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The Wesleyan Argus | WesCeleb: Nigel Hayes ’23 talks about student rights, campus resources and the importance of dreaming big

c/o Nigel Hayes

Nigel Hayes ’23 is a busy guy. He seems to be everywhere at once. When Hayes is not participating in bargaining committee meetings with other members of the Wesleyan Union of Student Employees (WesUSE) or seeking ways to execute new initiatives as president of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) , he manages his responsibilities as Resident Advisor. (RA) in 200 Church and working hard in his upper grades. When Hayes sat down with The Argus on Zoom, he had just finished track training. It’s the off-season, but he makes sure to keep in shape all year round.

The Argous: You mentioned in your email that you felt surprised when you learned you had been nominated to be a WesCeleb. Why is that?

Nigel Hayes: It’s always a bit strange. I feel like there are a lot more interesting students doing much cooler things on campus, but at the same time it’s kind of cool to shine a light on other things happening on the campus. I work with people I’ve known for a long time on bigger projects, which is really cool.

A: What led you to major in computer science and government?

NH: When I was born, in my city at the time, there were a lot of changes. The elementary school I attended was only recently built. There were many new initiatives and new programs. Two of the things they really focused on was making computers and computer literacy right for us as elementary school students.

There are also civic education learning programs. They taught us about presidents, Mount Rushmore, and US history early on, from kindergarten through fifth grade. I also had my parents and they taught me a lot about the history of civil rights in the United States. And it was very important, especially for my mother. She didn’t want me to grow up without it because I grew up in a predominantly white town. I just fell in love with [civics].

I love tinkering so I fell in love with computers. I saw that even though my parents and I didn’t have a lot of money at the time, once you have a computer on your lap, you can do so much more. It was this great equalizer for me. [In terms of Government]I saw that there was a group of students that I really admired who were doing all these great things and leading these fantastic projects in our city.

A: Is there a way for your IDEAS minor to fit into all of this?

NH: It fits in because I have an active imagination. I think if there’s a problem there, you can pass laws so you can change things, but at some point you might have to build something with your hands. Someone has to come out and change or fix the issues at hand. So you have to have this duality. You can’t just sit there and write a lot and expect everything to get better. IDEAS is that bridge where you can find the idea. You can find a solution, but to prove to people that it will work, sometimes you have to get your hands dirty and do something about it.

A: Are there particular classes or teachers who have significantly shaped your Wesleyan experience?

NH: Absolutely. Where to start? [Assistant Professor of Computer Science] Saray Shai. She was fantastic. She took away a lot of my fears of getting into a computer science major, especially without a strong background in math. There is also [Distinguished Professor of Computational Media in the College of Integrative Sciences] Christopher Weaver who was a huge help in looking at the nerdier things I’m into and showing that you can teach people with games using computing. You can find ways to educate and talk to people through this medium of technology.

One of my other teachers is [Associate Professor of the Practice in East Asian Studies] Hyejoo Back. I studied Korean in first and second grade. I was really stressed in freshman year and she sat me down and made me talk about being a black student that existed at PWI [predominantly white institutions] for a long time.

A: How do you think being a person of color, particularly a black man, at Wesleyan has specifically affected your experience while here?

NH: One of the things that I think a lot of people of color on campus will understand is that no matter what you do, there’s a little feeling that you always represent another part of your community and that doesn’t go away. not. When you walk, in the way you speak, [and] the way you treat people, it’s not just you acting for yourself. For me, any interaction I’ve had is always a reflection on my family, my ancestry, my culture, the black community, [and] the Caribbean community. So there’s this network of different people who kind of get carried away with me.

A: You had to know [question] was coming. What do you expect as president of the ASM? Are there any goals you have set for this year?

NH: There are a few things we are working on this year. Wesleyan was asked to help build the Global Student Government, an international organization of student governments around the world who began meeting from Europe, East Asia, Africa, and now the states. United to be able to focus on the rights of students around the world. world. I am delighted to join, along with the other NESCAC schools. There are [also] a lot of work to do in terms of transitional housing to ensure that student housing continues to be secure and to continue to work with students with these needs.

A: You’re also on the WesUSE bargaining committee, which really excites me. I’m so grateful that [student employees] having a team of people standing up for us that way. Is there anything you would like to say about this?

NH: For people who don’t know about the union, I would say to anyone who is in a different workspace, to talk to your other workers, stand in solidarity with them. There is always a way to build something better and it takes a whole group across all the different professions and different cultural experiences to do it. I know that people can be tired, even indifferent to the question of whether change is possible or not, but it is. If there’s something you believe in that should be Wesleyan or beyond, keep pushing for it, keep dreaming big, and don’t give up.

A: What legacy do you hope to leave behind after you graduate?

NH: When I graduate in the spring, I want to have left Wesleyan as a community looking at administration knowing it’s not an “us versus them” mentality. [and] that we are going to have disagreements, but we all want Wesleyan to win. I want Wesleyan culture to see that the dreams you may have had when you were young and the wild ideas you had with your friends are possible.

A: Do you know your plans beyond Wesleyan?

Nigel: Well, once May rolls around, I expect to sit around for a week and then jump into something new. One of the things that I know I want [to do now] but I didn’t know until I got [to Wesleyan] is that I want to go to higher education. I’m trying to work towards being the first person in my family history to get a doctorate.

A: Do you have any idea what you might consider specializing in? Is it more towards IT or more towards the government side?

NH: I think I’ll do something at the intersection. I am thinking of cybersecurity or international politics or project management. I am looking at some scholarships that other seniors have recommended.

A:. Do you have any advice for students following you, especially incoming freshmen and future students?

NH: Yeah, I would say for the class of 2026, every day is an adventure and you have to take what you can in stride. The more problems you can face with a smile, the more problems you can face and come out of it having learned something, even if all you learn is [that] you never want to experience that again – that kind of mentality will take you very far. I would say to prospective students that the strongest thing about Wesleyan is that every student you meet here has something to offer, and the moment you leave you will find that you have something to offer and something to change and change. to improve. You don’t have to be the person leading the charge on new initiatives. You don’t have to be the person with the microphone in your hand or on the soapbox. You just need to take one more step. That’s it. Just take one more step than you think you can. You will be impressed with what you are able to achieve.

A: Do you have a fictional character that you identify with?

NH: I have a bunch! I like TV, movies and cartoons. Miles Morales is one. Captain America too, especially Sam Wilson – I see a lot of my family history in this [story]. Black Panther, T’Challa. From the Caribbean culture, there is Anansi. There are many more too.

A: Thank you very much for speaking with me. Is there anything else you would like to add before concluding?

NH: Take a break. It’s going to be fine. It will work, and there is always someone to help you. Even if you think there’s no way someone can help you, someone can. Take this step forward to reach out, if you can find the friend pushing you to send this email to CAPS [Counseling and Psychological Services] or your AR. Do not suffer from what you live alone.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Sulan Bailey can be contacted at [email protected]