By Dan Yount
The Cincinnati Herald
& Megan McConnell
The Miami Student
Nyah Smith of Cleveland and Jules Jefferson of Cincinnati have been elected Miami University’s Student Body President (SBP) and Vice President for the 2023-2024 academic year, making Miami history as the first elected all-Black ticket.
The pair won against Cameron Tiefenthaler and Grace Payne with 68% of the vote. After the announcement, Smith and Jefferson were applauded by friends and supporters in Armstrong Student Center. The two said they were at a loss for words.
“Grateful. Honored,” Smith said.
“Blessed,” Jefferson interjected.
“Their slogan, “Building the Table,” sets the tone for their campaign as a pair of students who have already put genuine community work toward their goals” said The Miami Student Editorial Board in endorsing them.
Smith’s leadership experience comes from her roles as Head SEAL Ambassador and Chair of the Armstrong Student Center Board of Student Activities. She is an Evans Scholar, and she additionally sat on the COVID-19 Student Voice Committee.
Jefferson has served as secretary for Infrastructure and Sustainability in ASG, president of the Student Sustainability Council, a member of the Dean of Students’ Advisory Board, chair of Community Service for the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students and a member of the Residence Hall Association.
“Their combined years of experience and service in the areas they hope to improve as President and Vice President showed a commitment to progress and a passion for their beliefs,” the Editorial Board stated.
Several of Jefferson’s family members attended Miami, including her mother, sister and cousin. But as a Black, female biochemistry and nutrition double major, Jefferson said the idea of being elected vice president was wild. Smith agreed and said she was told by a college planner in high school to expect a denial letter from Miami.
Now, the two sit as Miami’s president and vice president elect.
Smith said the support from student organizations around campus was overwhelming, with 18 total endorsements including those from the Asian American Association, The Miami Student and Black Student Action Association.
“As a SEAL [Student Engagement and Leadership], that just meant the world to me because I’ve spent my whole time at Miami loving student organizations,” Smith said. “ To get that support back means a lot to me.”
Smith and Jefferson’s campaign was based on three pillars: sustainability and infrastructure, unity and student empowerment.
The pair also focused on reaching out to groups that weren’t normally targeted by the Associate Student Government (ASG), such as international students and athletes. In their campaign video, the pair had a sign language interpreter and various foreign languages available — Vietnamese, Russian, Italian, Spanish and Fulani — to remain accessible.
“Everyone deserves to have a seat at the table, and I think that’s what we’ve been trying to say for the past three weeks,” Smith said.
Looking back on the last several weeks, Smith said she was especially proud of their commitment to a natural-hair campaign.
“Going to a PWI [predominately White institution] as a Black woman is hard,” Smith said. “And so, to have a big dream of running for Student Body president and vice president, we did it. Natural and all.”
After returning from spring break, Smith and Jefferson said they are excited to begin working and collaborating with administration and students across campus and to begin “building the table,” which was outlined in their campaign.
The pair hopes to create a semesterly campus-wide service project, an ASG open forum, a career clothing closet and green event funds and resources. Smith and Jefferson also plan on implementing semesterly mental health screenings and community service opportunities to help students pay off parking tickets.
“I’m excited to have more voices at the table, because I think that’s possible,” Smith said. “I know that’s possible. I’m excited to represent the various communities at Miami. I’m excited to bridge the gap between resources and to provide more resources for students because I think that’s one of the things that we really focused on.”
Jefferson has been on the President’s List at Miami each semester, which requires a 4.0 GPA and is reserved for the top 3% of undergraduate students. It is higher than being on the Dean’s List.
She graduated from Mount Notre Dame High School in Reading, the same high school her mother Mimi Jefferson graduated from, and was student president there. She also was a member of Mount Notre Dame’s track and soccer teams, and participated in other activities, including service projects.
“I am very pleased for my daughter, as well as encouraged Miami students choose to elect two female students to lead their student government,” Mina Jefferson said.
She continued, saying “Our daughter has accomplished a lot that has made us proud, including her recent election by the student body at Miami. She has a service heart, and she just continues to make us proud.”,
Jules, as a junior pre-med student at Miami, and said she is looking forward to attending medical school.
She and Nyah Smith met as freshmen at the Oxford, Ohio, college.
Mina Jefferson is an attorney and chief cultural engagement officer with Bricker Graydon LLP in Cincinnati. Jules father Bobby Jefferson works in sales. Jules has three siblings. The family lives in West Chester.
Jules Jefferson and Bobby McAlpine, the new student body President at Ohio State University featured in the adjacent article, are long-time friends, meeting while they were in kindergarten at Glendale Elementary School.
Megan McConnell from The Miami Student at Miami University contributed to this story with permission to re-run pieces of her original article.