To the casual observer, Matthew Norfleet and Desmond Miller might seem like an unexpected pairing: one a senior, the other a sophomore; one involved in Student Government since his earliest days as a freshman at Eastern Michigan University, the other a transfer student who didn’t get involved until late in the game.
Yet, as Student Body president and vice president, Norfleet and Miller share a love for EMU, a passion for service and a dream of a future as Starbucks baristas that makes them a perfect team.
Norfleet was raised in Romulus and eventually attended Henry Ford Community College before transferring to EMU. When first at the university, Norfleet’s philosophy was to “get in, get out, get a degree and go home.” He lived on campus, but traveled home frequently and made few connections on EMU’s campus.
Last February, he was asked by former Student Body Vice President Jeff Chicoine to apply for the position of director of Political Action. The position seemed like a natural fit for Norfleet, whose passion for politics led him to work on several campaigns, an internship in Washington D.C. and to become a self-professed “C-Span junkie.”
Upon starting work with Student Government, Norfleet met Miller, a freshman and senator at the time. Norfleet remembers being immediately impressed by Miller.
“He’s pretty much the antithesis of what I was as a freshman and sophomore transfer student,” Norfleet said. “He was active, engaged and energized, and here I was, active, engaged and energized in everywhere else but this place.”
The two worked together closely and as the end of the year approached they decided to run for higher offices.
“We can take this to another level,” he said. “We can get together and make positive changes for 25,000 people.”
Norfleet’s passion for helping others came at an early age. As a child, he and his siblings spent time at work with their mother, who worked as an activities director in a group home.
“She used to make my brother, sister and me go play with the old folks when I would much rather have been watching ‘Pokemon,’” he said.
Despite an early aversion to service, things did start to change for Norfleet.
“As I grew older, I began to appreciate it more, to see that it wasn’t necessarily about me or about what I wanted in that moment,” he said. “Even as a kid, I could make a difference in someone’s life.”
For Norfleet, his early experiences translated well into his work for Student Government.
“It would take those same attributes and qualities and apply them to a place that’s given me so much,” he said.
Miller had a slightly different path to leadership. He was born and raised in Flint and was active in high school athletics and academics. He ran for the track and cross country teams and was a member of the National Honor Society.
“I was really big on getting students in my high school to be more involved and excited about things,” he said.
While initially planning on going to Michigan State University, Miller found himself at EMU.
“There was something about the atmosphere that really caught my eye and really engaged me,” he said.
Initially Miller planned to transfer out of EMU, but upon meeting former Student Body President Jelani McGadney at Fajita Fest, he decided that EMU was the place for him and joined Student Government just a few weeks into his freshman year.
“Since then, my involvement in student government has had a huge impact on my life,” he said.
Miller still remembers the first time he met Norfleet. It was a busy day for Miller and yet he still noticed the enthusiasm Norfleet showed on his first day as the director of Political Action.
“You just don’t really expect someone to be that involved and to be that excited about working on their first day,” he said.
According to Miller, he and Norfleet have been a team, making their vision for the EMU students a reality.
“Since we’ve started, we’ve been on the same page on most things,” he said.
When the pair isn’t hard at work, they each have their own ways to get away from the office.
“I’m a huge moviegoer,” Miller said. “I like to escape this reality and go into another one and watch movies. It’s something just to take your mind off your day and what’s going on.”
“When I do get the chance to escape, I just like seeing places,” Norfleet said.
One of his favorite places to explore is a local destination.
“I love Depot Town,” he said. “It’s just full of charm. You can walk a little, you can slowly pace yourself and look up at the architecture.”
The two are already planning for their future beyond EMU. As a senior, Norfleet is quickly approaching the end of his career, but is still unsure about which direction to take.
“It changes very, very regularly,” he said. “Sometimes I want to go to grad school for public policy. Most days I’m thinking about going straight to law school and then other days I really consider being an overworked and underpaid employee on the hill in Washington D.C.”
As a sophomore, Miller has a bit more time to decide. He has a vague idea of where to go, but no definite plan.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “I know I want to go to politics. I know I want to go to grad school as well, but I’m not sure what I want to study yet.”
If their plans to work in politics doesn’t pan out, the two did joke about a shared dream job.
“I’m actually really excited to work at Starbucks next year,” Miller said.
“We talk about this all the time. On our last day we’re going to go and get working at Starbucks downstairs,” he said. I’ve always wanted to be a barista, and life has never allowed me the opportunity.”
Norfleet also has a smaller hope for the end of his tenure as president.
“I’m really excited to go grocery shopping again,” he said.