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Taliajah "Teddy" Vann reflects on her year as student body president

UNC senior and Student Body President Taliajah "Teddy" Vann sits in her office in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union on Thursday, March 23, 2023.

Student Body President Taliajah "Teddy" Vann doesn’t measure the success of her term by how many changes she’s made or boxes she can check off.

“It is impossible for us to accomplish everything," Vann said. "It's impossible for us in one year to fix every single issue. So we've got an obligation, in my view, to do everything that we can for our students.”

Instead, Vann kept in mind that, although she may not have accomplished everything in her platform, she’s proud of what she was able to do — especially the initiatives she didn’t initially have on her radar.

Throughout her presidency, Vann helped lead a Redirect the Rage rally for women's healthcare after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, attended the first annual UNC Student Voting Day and helped organize the dedication of the James Lewis Cates Jr. Memorial.

Success through a support system

Jailyn Neville, executive manager of the office of the student body president, said she didn’t want a role in student government until she helped Vann with her campaign.

Neville said Vann’s ability to uplift others' voices is the perfect example of why someone should be student body president.

“I just feel like we're going to leave this space being able to add on to work we've already done, but feel relieved that we took the position seriously and that we made the most of it and supported students first and foremost,” Neville said.

Neil Sharma, co-director of the Vann administration's department of academic affairs and professional development, said working with Vann was especially comforting as a junior transfer student. 

“I personally was very much pleased with the support, with the guidance, with the sense of unity and team building that I witnessed while working with the Vann administration,” he said.

Vann said her mother is someone who gave her important advice during the difficult times as student body president. Always do the right thing, especially if it’s hard, she said.

“I think in many ways I have sacrificed pieces of myself for this,” Vann said. “And while that is really hard at times, I'm still standing because of the people who weathered those storms with me.”

Future plans 

“I think that there are people who feel (that) to acknowledge what work is still to be done implies they have failed in some way. That’s not how I view it at all,” Vann said. 

Vann said she wishes her administration could have addressed projects such as the sexual assault research hub and cultural spaces, but they were unable to because of the lengthy process of receiving approval and staffing.

“I recognize the challenges that existed but do feel really hopeful that, in the future, before I'm too far removed from my Carolina experience, we'll be able to have those really critical needs met on our campus,” Vann said.

She also said she is currently advising the next student body president, Christopher Everett, on the responsibilities of the role and the anticipated criticism he might face.

“It is not a coincidence that we have had three Black student body presidents the last three years now, including Chris, and that the moment that those people got into that role, the messaging from some was, ‘They're completely incompetent and incapable of doing the job,’” Vann said.

Vann said she wants Everett to know that he shouldn’t listen to that noise.

When Vann was a first-year student at UNC, she told Tamiya Troy, president of Black Student Movement from 2020-2021, that she wanted to be BSM president junior year, then student body president senior year. She has now accomplished those goals.

Vann also said she is UNC’s first BSM president to then become student body president.

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“We are leaving this office with a campus that is that much more equipped to critically engage each other and ideas and to speak truth to power whenever they need to, whatever it is they feel they need to say," Vann said.