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Saturday, August 13, 2022

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Q&A: Meet Joshua Martin, UH’s youngest SGA President


After winning the presidency during his freshman year, Joshua Martin is the youngest SGA president in UH history. | James Schillinger/The Cougar

For some students, their first year at college sets the tone for their entire university experience. This can be overwhelming, as navigating the social and academic complexities of college life is a task easier said than done.

We sat down with Joshua Martin, current president of the Student Government Association, to see how he balanced the responsibilities of running for student body president with the academic and social demands of being a first year student.

Q: So let’s start with you telling us a little bit about your background. How would you describe your high school experience? 

Martin: I would say I had a fairly unusual high school career. I actually ended up attending three separate high schools. I started out at Clear Lake High School, from there I transferred to a private school, Lutheran South Academy. Finally, I transferred to Clear Brook High School, which was a little awkward since they were the rivals of my first school, Clear Lake.

Sounds like you moved around a lot, how did that affect your experience? Was it difficult for you to meet people?

Martin: It wasn’t always the easiest, luckily I was always a basketball player so that definitely helped introduce me to new folks at the school and kind of forced me to meet new people. Even with that though it was hard at times, at Clear Brook I found myself caught in between being a basketball and being a student.

I was always kind of quiet and took school pretty seriously, so because of that some people saw me as a nerd. At the same time I played basketball, so other people saw me as an athlete. I ended up being caught in this position where people didn’t know how to classify me and it made it kind of difficult for me to put myself out there. 

That definitely sounds hard, do you feel like it helped prepare you for college life? 

Martin: Definitely, having to adapt to different environments during high school helped me to develop myself socially in a way that the transition into college wasn’t as much of a shift for me as it is for some. I didn’t really have any friends at UH from high school, so I saw my first year here as an opportunity to reinvent myself, to take myself one step closer to who I really wanted to be. 

What made you decide to run for SGA president as a freshman? Were you involved in student government in high school? 

Martin: Believe it or not, I actually wasn’t involved with any sort of student government before coming to UH.

I saw the start of my college experience as being a time for me to decide who I wanted to become. So I sat down and I really asked myself what it was I wanted to do with my life, and ultimately I decided I wanted to help people. What really brought it home though was when I went down to Louisiana after Hurricane Ida as a part of a volunteer initiative with For the Students.

We ended up helping over 400 families, and during that time I was able to connect with and speak to these people that had lost so much, it was just a really eye opening experience for me.

How did you find balance between reinventing yourself, running for president, and handling your school work?

Martin: Well there was definitely a bit of trial and error involved. Learning to manage my time effectively was one of the first hurdles I had to overcome. I quickly learned that to succeed in college you have to be able to hold yourself responsible.

No matter what, school comes first, before socializing, before social clubs and organizations, before SGA, school comes first. Recognizing that helped me to order my priorities and structure my life in a way that fostered success.

At the same time though, I also learned the importance of setting aside time for myself. I can be a bit of a workaholic at times and sometimes I found myself getting stressed because I just refused to take a break. This is something I’m still working on now, but it’s extremely important to be aware of because your work can and will suffer if you don’t take care of yourself. 

Aside from time management, what else do you think goes into having a good start at college? 

Martin: By far the most important is to be yourself. I know it’s cheesy, but I think it’s something that a lot of people struggle with when they come to a new environment. I see so many of my peers concerning themselves with what others think they should be, that they rarely think about who they are and who they want to be.

Really just being brave enough to be honest with yourself and with others goes a long way in college. Other than that though I’d say get involved.

There are so many people to meet, so much to do, so much to see at UH, and the best way to experience it all is to get involved with some sort of organization or social club. I know if I hadn’t joined For the Students, I probably never would have gotten the confidence to run for president. 

And are there any common pitfalls you see freshman falling into? Any common mistakes students should be aware of?

Martin: I’d say it’s easy to get kind of overwhelmed early on and end up jumping the gun. Students are fresh on campus and are like ‘oh I have to do this, this, this, this.’ It’s important to know that it’s OK to take things slow, it’s ok to ease into it.

Sometimes the most important thing you can do is, take a seat, take a breath, focus up and get back at it with a clear mindset. Most of us are here for at least four years, and that’s plenty of time to experience UH. Just take your time, don’t worry about going too fast or too slow, go at the pace that’s comfortable for you. 

Is there anything you’d like to say to students starting at UH this fall?

Martin: Know that you have a place on this campus. With over 47,000 students at UH, there is someone out there who will like you for you. It goes back to what I was saying earlier, don’t be afraid to be yourself. At the end of the day, what makes us Cougars is our diversity, and our diversity is what makes us strong. 

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