J.R. Robinson says he has always felt a call to serve. And the University of Southern Mississippi senior will get an opportunity to nurture that calling as the new Student Government Association president for 2009-10.
Robinson, 21, is a criminal justice major from Bolton. He addressed the importance of student involvement and other pertinent topics during a recent question and answer session. The fall semester at Southern Miss begins Aug. 19.
QUESTION: What made you decide to run for student body president?
ANSWER: “After being on this campus for the past few years I remembered a challenge that Dr. Joe Paul (Vice President for Student Affairs) had issued to all of us students: to leave Southern Miss better than you found it. That is pretty much what I’ve tried to live by during my time at Southern Miss.”
Q: What have you been doing this summer in preparation for the new school year?
A: “I’ve actually been working with the freshman class this summer, assisting with orientation sessions, things like that. Trying to help them get better prepared for college. It’s quite a culture shock at first and a hard transition for some, so we in the SGA offer tips and other kinds of information that can be useful to first-year students.”
Q: Did you have a role in student government last year?
A: “Yes, from my sophomore year through my junior year I served as elections commissioner to oversee the homecoming and SGA elections.”
Q: What was your proudest moment from that period in the SGA?
A: “I must say that I worked extremely hard to increase voter turnout on campus and it really paid off. We had a little over 20 percent turnout in the 2008 elections, which was the highest in school history. That might not sound like much, but the national average is only around two percent.”
Q: What goals or objectives have you outlined for the 2009-10 year as SGA president?
A: “I definitely want to make sure we invest time and energy in the students here. Often times, we get caught up in our own world as SGA officers and don’t pay enough attention to what the students really need. We want students to come see us with any concerns or issues at any time, and we’ll try to assist in some way.”
Q: How do you get students more involved in campus government and other activities?
A: “I think you have to make them buy into what you’re selling. It’s going to be the focal point of my administration and others in the SGA to assure students that we’re here to serve them.”
Q: What characteristics do you think make Southern Miss a special seat of higher learning?
A: “It’s definitely the environment here. I’ve been to a lot of different campuses in many different places and nothing compares to Southern Miss. And that has everything to do with the people here. I’ve always said that what I love about Southern Miss is that it’s small enough to see the same people just about every day but big enough that you will meet a new person every day.”
Q: As an African-American SGA president at Southern Miss, what was your reaction to Barack Obama’s election as president of the United States?
A: “It was a special time in history, not only for African-Americans, but the country as a whole. I was fortunate enough to attend the inauguration, and I’ve never seen so many people of one accord. I’m a pretty big history buff and there’s no question that I was witnessing a fantastic time in American history that day.”
Q: What are your plans after graduation? Any chance you might continue in politics on some level?
A: “That’s always the million-dollar question, isn’t it? After I get my degree, there’s a possibility that I will go to law school. I’d like to pursue a career in public service. At some point that call might include politics. We’ll see.”
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.