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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Campus

Profile Friday: Pioneering senior empowers campus residents


demointe

As the Residence Halls Association’s president, DeMointé Wesley has brought the organization into the national spotlight. | Courtesy of Henry Jreij

Since his arrival at UH, English literature senior DeMointé Wesley has worked to help students gain more control over their campus.

Wesley has succeeded involving students who live on campus in the Residence Hall Association, giving them more power over the places where they live and socialize. During Wesley’s time in RHA’s leadership, the group has won multiple awards and climbed to national fame.

“(Wesley) is a hard, dedicated worker and puts his whole heart into the work that he does,” said Jackie Stelmaszczyk, Residence Life Coordinator for Bayou Oaks and adviser to the RHA. “You know he genuinely cares for the organization and its people.”

Positive first impressions

For Wesley, much of his work is driven by a radical vision of equality and an opposition to oppression wherever he sees it.

“I always say that I’m black and queer, and my politics are aligned accordingly,” Wesley said. “We have the power to change whatever it is about the University, and about the world, that we don’t like.”

Philosophy senior Ariana Peruzzi met Wesley through their mutual participation in the English department’s Houston Writing Fellows program. Peruzzi said she doesn’t necessarily share Wesley’s radicalism, but thinks it is evidence of some of his strengths.

“One thing that cracks me up about (Wesley) is that his catchphrase is, ‘I’m only a scholar until the revolution comes,’ which is really proof of his devotion to fighting oppressive power structures, but it’s such a dramatic statement that I have to laugh,” Peruzzi said. “I guess I’d say that he does serious work, but doesn’t take himself too seriously.”

Regardless of Wesley’s motivations, he has made a practice of serving fellow students and made a lasting impact on those he has worked with.

“I am so proud of his hard work and all he has accomplished — for himself and his leadership and for RHA, and I can’t wait to see how he continues to grow,” Stelmaszczyk said.

Born leader

While involved in the RHA, Wesley served in multiple capacities, including Hall Council member for Cougar Village 1 and the following year as the vice president of programming. This year he serves as the RHA’s president.

“As vice president of programming, he kind of reinvented the role and created structure out of a chaotic position description,” Stelmaszczyk said. “Now the role has a clear purpose and is the beacon for how RHA programs.”

During his time on the RHA’s executive board, Wesley’s focus has been on increasing attendance to the association’s general assemblies. He sees this as an important way to increase resident participation and provide them a means to give input.

“(General assemblies) are a great way for residents to have their voices heard and to hear about important things pertaining to living on campus,” Wesley said. “I think students really do not realize how much power they have to affect change in the residence halls and campus-wide, should they choose to.”

Wesley, a senior, is pursuing a double major in English literature and women, gender, and sexuality studies. His aim is to be a professor of African-American literature, gender and sexuality.

These pursuits led him to be deeply involved in academic life as well.

‘He manages somehow’

Over the course of his time at UH, Wesley has been a team assistant for the Human Situation courses in the Honors College and a panelist for the speakers bureau of the LGBTQ Resource Center. He is also a member of the Ankh Maat Wedjau Honor Society — Songhai Chapter at UH.

“(Wesley) really has taken on a lot. It’s amazing he doesn’t drop dead from overwork, but he manages somehow,” Peruzzi said.

In addition to success in his campus involvement and academics, Wesley’s peers said they respect his work and candor.

“My favorite thing about him is that he’s thoughtful, he listens well and he’s open minded, which is probably why we’ve never had a conflict,” Peruzzi said. “We disagree all the time, but we enjoy our debates and we learn from each other.”

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