Today we speak with Arielle Gedeon, a leader at Rowan University. Arielle has served as Student Government Association (SGA) president for two consecutive years. Arielle, a senior Radio/Television/Film (RTF) major, also serves as the president of the Lambda Rho Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. She calls Galloway, NJ in Atlantic County, her hometown. In addition to being a first-generation college student, Arielle also made history as the first Black female to become the SGA President.
This story is part of a series spotlighting campus leaders during Women’s History Month.
What is your role in your organization?
As president of the Student Government Association (SGA), I serve as the face of the student body. I oversee the overall operation of SGA and maintain the accountability of the executive board. SGA serves as the voice for the student body and presents any student concerns to Rowan administrators. SGA works closely with Rowan administrators, providing advocacy and support for students. Every student pays a student government fee, which is allocated to 160+ clubs or organizations on campus to fund their budgets.
What have you learned in your role as a leader?
I have learned that serving people is a privilege. My colleagues tell me I have a “servant’s heart.” It means a lot to me because I truly find joy in serving people. I love helping people because I know what it was like to be in a place where you really need help and someone to advocate for you. Being in SGA and serving as a leader is truly a privilege. I never want to take that for granted.
What’s your favorite memory as a leader or at Rowan in general?
I have so many! When I was first elected as SGA president, I was so overcome with emotion because I was elected as the first Black female student body president. When I think about the unfortunate prejudices that Black women face in America, even in the classroom, we have to fight to be [seen] as leaders without being perceived as “bossy.” We can be assertive without being intimidating.
One of my favorite memories was getting the Rowan Wellness Fee passed and working with the Rowan administrators. Mental health is so important. As someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety throughout their life, I could finally take advantage of those resources last year. I’m really grateful for everyone who has put in the work to make the Rowan Wellness Fee possible so that students like myself can receive the help they need.
I’m in such a great place in my life by going to therapy and other initiatives offered by the Wellness Center. I know that there is a taboo in talking about it, but I am very open because it has changed my life. I remember working with Scott Woodside, Director for the Wellness Center, who was very open and available to hearing student concerns. Seeing how the student body came together showed how strong the Rowan community is.
Who inspires you and why?
My faith is really important to me as a Christian woman. I put that above anything else I do. I let it guide my steps. I find so much peace within it.
What’s the most significant barrier to women today?
Besides the institutional and systemic barriers, your mindset [can be a significant barrier.] We’re going to face a lot of barriers. It’s so easy to step down, to think small, to make ourselves “smaller,” or to make other people comfortable (especially men). I want us to think beyond that. Don’t make yourself smaller. Don’t worry about how you’re being perceived. Don’t worry about being “intimidating” or “bossy.” Don’t let your mindset keep you from achieving something great. It’s so easy to think negatively.
What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders?
You are nothing without your team. I know it sounds controversial, but it’s true. People, unfortunately, only see how it benefits themselves and say “I’m doing everything.” But it really is a team effort and you need to see beyond yourself. You have to see how other people bring so many great skillsets and ideas to the table. You should encourage your team. Be mindful of your team. It’s not just about you.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
Honestly, I do not know right now. Even though I’m not 100% certain about where I’ll be in the future, I can put my trust in God’s will and I find so much comfort in that. Even though there’s so much uncertainty about tomorrow, I find so much peace in God’s will and plan for my life.
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