Auburn’s first African American female SGA president leads students during COVID-19 pandemic

Published: June 05, 2020
Updated: June 08, 2020
Font Size

Article body

Ada Ruth Huntley anxiously awaited word below the back steps of Cater Hall on Feb. 4, when the beloved Auburn tradition of callouts began. In a few minutes, she would know if her exhausted team’s hard work had paid off, or if she must graciously accept defeat.

Then, it happened. The elections board called out her name. She was to be the first African American female Student Government Association, or SGA, president at Auburn University. She had made history.

“It was such an incredible moment being surrounded by friends and family, hearing my name called, and knowing that I would get to serve students over the next year,” Huntley said.

Over the past three years, she has been a Camp War Eagle counselor, a student recruiter and a project manager for Tiger Dining. She also has been a member of the Kappa Chi chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the Black Student Union and Honor’s College organizations.

However, the SGA has always had a special place in Huntley’s heart.

“One of the reasons I fell in love with this organization is because I took the time to get involved wherever I could,” she said, “whether that was volunteering for Hey Day, joining Freshman Forum or doing a concourse hour.”

When it comes to making history on Auburn’s campus, Huntley has taken a gracious and humble approach.

“It is very overwhelming for me that I am the first African American female SGA president,” Huntley said. “I am so grateful to the black leaders on campus who paved the way for me to be able to have this honor. All that I am as a leader is a testament to the leaders and mentors I have had the opportunity to learn from.”

Huntley said she sees this achievement as a way “to represent the student body through a completely different lens” from her predecessors, as she hopes to offer a new perspective.

“It means giving students who look like me an opportunity to hopefully see themselves in these roles,” she said.

Huntley officially stepped into her position as SGA president on March 1. However, a few weeks later, the university announced the spring semester would be completed remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I could never have anticipated these circumstances,” Huntley said. “But I have been joyous through it all from getting to do this job and reflecting on the honor that it is.”

Even though classes are temporarily remote, Huntley knows she must continue pushing her platform. She believes it is more important now than ever to keep her ear to the ground to better advocate for the student body’s needs. The focus of her platform is improving health, wellness and diversity on campus.

Like most of the world, Huntley is getting her work done from home. Whether she is consulting with her cabinet, participating in SGA senate meetings or meeting with university administrators, Zoom has become the norm for her.

With fall semester a few months away, Huntley is optimistic about the upcoming semester.

“I think it is safe to say that everything will look a little different in the fall,” she said. “However, I know that the administration is working incredibly hard to ensure that all of our students have an incredible and fulfilling experience, while continuing to prioritize the health and safety of the Auburn student body.” 

Huntley sympathizes with Auburn’s incoming freshmen and wants to reassure them that they won’t be missing out on the college experience.

“Try to stay positive and get excited for your freshman year,” she said. “I know that your senior year did not end as expected, and you did not get to experience many of your high school ‘lasts.’ However, there is so much to look forward to with your freshman year, and everyone is working incredibly hard to make sure it is a great experience for you.”

Huntley has nothing but love for Auburn and has cherished her time as a student.

“I have never been in an academic environment where I have felt so loved and supported throughout all of the trials and tribulations that college presents,” she said.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.