Morgan Atkins always felt like making it to the Associated Student Body presidency was a feat that was expected of her.
August 2018, her first month on campus, was the only time in her college career that she did not have a role within ASB, and over the past three years, she moved around filling different positions in the ASB Senate. On March 2, Atkins fulfilled her family and friends’ predictions when the student body elected her as the 2021-2022 ASB president.
“This is something that people have kind of always expected of me, even if I didn’t really think this is the path that I was going to choose. So for this to be a reality is definitely very strange, but really exciting,” Atkins said. “I wanted to make sure before I did anything, I was doing it for the right reasons and that I truly thought that I would be the best person for the job.”
She is the first female ASB president that the university has seen in eight years, and she is only the seventh female president in university history.
“A lot of times, there are very qualified women who get pushed out of the room because we have men or other people who think that they are more qualified,” Atkins said. “It all goes back to being a woman in public perception and understanding that everything you do is under a microscope. I’m honored to be the seventh woman and the first one we’ve had in eight years, but I think that shows how much more improvement we have to do.”
With a voter turnout of 1,747 students, Atkins won 97.93% of the vote, though she had no opponent. Just over half the number of students who voted in last year’s election voted in the 2021 election. The lower turnout was likely a result of only two positions being contested: treasurer and judicial chair. Still, Atkins’s nerves did not subside until ASB Attorney General Jake Fanning announced her name over the open Zoom call.
“I’m definitely the kind of person that I think of every single possible scenario that can go wrong. This whole time I was like, ‘Alright, alright, maybe I got disqualified, and I just don’t know yet,’” Atkins said.
Instead of the typical campaign format that ASB candidates have followed in the past, Atkins and her team decided to run a “get-to-know-you” campaign. She published the traditional platform graphics on social media centered around engaging students, increasing campus sustainability and amplifying student voices. Then, she also posted graphics telling people that her guilty pleasure is Glee, and her top Spotify artists include Mt. Joy and Harry Styles.
“Once I found out — like confirmed — that I was unopposed, I was really excited just because I knew what the guidelines were, I knew what we were walking into, and me and my campaign team could just have as much fun as we wanted to,” Atkins said.
Campaign TikToks and fun facts aside, the junior public policy leadership major from Olive Branch said she has serious goals, including improving the ASB relationship with other student organizations and increasing student government’s efficiency.
“With me, there’s going to hopefully be a lot more of a shift toward programming in collaboration with other (registered student organizations),” Atkins said. “A lot of times when it comes to programming, ASB tries to do everything by itself, and we don’t have to.”
One of Atkins’s mentors throughout the election process was former ASB student leader Leah Davis.
“I would argue that about 50% of student leaders on campus are female, but they don’t always get the support as their male counterparts,” Davis said. “Before the campaign, I told her to be confident in who she is and how qualified she is. She’s done the work throughout her years of service to ASB, and she has a proven track record of her work. She built the relationships, and she won the approval of the student body with their vote.”
Outgoing ASB president Joshua Mannery echoed a similar sentiment about Atkins’s past work within student government.
“She has proven time after time this year that when the stakes are at their highest, she will always position herself in a way that will best advocate for and benefit the entire student body,” Mannery said. “Her experience, tenacity, and charming ability to gather support will truly allow her to transition into this role flawlessly.”