate initiatives and others’ ideas, most of Appiah’s senior year was spent interacting with students and administrators alike to achieve her goals.
“I focused a lot on a new leadership style as someone who really focuses on relationship building and personal and professional development,” Appiah said. “...I truly believe that is the only way we can get the best ideas, the ideas that really encompass all the characteristics that we see in our communities. We have people from all different backgrounds and we need to make sure that we’re incorporating ideas that will work for most of them and I think that the way we do this is by really focusing on transitioning on a leadership style that focuses of relationships, relationship building and just genuine care and concern for others.”
Appiah’s influence on the community reaches beyond tangible impacts, providing much needed diversity into a very publicized leadership role.
“I think that one of the issues that we have when it comes to diversity and inclusion is that we don’t necessarily have a lot of people who look like me in these positions,” Appiah said. “One of the impacts I think I made was really setting the standard as to what an African-American female president looks like. She is one that is friendly, competent, experienced, willing to work with you and willing to help you learn and develop and grow professionally and personally. She is someone who is willing to understand where your perspective is coming from.”
However, the former USG president believes that the standards can only continue to improve, hopefully with the support of the next administration and members of USG.
“I think that we need to continue to set the standard and encourage these people to be in positions of leadership so that we can continue to move towards a more diverse and inclusive community,” Appiah said.
Senior year and the presidential position didn’t take it easy on Appiah, but it’s something that she’s taken in stride.
“Senior year was supposed to be the relaxing year, and it was not for me, as president,” Appiah said. She recalls getting sick twice as much as she normally does as a result of the stress of the position. “It definitely impacted my experience as a senior in terms of the stress, but I think that it impacted me positively as well, because I was able to cap off my time at the university by serving my peers, working with administrators and getting an understanding of how UConn works. I think that really made the UConn experience all worth it for me.”
Appiah shared that there was no other way she would have wanted to spend her senior year, besides perhaps prioritizing and taking care of herself and learning how to say no when appropriate.
“I’m always someone that cares so much for others and do the best for others so they can be successful in life after college,” Appiah said. “I think serving as president and doing that for my whole year was really rewarding and allowed everything to come full circle for me.”
Her final farewell to UConn is bittersweet, but also one of gratitude.
“I would like to just say thank you,” Appiah said. “Thank you for letting me be a part of your stories, and to allow me to listen to you all and to serve you. It’s been an absolute pleasure and it’s changed my life for the better. I’m incredibly blessed for your support, and hopefully I’ll be back soon, because UConn is my home.
Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.