The University ‘has taught me about patience, diligence, and being a consistent leader’

Landon Coles, the former Student Government president, graduated this spring with a degree in political science.
By Ashley A. Williams

Landon Coles, the former Student Government president, graduated this spring with a degree in political science.

The University ‘has taught me about patience, diligence, and being a consistent leader’

By Ashley A. Williams
Landon Coles, former Student Government president, acknowledged how a combination of mentorship and challenges helped to develop him into the confident leader he is today.

By his own admission, Landon Coles likes to talk.

Since he can remember, Coles has always had an urge to use his voice to bring forth positive change. When he enrolled at the University of Miami in 2018, Coles immediately began using his gregarious spirit and affable personality to become a fierce leader and changemaker. 

“My ability to build relationships with people is my greatest strength—no matter who it is,” said the Tallahassee, Florida, native. “Anyone can tell you, if you leave me long enough with someone, I will make a new friend.”

Today, the former Student Government president and student trustee is graduating with his bachelor’s degree in political science, with minors in business law and strategic communication. As he starts a corporate communications and public relations internship with USA Today, a newspaper and broadcasting company based in McLean, Virginia, Coles said he will take the many life lessons the University taught him along the way.

“Matriculating to UM has taught me about patience, diligence, and being a consistent leader—even when you think people aren’t looking at you,” said Coles. “Getting to the end of this monumental chapter in my life, I’ve had to think a lot about who I am, and I have come to learn that I am someone who is honest and someone who cares less about quantity and more about quality of character.”

As an undergraduate, Coles loved to stay busy. From working part time as a student project and professional development coordinator in the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) to representing a student body of 12,000 undergraduates in his role as Student Government president, to participating in dozens of volunteer experiences, he gladly did it all.

When he decided to campaign with Student Government vice president-to-be Ajiri Uzere and treasurer-to-be Grace Tenke, their progressive platform with the inimitable slogan, “The UPROAR—not a moment, but a movement,” went on to pioneer significant change. Their team took on numerous issues, including helping to make Juneteenth—the day enslaved people in the United States were freed after the Civil War—a recognized University-wide holiday.

"Since arriving at the University of Miami, I have been blessed to witness the evolution of Landon Coles,” said Christopher Clarke, MSA director. “We are genuinely grateful for his contributions to the University and specifically to the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs."

Of all his accomplishments, Coles said his most cherished one was the part he played in the naming of the Harold Long, Jr. and H.T. Smith Student Services Building. It is the first structure at the University to be named after Black alumni.

“That will always be the crowning moment of my legacy because that will outlast my time here,” said Coles, who was the undergraduate student representative on the historic naming committee. “I recognize that this is a symbolic victory, and it allows student generations after me to be able to look at an infrastructure and see themselves and a story that is reflective of them.”

In public, it’s no secret that Coles blazed a trail by being heavily involved in social justice initiatives and community service efforts, and by contributing his leadership skills to several planning committees, but, behind the scenes, Coles said he dealt with some challenges—from failing a course to changing his major—that helped shape him into a more mature person. 

“I am not the same Landon that came in four years ago—but I’m still full of joy and I’m still happy and excited and I still may talk a bit too much at certain moments, but I’ve been trained in how to use my gifts that I’ve been given in this life,” said Coles. “I’m not going out the same way I came in, which is what a university experience is supposed to do. It’s transformational.”