Just a year ago, Drake University students elected Morgan Coleman to be the student body president for the 2021-2022 school year, making her the first Black woman to hold the position in Drake’s history.
During this past year, Coleman and the rest of the 35th session of Drake’s student senate have focused on the transparency and visibility of senate’s decisions to ensure Drake is an equitable campus for all students.
Prior to being student body president, Coleman was no stranger to leadership and involvement on this campus.
Being a member of the Board of the Coalition of Black Students, participating in the African Caribbean Students Association, leading first-years as a resident assistant, mobilizing the #PaintItBlack Movement and serving as the equity and inclusion senator and co-president of Unity Roundtable during the 2020-2021 school year, Coleman was ready to take on the position of president.
“Those experiences allowed me to work closely with the different multicultural student organizations on campus,” Coleman said. “But it also allowed me to see what the University as a whole was doing in terms of working with students, staff and individuals in our administration.”
Coleman’s multitude of leadership positions allowed her to naturally gravitate toward the role of Student Body President, especially after connecting with so many different individuals across campus.
“To some degree, student leadership was always on my mind,” Coleman said. “I just never knew how much it was until I decided to run.”
When running for the position, Coleman campaigned on ideals of accessibility, transparency, accountability and representation. Many of her accomplishments as student body president have allowed for those promises to ring true, even toward the end of her term.
One highlight of her presidency included chairing the open forum series “BLM@Drake,” where she collaborated with the student senate, faculty senate and Unity Roundtable to address the needs of Black students, faculty and staff on campus.
Another accomplishment was working to pass a resolution allowing Drake’s National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc. (NPHC) to have the ability to request funding from Drake’s student senate.
As a member of the “Divine Nine,” it was important for Coleman and the rest of the student senate to see financial support from Drake go to the historically Black fraternities and sororities. This resolution aligns with Coleman’s work — and current and past NPHC leadership’s work — to have equal opportunities for all student organizations on campus.
“It’s always been extremely important to me to make sure there’s equity and access in terms of resources when [multicultural student organizations] are planning events,” Coleman said.
To Coleman, a collective goal of the student senate was making sure students felt their voices were understood and acknowledged. This was aided with the goal of making sure their work was transparent and visible.
With the continuation of live-streamed meetings, Coleman and the rest of senate implemented new initiatives such as creating email accounts for executive members and office hours for students on Starfish to share concerns and connect with members of student senate.
“We’ve been committed to equity and inclusion and making sure student voices are heard, but I’m not the only one doing that,” Coleman said. “Each of us has worked hard at preserving visibility and creating a transparent senate.”
To other senate members like current vice president of student life and student body president-elect Connor Oetzmann, Coleman has consistently been intentional about everything she says and does — and that work is reflected in her accomplishments as student body president.
“Morgan [has] constantly, since the beginning, been adamant about following through on her campaign promises,” Oetzmann said. “She’s very intentional with whatever she says and does. That’s been shown in her diligence about finding areas of need or inequality on campus.”
Oetzmann believes that the student senate has created a space where students feel comfortable voicing concerns, mainly due to Coleman’s leadership.
“I knew it would be a great opportunity to work together with Morgan,” Oetzmann said. “She’s always been someone I’ve admired and looked up to. There’s so much she’s taught me that I want to carry on in my leadership in terms of creating supportive spaces.”
To both Oetzmann and Coleman, the 35th session of student senate has been one of the most diverse in their times at Drake in terms of personalities and make-up. With senators of a wide variety of different demographics, interests and life experiences, collaboration has come easy.
“All of our different backgrounds bring not only an added level of equity and inclusion but also an added level of balance,” Coleman said. “It takes all of us to accomplish our goals as a senate.”
While Coleman does celebrate the fact that she is Drake’s first Black woman student body president, she also hopes she is not the last.
“Me being in this position doesn’t eradicate the issues students of color, specifically Black students, face on this campus,” Coleman said. “But I hope all students see the representation our senate is trying to accomplish. I want people to see the direction senate is heading.”
In terms of plans after graduation, Coleman will spend the next year working while waiting to apply to graduate programs where she aims to get a master’s degree in peace and conflict studies or international relations.