Award-winning, student-run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield

The Observer

Award-winning, student-run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield

The Observer

Award-winning, student-run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield

The Observer


Celebrating Success:

Emmanuelle Yakana’s Re-election as SGA President
Contributors: Elena Dimaggio

If you’re new to UIS, chances are one of the first students you’ll meet is Emmanuelle “Emma” Yakana. Her warmth and altruism shine through from the moment you start talking to her, even if it’s just for five minutes.

For those familiar with UIS, Emma is a familiar face at numerous on-campus events. You’ll find her engaging with students, chatting with faculty and staff and actively reaching out to international students, ensuring they have the best experience possible here at UIS.

Her Cameroonian-Gabonese background speaks volumes about her determination to thrive in a new country. Emma empathizes with fellow international students, understanding the challenges they face while emphasizing the importance of forging friendships and connections abroad. As a graduate student in Public Policy and a GPSI intern, Emma’s dedication is further exemplified by her recent re-election as the SGA president at UIS. Her involvement with the Student Government Association dates back to 2020 when she served as an international student senator during her undergraduate years in Public Administration and Political Science here at UIS.

Emma’s dedication is shown not only through her SGA role but also through her long-term commitment to this campus. Her initial drive stemmed from the need for international students to have a voice on campus, leading her to successfully run for various positions within the association. Emma’s commitment is evident, and interviewing her provided valuable insights into her background, her dedication to her role, and her future plans for UIS.

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The Observer: What motivated you to run for Student Government Association president for a second term?

Emmanuelle Yakana: What motivated me to run for a second term as President of SGA was believing in God’s plan for my life, looking at what SGA was before I stepped in and what it had become under my leadership. I was also motivated by all the things I was able to accomplish during my first term, while my friends and fellow students encouraged me and believed in me and my leadership.


The Observer: What leadership qualities do you believe are most important for this role, and how do you embody them?

Emmanuelle Yakana: I believe that the leadership skills more important in the role of President for SGA are serving, listening, learning, being open to change and embracing diversity. My team this year was one of the most diversified SGA teams for years. I think that leaders are not always born; they are the ones who are consistently willing to do what most wouldn’t. They know the challenge and they take it boldly. I would say that I embody those skills because I allow myself to be mentored, I intentionally make myself approachable and available to help students and I always do my best to express their concerns.

The Observer: What are your main goals and priorities for this upcoming term?

Emmanuelle Yakana: This upcoming term, among many other things, I want to continue advocating for equal employment opportunities for all students. For internship opportunities for both undergrad and graduate students. For Shorelight enrolled students, for advising issues, for campus safety, and for a more unified and healthy campus climate overall.


The Observer: What have you learned from your first term as president, and how will you apply those lessons in your second term?

Emmanuelle Yakana: In the first term, I have learned that before rushing to address every issue on campus, SGA needs to first improve itself. That comes with trainings, developing newer and better processes, enforcing a culture of professionalism where diversity is celebrated. It comes from building a healthy team through activities such as retreats. It comes from connecting with other student leaders on campus who want to serve the UIS community, just like we do, because it is together that we can make changes take place. I have come to understand that leadership is challenging, but with perseverance, willingness, and a passion for improvement, progress is possible. Considering the climate on campus when I first stepped in as President, I believe that SGA has grown significantly under my leadership. From the organization’s processes to the practical steps my team and I have taken to advocate for UIS students, I am proud to see SGA on the better path it ought to be in.


The Observer: How do you connect with students on a personal level to understand their needs and concerns?

Emmanuelle Yakana: I connect with students by reaching out to them intentionally and initiating conversations. I particularly enjoy engaging in SGA coffee hours, where I make myself available to listen to students from various backgrounds and experiences, including athletes, transfers, international students, commuters, and campus residents. I also get to learn new things talking to students in different study programs. I find that being open to putting in place strategic avenues and creating a culture that allows for students to share their concerns freely is really helpful when one wants to advocate for students.

While relishing her service at UIS, she’s not just leading; she’s growing, both as a leader and as a person. Her unwavering commitment and passion for her role are evident from afar, as well as her efforts to improve campus life and amplify the voices of international students. Emma’s dedication to creating a more inclusive environment is truly commendable and worthy of recognition and we look forward to the next year under her leadership.

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