A Google calendar app links to University of Mary Washington senior Jaylyn Long’s “booking page,” where free slots are hard to find.
A biomedical sciences major with an African American studies minor, she’s Student Government Association (SGA) president and Class of 2024 vice president. She’s a diversity peer educator, R.I.S.E peer mentor and – perhaps most importantly – a senior student coordinator for both New Student Programs and Student Activities and Engagement. And that’s just for starters.
“I know I can’t do it all, but that never stops me from trying,” said Long, the first Black woman to serve in the roles of SGA president and vice president at UMW. “It really wouldn’t be possible without the faculty support and the people who look out for me.”
She brought her “power to the people” personality, as her mom likes to call it, to campus in 2020, amid a global pandemic. Despite social distancing and other restrictions brought on by COVID-19, she plunged into student government, laying the groundwork for priorities like diversity and community values. By the time campus roared back to life, a new passion and career path were sliding into view, thanks to mentors galore.
“Watching people who look like me and thrive in higher education really charted a different course for me,” said Long, who traded medicine for aspirations of a career in student engagement. “I really enjoyed getting into the thick of things and making a difference for my peers.”
Growing up in Chesapeake, Virginia, she’d always been one to get involved, helping form her high school’s first multicultural club. She came to UMW in the R.I.S.E. (Resources Inspiring Student Excellence) peer mentoring program, designed to smooth the transition to college.
And it did. Long landed posts her first year as SGA senator and chair of the Diversity Unity Coordinating Committee. “She’s always prioritizing the student voice,” said Dean of Students and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Melissa Jones. “People trust Jaylyn to make really good choices for the good of the whole.”
When masks and Zoom meetings gave way to in-person proceedings, her future began to slide into focus. “Once I got to see events happening, it really shifted my mindset,” said Long, who stuck with her biomed major but traded a minor in chemistry for something more personal, African American studies.
Buoyed by campus mentors – Jones, along with James Farmer Multicultural Center Director Marion Sanford, and Associate Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Shavonne Shorter, to name a few – Long kept climbing. As a junior, she served as SGA vice president, and by senior year she’d claimed the presidency, following in the footsteps of another role model, Brianna Reaves ’22, the first Black woman to hold that position.
ASPIRE Week – a six-day celebration that débuted last spring to breathe new life into core Mary Washington values like accountability, respect and engagement – was Long’s brainchild, launched in reaction to what she was hearing from fellow students. “For me, activism is saying what needs to be said, getting feedback, creating events that have meaningful impact and being part of the change.”
And talk about change.
Something in Jaylyn Long’s journey sparked a passion to make people’s college experience as vibrant as hers.
“It’s not one path, it’s multiple paths,” she said. “I think that’s what a place like UMW has allowed me to realize. There are multiple paths to reach fulfillment.”