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Charlene Marsh: Believe In A Better UGA

Charlene Marsh is a name that most students are becoming familiar with around campus since she began running on the BELIEVE executive ticket for the Student Government Association. Marsh, a junior international affairs and political science major from Norcoss is hoping to become SGA’s next Vice President and begin working towards her executive ticket’s platform encompassing efficiency, transparency, and cooperation on the University of Georgia’s campus. As a woman of color, she hopes to be a role model for other women who also desire to become leaders in their respective communities. Marsh is eagerly anticipating the chance for her entire ticket to facilitate change on UGA’s campus. Her drive and her voice are sure to help her be a person who leaves a lasting impact. Take a few moments to learn more about Charlene Marsh. Get to know part of her story:

Who else is involved on your ticket, and what is the overall platform?

Ammishaddai Grand-Jean is running for president, and Destin Mizelle is running for treasurer. We are running on a platform of efficiency, transparency, and cooperation. Our overall message, however, is to empower students to affect the changes they’d like to see on campus, by using SGA as a resource and vehicle for change. 

Why did you chose to run on an SGA Executive Ticket?

Up until a little over two months ago, I never had the desire to run for any type of position in student, local, state, or federal government. None. When I was initially approached, I immediately doubted myself, and said, “I’ll help you find someone else.” I had heard about the way things tended to get messy in SGA elections, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to put myself through that emotional and mental turmoil, especially if I didn’t feel competent. Then, it developed into a sense of obligation. I had had several conversations with students outside of SGA: many impromptu conversations, many with leaders of organizations for underrepresented students. All of their grievances kept coming back to SGA—the nonexistent relationship and the apparent lack of care for underrepresented students. I knew I had the passion, the experience, and the knowledge of the grievances, but I was still extremely scared and doubtful. Eventually, I told myself to “face the fear and do it anyway,” so I decided to make a change in the best way I could and run on the ticket. 

How does it feel to be running for a prominent position within SGA as a woman?

Women are no strangers to SGA at UGA, and they are no strangers to running for prominent positions. Women of color—black women—are. So, for me, the question of focus must be “How does it feel to be running for a prominent position within SGA as a woman of color?” And honestly, it feels great. Other women of color have come before me and done the work. They’ve done what they could to create a new path. For me, personally, by running for a prominent position as a woman of color, I feel like I’m contributing to the introduction of a new dynamic. A shift from simply being invited to the table and sometimes feeling like I am expected to represent all black women to being able to pulling up chairs for other underrepresented students who have never gotten a seat at the table. 

What advice do you have for women who desire to serve in leadership positions?

“Feel the fear and do it anyway.” This quote has been such a source of encouragement throughout this whole process, and it can be applied just about everywhere, especially when seeking to serve as a woman. We already know that there is no factual basis for the idea that women are weaker or less competent, so all you have to do is step into the role. You may be afraid, but you’d be surprised how many people will back and support you if you just decide to take the risk. 

Who has been an inspiration to you recently or throughout your life? Did they play a role in your decision to run on an SGA Executive Ticket, and if so how?

My mother will always be the first person in mind when asked about inspiration. She came to the United States from Liberia, West Africa at a young age on an academic scholarship. She went on to pursue her master’s degree, and she is now finishing up her PhD, and she managed to raise three children by herself. She is the epitome of strength and courage to me, and I have never known her to walk away from a challenge. My mother was the first person I called when I found out about this opportunity. She encouraged me to look at all of my options, and even went through them with me, pushing me to be real with myself and make sure that I had the right intentions. But at the end of the day, my mother never told me what decision to make. She just encouraged me to pray about it, and whatever decision I ended up making, she said she would support me 100 percent. 

What excites you most about running and the possibility of serving in this position?

This has been an extremely time-consuming and draining process, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have been fortunate enough to meet some of the most incredible students on this campus who are leaders in various spheres of campus, in various ways. The conversations I’ve had with these students, though very much sleep-deprived, have energized me. They’ve shown me that I’m not the only one who believes in the strength of the student body. Serving in this position, to me, means representation. It means opening up to the door to dialogues that weren’t necessarily avoided but also weren’t necessarily embraced. It means putting myself last and making decisions based on the needs and worries that students present every single day. It means applying student voices.   

What other organizations are you involved in on campus?

Currently, I am involved with the Arch Society, and I serve as a co-director of diversity and inclusion in the student government association.  

What do you appreciate most about the UGA community?

The people are so incredibly supportive. From my peers, to my professors, advisors, and administrators, there is a general desire among this community to see others succeed. Not only that, but the UGA community is so diverse, in terms of race, gender expression, sexuality, socioeconomic status, nationality, geographic origins, and more. These diverse experiences contribute to diverse perspectives and the most interesting stories one could find. Everyone has a unique story to tell, and I’ve been able to relish in as many of them as I can. 

What is one thing that has had an impact on you while at UGA?

My involvement in the Arch Society changed my life. For me, it is not a resume booster, as many may view the organization as. First, I developed friendships through this organization that I am confident will last a lifetime. I met my closest friends through mutual involvement, and we’ve truly grown together over the past year. Being an ambassador in the Arch Society also taught me what it means to be a servant leader, as humble service is the credo for the organization. 

What is your favorite study spot (on or off campus)?

On campus, I spend lots of time in the Center for Leadership and Service, acting like I’m studying. Off campus, you’ll probably find me at Starbucks or Walker’s downtown. 

What is your favorite restaurant in Athens?

Manna Weenta.

What would you consider your dream job to be?

I honestly don’t have a concrete dream job. I’d love to work in community organizing and development in some way. 

Is there a quote you live by or feel motivated by when you read or hear it? If so, what is it, and why is it so significant?

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” —Maya Angelou. Angelou was one of the first black female authors I was ever introduced to. Her words have been a huge source of encouragement to me over the years. These words specifically resonate with me because I aim to avoid living a shallow life, consisting of going through the motions. To me, these words advocate for living intentionally, and I believe that I was placed on this earth to live a life full of purpose and genuineness. 

Be sure to get involved and vote! Voting begins on Monday, March 21, 2018 through Wednesday, March 28, 2017. Voting will take place here. Best of luck to BELIEVE!

Happy voting!


Photo courtesy of Charlene Marsh.

Photo credits: Drew Shoppy, Brook Lemmon

My name is Marlee Middlebrooks, and I am a May 2018 graduate of the University of Georgia. I was a dual degree student and earned my Bachelor of Arts in journalism as well as my Bachelor of Arts in communication studies. While in college, I was the Editor in Chief of UGAzine, a feature writer for Her Campus at UGA and a beat reporter for The Red and Black. I believe in the power of storytelling. I believe stories truly allow each of us to find a way to connect with one another. When I’m not telling stories, you can definitely find me in the Chick-fil-A drive thru or catching up on the current reality TV craze—my all time favorite show being Survivor.
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