Student Government’s executive officers eager to inspire, serve

The Student Government leadership, from left: Ajiri Uzere, Landon Coles, and Grace Tenke. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami
By Ashley A. Williams

The Student Government leadership, from left: Ajiri Uzere, Landon Coles, and Grace Tenke. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami

Student Government’s executive officers eager to inspire, serve

By Ashley A. Williams
As the University of Miami’s Coral Gables Campus begins the fall academic semester, Student Government’s new leaders are encouraging others to get involved by setting an example.

Following a year of varied learning experiences and a notable election season last spring, this year’s University of Miami Student Government executive officers are ready to serve, safeguard, and inspire their student body. 

Landon Coles, a senior majoring in political science and the group’s president for the 2021-2022 academic year, ran on the hopes of establishing transparent policies that encourage greater social cohesion; connect students with professionals; and actively benchmark and communicate ideas, initiatives, and policies with peers. 

Working alongside Coles are Ajiri Uzere, vice president and a senior studying political science and psychology, and Grace Tenke, treasurer, who is also a senior and is majoring in finance, marketing, and management. The trio meets weekly to implement guiding policies and to continue the inherited and newly established campus-wide projects for their Student Government administration. 

“I didn’t run for this position for a title, I didn’t run for this position just to add something else to the resume,” said Coles, who is a Ronald A. Hammond Scholar. “We genuinely care about bettering our community and we each want to inspire others to be their best selves.” 

“We, as an executive board, communicate daily and that’s been one of the strongest characteristics of our board,” Tenke said. “Now that we’re back in person, you feel the energy. And I think that’s fueling the excitement and desire to be organized, so that we can get back into the swing of things.” 

Before they were sworn in as this year’s executive board, each of them has made quite a name for themselves within the campus community. Uzere co-founded the Beyond the Horizons mentorship program and served on the group’s Freshman Leadership Council. Tenke is a member of Zeta Tau Alpha, the former president of business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi, and the current Iron Arrow lawmaker. 

Coles, who is the first Black male to lead Student Government in 11 years, is proud to serve in this role and be a representative for “individuals who might not have seen somebody who looks like them” in such a role, he said.

As the semester begins, Coles, Uzere, and Tenke are already hard at work. During last week’s fall orientation the three student leaders collectively interacted with thousands of students. 

Part of the work expected to be set forth this semester will include implementing new initiatives, including creating the Student Government Consortium, which will be an affiliation with other student governments across the country to brainstorm ideas and collaborate. 

“We really want to make sure we’re bringing the best to our students here at the University by knowing what other universities are doing, by benchmarking and really collaborating,” Tenke said. “This will make our experience for our students here the best it can possibly be.” 

Another initiative the board is looking to hit the ground running with is a leadership summit to provide a development program for all first-year leaders on campus. 

“Since these students will be working with each other for the next [few] years, I want to provide the tools they need to become really successful student leaders on campus,” said Uzere. “I want things like how to book a room, or who to contact for specific information, to be normalized.” 

Coles is highly anticipating the balance between the agenda that they ran on and the agenda and ideas that their team executes. For instance, the group’s director of academic affairs would like to implement a study buddy program, where the Student Government works to partner individuals to prepare them for standardized tests such as the MCAT or LSAT. 

“They can study together and as someone who’s preparing for the LSAT myself, that is an excellent idea among so many other great ideas I have heard from the team,” Coles said. “Other initiatives that excite me include keeping our foot on the gas as it relates to social justice, racial justice, and equity.” 

As the semester takes off, the three student leaders said they want their peers to know that even though they hold titles, that they, too, are just students. 

“We are just students—like the rest of [our peers]—who are just trying to serve as a vessel and a mouthpiece on behalf of the issues that [all students] face,” Coles said. “What we are practicing is trickle down communication, where we get the information and we share it accordingly.” 

One of the main things this executive board wants its peers to take away from this academic year is that it is important to get involved.

Each executive board member constantly shares their contact information on all social media platforms and also has office hours for students to connect in person. Coles, Uzere, and Tenke each pride themselves on being approachable and accessible.

“Encouraging students to get involved starts with us setting a great example of what it means to be a student leader,” Tenke said. “We want you to be leaders on this campus.”