I’ll be quite frank with you all: I have been dreading writing this farewell. I do not know how to say goodbye to a role that has called me to be greater in so many capacities. I do not know how to say goodbye to something that taught me so much about myself and my leadership capabilities, but I am going to try.
There is not much one can do to prepare you to be president of a student body. The former president may tell you what to look out for, how to handle certain situations and who to make your friend. However, no one could truly prepare me for the magnitude of serving Oklahoma Christian University as its first Black, female SGA president. I have known how to lead since the day I was born, but leading a body of people whose makeup does not look much like your own was a challenge in itself. But it was a challenge I was up for.
Oklahoma Christian has not had a Black president since the year 2016. I knew serving as a Black woman in this role meant a lot of things to many people. Many thought having a Black woman preside over campus meant we had finally made it in the diversity corridor; others knew this was the first of many steps to come. Some saw this as a historical achievement and thought we should pat ourselves on the back. Finally, some saw me for who I was, a Black woman who wanted this campus to spend more time listening to each other instead of yelling; a person who truly desired for students to have a voice, funding and a sense of influence.
Making history is not new to me, nor is serving as president of a SGA at a predominately white Christian educational institution. Before arriving at Oklahoma Christian, I had served as the student body president of a small private Christian school, and I was the first Black person to do so in the school’s history. Serving Oklahoma Christian as its SGA president has brought me joy, and tears.
The most surprising part of serving as president was not leading a weekly senate meeting, or having conversations with administration, or hosting delegations. It was the time spent with students listening to their life stories and holding space for their frustrations and concerns. My mantra quickly became kindness first because we are humans first. I endeavored to listen and then provide reform, even if it was futile. Advocating for students in the senate and elsewhere provided me with a sense of responsibility.
Many thought having an all-female cabinet was the mark of the century for SGA, and let me tell you, it was. Maralee, Jaylnn and Sarah are a wonderful, feisty bunch who ultimately warred alongside me for the betterment of our campus. I owe these women a debt of gratitude, especially Sarah, my right-hand woman.
At the close of this year, I began to mull over my why. Why did I choose to do this? I know this much: I was called to this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Moreover, when another spunky, opinionated, classy Black woman decides she wants to run for president, I hope they tell the story of this year. I hope they remind her it has been done before, and she could do it.
At the beginning of the year, I prayed this prayer: “God make me a woman of Your Word.” In the past year, especially in the past months, it has been easy as a campus to lose our identity, our unity, our focus. My hope and prayer as I say goodbye is we become a campus of the Word, of love especially for our neighbor, and one unified. John 17:21
Kiva C. Maxwell