By many accounts, current Eastern Michigan University Student Body President Jelani McGadney has had one the most celebrated terms in recent history.
From his charming personality to his regal and presidential public persona, McGadney has been able to win over staff and students alike.
As the curtains come to a close on his presidency, we sat down with McGadney to get his point of view on his election, presidency and what’s next for him. The resulting interview is a revealing and at times hilarious look at the man many still proudly claim as “my student body president,” even as the president and vice-president elect wait patiently.
Since the interview occurred just days after the general student body election, the reality of leaving office had begun to set in for McGadney.
“There’s a mix of feelings I have about leaving office,” he said. “I’ve moved a lot in my life both overseas and within the country, when it comes to a point where something’s supposed to end, I’m very accepting.
“On the other hand, I am sad because I’ve enjoyed the work we’ve done this year. I’ve enjoyed my job. I’ve enjoyed working for students and that is something I will miss.”
Because he has been so successful at becoming the face of the student body, many people are saddened to see his presidency come to an end. For those who will miss him, he has similar feelings.
“… I will miss them too. That is the honest-to-God truth,” he said.
Looking back at a term that has been incredibly successful publicly, it’s incredibly odd to think it almost didn’t happen.
In the beginning, the then-resident adviser of Wise Residence Hall had no intention of running for office.
It was only after being shown a troubling comment thread on Facebook by running mate Jeffrey Chicoine and asking, “What are you going to do about it?” that they decided to make a go for the office.
“The first thing that I said was ‘Are we really having this conversation right now?’ ” he said. “Then I looked at him, and I said ‘Well, what are you going to do about it?’ Then he [Chicoine] said ‘No, no, no, what are you going to do about it?’ referring to me.”
A month and a half of feverish campaigning later, the McGadney/Chicoine ticket won the 2011 student body election. It is doubtful anyone was more shocked by the news than McGadney himself, who received the news while lying in bed after an exhausting day of campaigning.
“I was shocked, I didn’t believe I was going to win,” he said. “I ran under the assumption that I was losing.
“I normally do not lose emotions, but that was the first time, I think, I’d ever jumped up and clicked my heels before.”
For the newly minted student body president, the first few days in office were hectic.
The first few days were “fast, very very fast,” he said. “I moved very, very fast because I knew I had to make up [for] the fact that I had never been in Student Government.”
In that first month, he and Chicoine spent a lot of time establishing themselves as “strong leaders,” a point in which McGadney finds pride.
“Within a few months, we had really solidified both our reputation as strong leaders but also [as] people who were willing to work with others to make a better deal,” he said.
Although the job was tough, for McGadney, it was all part of the fun.
“I love my job,” he said. “I would do it again if I were still here. Even on my worst days – and I had some pretty tough ones – I would never have quit, because in the worst moments that’s when I knew I was in the right place.”
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