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Jannie Kamara: Manifesting Mindset

<p>Kamara (pictured right) became the first female black student body president at Miami this spring, how has she adjusted to the pandemic?</p>

Kamara (pictured right) became the first female black student body president at Miami this spring, how has she adjusted to the pandemic?

Jannie Kamara has been working toward turning her dreams into realities since the minute she stepped on campus. 

Kamara, a junior studying diversity and leadership and black world studies, is fully committed to pursuing her newly-elected role as Student Body President and working alongside her executive board and cabinet in the fall.

“[It’s] one of the things I’ve been working on since my freshman year,” Kamara said. “I made sure my path at Miami would make me sure that I would get this position.”

Kamara’s initial interest with student council and leadership began in high school, but she couldn’t pursue it until college. During her high school career, she moved around a lot with her family for her parents’ jobs and to explore different parts of the U.S.

Once she started her first year at Miami University, Kamara joined the Associated Student Government (ASG) as a member of the senate team. This initial exposure gave Kamara the opportunity to explore her goals in the long run.

“[I] got to see the passion in so many eyes and got to be mentored by so many great students,” Kamara said. 

With the help of her colleagues at ASG and the Western Studies Department, she was able to create her own major called diversity and leadership which helped her with her career path.

In the long run, this decision helped her understand a variety of leadership and communication styles in order to be effective in her role as Student Body President.

“ASG was one of my first families,” Kamara said. 

Being active in ASG for two years made an impact on her Miami experience and helped her navigate her interests. 

But, after careful consideration, Kamara decided to take a step back from ASG during the beginning of her junior year to fully explore the different communities Miami has to offer.

She focused more on other campus involvements such as the Diversity Affairs Council (DAC) as the president of the organization and the Miami University TrebleMakers since her initial involvement sophomore year.

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Taking those steps for herself was critical during the beginning of her undergraduate career. Not only did it give Kamara flexibility and clarity, but it helped her understand who she was and who she wanted to be.

“What I really admired is that she took this past year and tried to take some time away from ASG,” junior Ben Finfrock, ASG Secretary of Public Relations, said. “[She] took that time to go learn about the students outside of ASG. She went and sat in on these executive boards and tried to really understand that experience. I think that’s going to make her a great leader because she knows about these experiences, [and] she really took the time to understand them.” 

After taking that time to analyze her goals and priorities, she jumped back into student government, deciding to run for Student Body President along with her Vice President Jessica von Zastrow. 

Kamara and von Zastrow won last month’s election and are now preparing to settle into their new roles amidst the confusion brought on by the switch to remote learning.

While the two aren’t officially sworn into their positions yet, Kamara and von Zastrow have created an outreach opportunity to make sure people know who they are and what they stand for.   

“When it comes to legislation, we know what works and what doesn’t work,” Kamara said. “We’re in a unique time with COVID-19, because everything remote is a different layer of function. [...Coronavirus is] a new approach problem. A new way to connect with people.”

Miami president Greg Crawford recently spoke to Kamara and von Zastrow to congratulate them on their ASG positions and sent them a follow-up email with their duties to elect their cabinet.

“He reached out to both of us right after we were elected to mostly congratulate us and talk about the facts that we would definitely be coming back in an interesting time,” von Zastrow said. “Currently, the university is trying this thing where they’re calling students to check in on them, and it was nice to get that call from Crawford.”

Before the semester ends, the two would like to talk with Crawford over the phone or through Zoom to go over their full transition plan with the new executive team and cabinet members.

With their initiatives, the two are coordinating with the executive team to create a better transition for everyone during this time of uncertainty.

“[We] have to ensure that we can get as much state funding as possible because we’re already having to make cuts as a university,” Finfrock said. “When we have to start making cuts, that becomes an issue because we have got to make sure the programs that are here to help students stay on campus and that we can continue to fund them.” 

ASG members of the executive board are still required to attend online meetings as well as senate and cabinet members each week.  Each member of ASG’s executive board is required to contribute to the cabinet member application process and discuss the plans for the Miami community next fall.

With Kamara’s efforts and initiative, she hopes to figure out a new way to support Miami students. She understands that online learning can bring new difficulties.

“I’m not, like, the strongest person academically, dealing with ADHD, anxiety and depression,” Kamara said. “It’s hard with this transition learning how to balance the three, but I have a really good support system that has been helping me get through this.” 

While taking on the role as student body president, Kamara balances her daily tasks of classes, ASG meetings, university committees meetings, homework and spending her free time doing different creative projects with her roommates to alleviate the stress.

She has found this routine to be the most helpful and effective way to balance out her responsibilities while helping out the student body any way she can.

“Jannie is just contagiously conversational, so extroverted and empathetic,” junior Connor Moreton, ASG Chief of Staff Elect, said. “[She’s] just a great person to be friends with.” 

Currently, ASG processed elections for the new cabinet members through Zoom calls with each of their cabinet positions on Tuesday.  

ASG is planning to take on a new cabinet of at least 14 to 16 members and switch to the new legislation during the fall semester.

“I’m excited just to watch people show off their passions,” Kamara said, “why they're running for their position and innovative ideas they can bring to that position.”

During the remainder of the semester, each member of ASG plans to go over the academic, financial and wellness aspects of the Miami community to ensure a smooth transition in the fall.