What does Stillman College mean to you?
Stillman College is an anchor in my life, both figuratively and literally. Stillman directly impacted my life as a native Tuscaloosan raised blocks away from the institution. Many of my elementary school teachers, local officials, doctors, and family are Stillman graduates. As the son of a pastor, the values that were instilled by my parents were nurtured by everyone at the College. I could have never imagined when I was a schoolboy falling asleep to the sound of The Blue Pride Marching Tigers that I would become a section leader, a member of the renowned Stillman Concert Choir, and especially not the 85th Student President of the student body. It was like this place was created for me.
Tell us about your role as the first Presidential Leadership Fellow at Stillman
As the Inaugural Presidential Leadership Fellow, I had the opportunity to serve as an aide to President Cynthia Warrick, The College’s first woman leader. My duties include donor engagement, community relations, strategic planning, special projects, and being a presidential envoy to different divisions of the institution and across the city, state, and nation. This experience has given me exposure to the governance and management of a major organization. Universities are microcosms of the world so the direct mentorship that I receive from a diverse cadre of executives and academic leadership continues to sharpen my skills and challenges me to think critically as a leader.
How do you feel that you that Stillman prepared you for the world?
I often remark that attending Stillman was like being in a pressure cooker; What seems like the shortest four years of my life are among the most impactful. Whether it was my band director drilling “early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable” at 5 AM practices, or my professors demanding we look presentable at all times or working with fellow students and campus officials to create lasting and impactful change, every experience I had shaped who I
am today. Because of Stillman, I have had experiences working in the corporate world and in successful small businesses, nonprofits, and community service organizations. Its Christian and liberal arts-based education continues to deliver on its mission to shape ethical and educated servant-leaders.
What does success look like for you?
Success for me looks like accomplishing goals that improve my life and someone else’s life.
How has your experience been as a graduate student?
Graduate school has been a whirlwind, to say the least. Pursuing the Master of Public Health (an entirely new discipline for me), while experiencing a pandemic two semesters in, has opened my eyes to the need for individual and collective health action. It has helped me further shape my philosophy around community engagement and the importance of working together to eliminate issues that impact our neighbors and eventually us collectively.
In addition to being a student, I research and facilitate workshops in The University of Alabama’s Division of Community Affairs’ Crossroad Civic Engagement Center. I am also very proud to be the first African American president of The Graduate Student Association, serving a student body of over 6,000, the largest in The University’s history. I have worked with grad students across the campus and our distance student population to reinvigorate the organization and position it to better advocate for and serve the needs of all graduate students. This challenge has spurred organic community-building coalitions.
Quinvarlio “Quin” Kelly Jr. is a native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A 2014 graduate of Hillcrest High School, he served as the 85th SGA President at Stillman College, where he is distinguished as the Inaugural Presidential Leadership Fellow. He is also a 2019 graduate of leadership Tuscaloosa. While pursuing The Master of Public Health at The University of Alabama, he serves as the president of the Graduate Student Association, a member of the Blackburn Institute, and a graduate researcher at the Crossroads Civic Engagement Center. His mission has always been to build the beloved community, he actively pursues this through service with several community organizations, including, The Building Bridges Institute for Racial Reconciliation, and The House Tuscaloosa, a literacy center and used book store.
Quin was honored as the 2019 recipient of the Realizing the Dream Horizon Award, presented to an individual who models Dr. Martin Luther King’s ideals of promoting social justice, peace, and equality. Quin is most proud of his role as the oldest of the seven Kelly children, where his role as a brother and mentor has shaped his “not an optionist” and collaborative leadership philosophy.