Head, Smith-Lezama sworn into office in Ellis Library

Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin gave the inauguration ceremony’s keynote speech.
MSA President Payton Head and MSA Vice President Brenda Smith-Lezama pose for a photo Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, in the Great Reading Room at Ellis Library in Columbia, Mo. Head and Smith-Lezama were formally sworn into office at the inauguration event.

Candice Walker looked up, teary-eyed, with a warm smile spread across her face as she spoke about her son, junior Payton Head, the newly inaugurated president of the Missouri Students Association.

“Payton has always been a leader,” Walker said. “Every day, I’m learning something. If he tells you you’re going to do something, he’s going to do it. One of the things I’m most proud of is that he’s here at Mizzou. It has helped to mold him to be who he is.”

Jaime Smith’s eyes also lit up with pride when speaking about his daughter, junior Brenda Smith-Lezama, the new MSA vice president, after the inauguration ceremony.

“I knew she had the talent and ability,” Smith said. “I knew that if she dedicates herself to anything, she can get to the top. I’m very proud to be a part of her journey and help her shine on.”

Head and Smith-Lezama were confirmed as the new president and vice president in front of their executive cabinet, parents, friends, colleagues and MU administration at the inauguration ceremony Jan. 31 in Ellis Library.

The president and vice president of the student government at Missouri State University, Jordan McGee and Addison Reed, also attended. MU and MSU would like to work together more to serve Missouri students, Head said.

Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs both spoke at the ceremony. Dr. Scroggs gave opening remarks and Chancellor Loftin gave the keynote address.

Dr. Scroggs acknowledged the hard work of outgoing MSA leadership Kelsey Haberberger and Matt McKeown, encouraged Head and Smith-Lezama in “leading for tomorrow by continuing to build and grow.”

She also spoke about the importance of student government on campus. She said that, without MSA, the voices of the students would be lost and there wouldn’t be the Mizzou Recreation Center, the MU Student Center or a recycling initiative on campus.

The ceremony was hosted by MU graduate student Sean Joy and Kandice Head, Payton Head’s sister. Each told anecdotes about their relationships with Head and Smith-Lezama.

Kandice even poked fun at her brother for not winning a student election during middle or high school, even losing some to her. Cue a sassy hair flip and a roar of laughter from the audience.

“He never embodies his failures and never believes that he is anything less than who he is,” Kandice said during her closing speech. “That’s what got him to where he is today. Congratulations on winning an election that counts.”

Kandice said her brother inspires her with his drive and big ideas.

“Payton will come out of nowhere and commit himself to huge dreams and actually make them come true,” Head said.

During Head and Smith-Lezama’s inauguration speeches, each spoke about their journey of finding their place, their passion for the university and their hopes for their future leading MSA.

Smith-Lezama said she faced a harsh reality when she arrived at MU, having fallen in love with the campus but not finding her place right away. However, she met Payton at her first MSA Senate meeting of her freshman year when they joined the Social Justice Committee.

From there, their relationship grew and they decided to run together last summer.

“This turned into the beginning of the movement,” Smith-Lezama said during her speech. “I felt that the passion that we shared and the ideas that we created, I would be able to see them through. We wanted to give students who have never been involved something to believe in.”

Head reminisced on his reluctance to come to MU and the segregation between different social groups he experienced when he became a student.

“I saw Black Mizzou, Greek Mizzou or International Mizzou,” he said. “I never saw these communities interact until Ignite Mizzou. Instead of continuing to complain about what I didn’t see, I started to be that change. I joined groups of people who identified differently than me to broaden my horizons and I made sure MSA was just as passionate about social justice as I was.”

Loftin offered the new leadership wise words during his keynote address.

“Leadership is not easy,” he said. “Sooner or later, you will make a decision that others will not like and they will say hateful things to you. It will hurt. The test of leadership is doing the right thing even when others tell you it’s not right. Be prepared to take those arrows from those who do not agree. It will make you stronger and you will learn a lot in the process.”

Loftin also hopes Ignite Mizzou will contribute to Looking Forward to 200, his initiative that encourages the MU community to imagine what the 200th anniversary of MU should be like when making decisions.

“If we can imagine it, we can do it,” Loftin said. “That’s the bottom line. I’m going to need you and (Head and Smith-Lezama) and the rest of you to help make that happen. Think about what this place ought to be. I hope that it’s a place for us to work together.”

He said he is excited to work with Head and Smith-Lezama this upcoming year to tackle issues and continue to drive the excitement in students about their university.

“We’ll have cooperation moving forward to make Mizzou a better place,” Loftin said. “(Their biggest strength is) passion for the university and their campaign themes. They really do believe in them. You are driven by your passion and what you love, and you don’t give up. They won’t give up because they care about the right things. I’m very happy for them and Mizzou to have them.”

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