Paul Wyche Speaks of plans for year, inspirations and future goals.
BY ANDANI MUNKAILA, STAFF WRITER
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.
How is life in NOVA different from life in Central Florida?
I come from Central Florida, which, I like to say, is the place to be if you’re growing up in Florida because I live maybe 30-45 minutes away from Disney World, Universal, a couple hours away from Tampa and a little bit more from Miami. Where I lived in Florida, I was kind of in my own bubble.
When I came to Mason, I became more cognizant of what’s actually happening in the real world. It certainly helps that we’re so close in proximity to DC so whatever’s going on in the government, you hear about the values of the people that live here.
Why is diversity so important to you?
I want to make sure that everybody’s voice is elevated to a level that they can be heard and respected. I believe that diversity is one of those avenues where that end goal can be achieved. We all live in this world and we all have our own little piece of the puzzle. So by learning the experiences of others you add on to that puzzle. I don’t know if anybody ever gets the complete puzzle by the end of their lifetime. But I think it’s very important to have that diversity so you can achieve as many different perspectives as possible.
How do you make sure that you capture the voice of everyone?
A very applicable scenario is that I serve as the undergraduate student representative on the Board of Visitors, a group of individuals who are appointed by the governor.
Right now, it’s half-and-half our previous governor, Governor Northam, and then half Governor Younkin. And with that, of course, brings a difference in ideals from half of the individuals.
When it comes to key topics, I remember to always bring myself back thinking, “You know, is this something that I just believe in? Or is this something that the student body believes in?” Another way I gain these perspectives is by immersing myself in different events [and] trying my best to go to their general body meetings.
Sometimes it’s uncomfortable seeing someone who’s different from you or has different ideas…you don’t want to go up to them or partake in their event. But if you do, you can gain a new perspective and get into their mindset a little bit. So that really helps me also make sure I’m representing the entire student body.
What can you tell us about your “Give Black” initiative?
“Give Black” is one of my campaign promises. It’s currently in the major planning phase.
What we’re doing is collaborating with a number of student organizations on campus that promote or cater to individuals within black African heritage or Caribbean communities.
A big kickoff event is coming up at the start of October…We’re taking the Farmers Market and essentially combining it with the initiative. The goal is to have at least 50% of the vendors [relate] to the mission objective. So they’ll either be owned or catered to Black-African heritage or Caribbean individuals. It’s part of that whole giving back to the community.
What inspired the “Give Black” initiative?
My father was African American. That’s where I get my 50% from. My father was born and raised [in South Florida]. They were kind of viewed as, I don’t like this terminology, but like “hood rat” or “gangster”. That’s certainly not the case. However, that stereotype was put on them and because of that, I believe it was my father’s intention to try to ensure I strayed away from that. So in a sense, a lot of the common experiences that African Americans growing up get to experience, I actually never got to experience.
When I came to Mason, I was immersed in these different experiences and different groups. It was a learning curve in breaking down the stigmatism that had been implanted in my mind against participating with these groups. As I was able to break it down, I was able to realize, you know, this is really fun. This is a great community. Because of it, I then wanted to highlight it and help anybody else who went through a similar situation.
What other events are you planning?
Ranging from October to the end of Black History Month, we’re going to have a big summit with a number of different influential student business leaders and respectable speakers to come talk about their experiences, their beliefs and their values.
We’re taking this time to highlight these communities and show how you as an individual can relate this back to not only your community, but all communities, essentially just promoting giving back whether it’s just one’s community or the entire world.
How do you plan to complete all 40+ of your initiatives?
A couple, we’ve already, “completed” in a way and that’s just because we learned that the conversations had already been started and systems already are being put in place. And then another key of that is we’re not just doing it on our own.
In terms of the Cabinet of the executive branch, we currently have 27 individuals. It’s a combination of secretaries and under secretaries, I believe. Each one of those positions are kind of catered towards a given subject area. So, we have a PR department…we have a University Life department… University Services.
Thankfully, we have a very hard working and tight knit team, which makes things a lot easier. So it’s not just one person trying to accomplish 40-something odd things.
What are your future plans?
I have an interest in cyber governance on the federal side in terms of making sure that the federal regulations laid out by the government are being respected or implemented in certain businesses.
Potentially later down the line, I’m looking at a political career. I couldn’t necessarily tell you what and where yet, but I do really enjoy the work I do now.
My current goal is to create a business, especially on the cybersecurity side that caters towards more small and minority businesses who can’t commonly afford [cyber services] or are more susceptible to cyber breaches or ransomware.
What do you want to say to the student body?
Don’t be afraid to interact with us.
A part of our efficiency is determined by the engagement of the student body. So are all of the issues and problems we tackle. We’re all elected by the student body. And so we should know their problems. That goes into the gaining perspectives point I mentioned earlier.
When it comes to certain groups, we just maybe can’t relay or we just don’t know so and a big thing is having the student body feel that they can communicate and express their different issues or problems or experiences whether they be negative or positive ones.