Programs and Activities: Co-Director of Operations, Afrikan American Affairs; Co-Director, Black President’s Leadership Council; Parliamentarian, Black Student Alliance; Conference Management Co-Chair, Big XII Conference on Black Student Government
During her time at UT Austin, Ariana Seeloff has served as a leader for several student organizations that work to build communities to help students find a home base on campus. We caught up with her to learn more about her good work in bringing students together through various large- and small-scale events—from the big annual New Black Student Weekend camp retreat to celebrations with friends at the Black UT Friendsgiving hosted by the Malcolm X Lounge.
How are you working to make UT more welcoming for all students?
I really love that question because the main purpose of my student involvement is to create a culture of belonging for Black students at UT. I mostly do this through relationship-building. In my leadership positions, I take the time to get to know people and just listen. Listening is an important skill when you’re doing this work because you need to hear the needs of the community that you’re serving.
Could you share a bit about your student coordinating work on campus? And why is this work important to you?
My longest leadership experience was with New Black Student Weekend (NBSW), a program organized by Afrikan American Affairs in the Multicultural Engagement Center that welcomes incoming Black students to campus every year. I served on the board for three years, most recently as a chair in 2023. Before the semester begins, we take students to camp where they can connect with their peers and learn about resources from faculty, staff and current students. This is an extension of our summer programming during each orientation session called FADE Texas.
In addition to NBSW, I was a coordinator for the Malcolm X Lounge on campus last year, where we did our first-ever Black UT Friendsgiving. It was an event that brought together students from all the many Black student orgs for a night of food and fun in the Gordon White Building. In my student coordinating work, it is evident that my peers need community now, more than ever, as we have all been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic during our college years. I experienced it firsthand as a freshman in 2020, entering UT during a time when the campus was empty and everyone connected virtually. This is why the work I do is so important to me because I know what it is like not to have a community to be connected to.
What are some of your proudest accomplishments at UT?
I have a few! One is my study abroad experience at Oxford University through UT’s Exploring UK Education program. During my freshman year, I made it a goal of mine to study abroad before I graduated. I witnessed programs being canceled or delayed in light of the pandemic, but I remained hopeful. This summer, I accomplished my dream by studying abroad for four weeks in the United Kingdom and visiting France as well. It was overwhelming and exciting, and I’m so glad I did it because the experience was so rewarding. It taught me a lot about myself, my determination and my ability to accomplish anything I set my mind on. I’m also very proud of becoming a member of the Friar Society. This was a proud moment for me because it felt like I was able to showcase all the things I’ve done in my student leadership and be recognized for my accomplishments.
As for my organizations, I am immensely proud of my work within the Black President’s Leadership Council. It is a unifying body of all Black student organization presidents that speaks collectively and advocates for students at UT. Last year, I led the planning of the Black Town Hall in partnership with Onyx Honor Society. This fall, I successfully executed the second annual Black Inauguration alongside my amazing team. Black Inauguration is an event that was created last year by UT alum Zion James to celebrate the accomplishments of Black student organization presidents. While it challenged me in new ways as a leader, I am proud that I was able to honor the hard work and dedication of Black presidents on campus this year.
What does it mean to you to be honored with the Heman Sweatt Legacy Award?
It’s hard to put into words how much this means to me. When I was nominated for this award, I felt very proud of myself and what I’ve done in this community over the past four years. It’s a huge honor to be given this award at an event that celebrates Heman Sweatt and the Precursors, the first Black students at UT who came before me. I’m grateful for the people who nominated me and saw the potential of my leadership from the very beginning.
Where do you see yourself after graduation?
After graduating, my goal is to enter the field of industrial-organizational psychology. I want to use all the skills that I’ve learned as a student leader in my career and help organizations and businesses run efficiently and create spaces where everyone can feel supported. I’ve learned a lot about team dynamics, how to manage daily operations, and how to lead a team while upholding the values and commitments of an organization. There’s a lot that student leaders can bring to the table!
Reporting by Abbie Bard