Meet MBU’s New Student Leaders

Mary Baldwin University has its new student leaders for the 2018–19 school year. They have big plans and exciting goals. Get to know a little more about the upcoming SGA Executive Committee and their vision for next year.

SGA President: Qadira Muhammad ’19

“Empowerment. Dialogue. Unity.”

On why she wanted to run for office:

Last semester, I was in a Rotaract fellowship called New Generation Peacebuilders. College students from all over the state participated, and in one of the workshops we had to evaluate the leadership culture of our campuses.

We went into groups with peers from our own universities, and us Mary Baldwin students delved deep into our personal observations about our school. We talked about a lot of amazing things concerning our leadership culture, but we also concluded there are things that we could improve upon.

It was really in that moment when I realized how I wanted to effect change: through cultivating our leadership culture. This epiphany was coupled with our school going through its transition process. A lot of the student body has not been sure where their place is since this transition. I want to be a part of helping us to find that place and remind us that we are Boldly Baldwin, and I believe being the president would be the best avenue to do that.

On what it means to be an MBU leader:

It is because I don’t believe you have to have a formal title to be considered a “leader.” In fact, I think being a leader starts long before the title. This is especially true on our campus, where students have so many opportunities to get involved, inspire others, and put their visions into fruition.

Qadira Muhammad is majoring in political science and minoring in religious studies at MBU. She calls many places home, from Richmond (where she currently lives) to the Poconos to the Bronx. She previously served on Judicial Board and as the SGA secretary. She plans on taking a year or two off after graduation, maybe teaching ESL in east Asia and working on developing a non-profit … or interning in Germany, where she speaks the language. Then she has sights set on graduate school.

SGA Vice-President: Ascharya Balaji ’19

“Everyone’s voice and opinion matter.”Ascharya

On why she wanted to run for office:

I was inspired by the current Executive Committee to run for office. Senate President NyErica Young always motivated all the senators to voice their opinions.

I believe that the ability to have a voice is an essential step to being able to take action. I aim at making a difference and ensuring that the student body understand that they have the opportunity to make a change.

On what it means to be an MBU leader:

When it comes down to being a leader, I know that everyone is a leader in their own sense. Whether you are a shoulder to lean on, a peer mentor, a club leader, or on the Student Government Association you are still a leader in your capacity. As long as you aim at projecting your voice and opinions, there is a potential for change around you.

Ascharya Balaji is majoring in biology with a biomedical science emphasis and minoring in physics. Her parents are originally from South India, and she now lives in New York. Balaji has previously held many positions on campus, including the arts and entertainment coordinator for Baldwin Program Board; senator at large, representing the opinions of the student body; secretary of the Math Club; vice president for Operation Smile; and the publicity coordinator for Net Impact. After graduating from MBU, she plans to enter medical school and become a doctor.

SGA Treasurer: Tahlaya Hudson ’19

“For the student body.”Tahlaya

On why she wanted to run for office:

I was inspired to run for office after my year in senate, I loved the change we enforced on campus and knew any executive council position would be something for me.

On what it means to be an MBU leader:

Mary Baldwin is in the process of a historical transition and allowing the student body to feel represented is the type of leader I choose to be on this campus. Not one only for the optics, but for the student body.

Tahlaya Hudson is majoring in health science at MBU. She has served as a Class of 2019 senator, secretary of the Caribbean Students Association, member of the Greek Life Committee, and Facilities Management liaison. Originally from Miami, she plans to further her education at Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences in the physician assistant program. Eventually, she hopes to become a pediatric oncologist.

Baldwin Program Board Chair: Kerryn Freeman ’19

“Attendance and participation.”Kerryn

On why she wanted to run for office:

Originally, I joined Baldwin Program Board (BPB) as the campus outreach and publicity coordinator to have some internship credit for my sophomore year. Over time, I grew attached to BPB and the impact we made on campus. I loved hearing the testimonies of students about our events and posting pictures of student engagement.

We found students spoke more honestly when you gave them the platform to voice their concerns and responded well to changes when they were included in the process. I knew I could be the leader to implement this agenda. With the support of the student body and my boldly Baldwin attitude, change is underway.

On what it means to be an MBU leader:

A leader is one who inspires others passionately with a high degree of influence. A Mary Baldwin leader challenges not only themselves, but also the student body and inspires our respective communities. Warren Bennis, a pioneer in leadership studies, once stated, “leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” What students learn from Mary Baldwin transfers to every field and goal imaginable. We turn our visions for the future into obtainable realities.

Kerryn Freeman is studying for a BA in marketing and communications with an emphasis in Communications and a double minor in business and creative writing. Her position as BPB chair will be her first time holding a campus-wide office at MBU, building upon her experience as SGA vice president in high school. She has also worked as an intern with MBU’s Office of Alumni Engagement. Originally from Washington, D.C., she plans to stay at Mary Baldwin after graduation for an additional year to earn an MBA.

Honor Council Chair: Blanca Beltran ’20

“Understand where both parties are coming from.”Blanca

On why she wanted to run for office:

As freshman year went by, I decided that I wanted to be more involved in school. I wanted professors to know me as well as students, aside from the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL). I was never involved in student government in high school, so I wanted to change that now that I am in college.

On what it means to be an MBU leader:

Being a leader at MBU is amazing. It has taught me to know myself more — if I don’t know what kind of person I am, how am I expected to lead others forward?

As an MBU leader, I have gotten to know more students and professors as well, which was my goal. As an Honor Council representative, you get to learn to understand where both parties are coming from.

A member of VWIL, Blanca Beltran is majoring in criminal justice with a minor in sociology and leadership studies. She was previously an Honor Council representative for 2017–18. She was born in El Salvador and raised in Houston. After she graduates, she hopes to be a officer in the Army, or enroll in police academy.

Inter-Club Council Chair: Kimberly Jones ’19

Judicial Board Chair: Autumn Bennett ’20

“Make a difference and give back”

On why she wanted to run for office:

After being a representative for Judicial Board, I fell in love with student conduct and becoming a leader is something I just felt like I needed to do. I truly hope I can make a difference on this campus and give back.

On what it means to be an MBU leader:

I’m really excited! I feel so passionate about this position, and I am beyond thrilled to be able to hold a position with such a high honor here.

Autumn Bennett is a biology major with an emphasis in biomedical science. Previously in the position of Judicial Board representative, she is holding an Executive Committee leadership position for the first time. From Yorktown, she hopes to continue her studies in biology in a graduate/PhD program for female reproductive cancer research after MBU.

Residence Hall Association Chair: Shawnee Lee ’19

“Bring more awareness.”Shawnee

On why she wanted to run for office:

I enjoyed watching Zorina Morton, the current chair of the Residence Hall Association (RHA), plan different campus-wide events, and I figured that running for chair would allow me to reveal my creative side to the student body.

Next year, I would like to bring awareness to RHA by being more active on campus and presenting at events such as Club Rush.

On what it means to be an MBU leader:

Mary Baldwin is the perfect place for individuals to become leaders. It’s not a big campus, therefore it allows you to engage more with those that you are leading.

Shawnee Lee is double majoring in criminal justice and sociology, and is currently the treasurer for RHA and a senator for the Class of 2019. Originally from Washington, D.C., she plans to work after graduation and save up for a master’s degree program.

Student Advocate Chair: Rebecca Balzan ’20

“Promote campus safety, campus-centered concerns, and college-age student issues”Rebecca

On why she wanted to run for office:

I was initially drawn to becoming a student advocate because I wanted to help represent my peers and be a voice and advocate on students’ behalf. As an advocate this academic year, I became aware of some issues that students encounter on this campus for which they need representation, and I realized how essential it is that students have another person to confide in when they’re struggling with judicial and honor code offenses.

Many students dealing with conduct code offenses are unaware of their rights as students or the procedures of a case. The position of student advocate chair affords a greater means and opportunity to connect with the student body and assist in making everyone’s experience at Mary Baldwin better.

On what it means to be an MBU leader:

As a campus with a relatively small residential population, Mary Baldwin offers a variety of leadership positions for students to pursue if they choose. As a leader on campus, I’m able to address and help implement solutions to overwhelming student concerns as well as effect change directly. I have often heard from students that they feel like their voices are sidelined by the administration; as a campus leader, I’ll strive to ensure that their concerns are heard.

Rebecca Balzan is majoring in political science and United States history and minoring in studio art and leadership studies with a dual emphasis in military leadership and community and social change. She previously served as a Class of 2020 senator and as a student advocate. Born in Ozone Park, NY, she grew up in Aventura, FL, and currently lives in Palm Coast, FL. Her plans following graduation are to commission into the United States Army as a 2nd Lieutenant and then obtain her law degree to serve as a JAG officer. Then she intends to go to graduate school and pursue a career in constitutional law and/or education reform.