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A Winning Platform, an Historic Win  

Jerlisa "Juju" Fontaine, the president-elect of Student Association. (Photo by Michael Forrest of Michael's Photography)

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 28, 2017) – The first woman to be elected Student Association President in 17 years combined a social media strategy with building an “army” of supporters to achieve her victory.

Jerlisa Fontaine is also believed to be the first black female President-elect of SA. She and her female running mate, Madeeha Khan, won with 65 percent of the vote over Tiran Koren and Andalib Anwar.

Madeeha Khan

Madeeha Khan was elected Vice President. Khan is shown speaking at Convocation last fall.   

“People would ask, ‘Juju (my nickname), why are you working so hard for this? You know you’re going to win.’ I wanted to work as hard as I could so that it would reflect how strong my work ethic will be when or if I was elected as their president.”

Fontaine said the key to her campaign was not choosing whether to take the social media route or a more physical route. “I did BOTH,” she said.

Her supporters started with social media. Realizing not everyone is active on social media, she and Khan built a group of supporters who spoke to other students and student groups about their platform and plans for the coming year.

Fontaine is focused on three top issues:

  • improving SA’s financial situation
  • changing the perception that "SA is just Parkfest and the Block Party" by working on the organization’s branding
  • establishing a new academic initiative, and
  • working on the structure of SA departments so the organization can run as effectively as possible.

Involved with SA since her freshman year, Fontaine has been an intern, associate and Director of the Marketing Department. She is currently Chief of Staff to President Felix Abreu.

“Having been extremely close to all SA presidents since 2014, I have received the necessary mentorship to prepare myself for a position like this,” Fontaine said. She has been a member of Phenomenal Voices, NAACP, and the Minority Association of Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Students (MAPS). A human biology major from the Bronx, she is on a pre-med track with a minor in business.

“My involvement on campus has landed me the name Ms. My Involvement,” she says with a chuckle.

Why is it so rare for a woman to be elected SA president?

“I, at some point, assumed there was a reason as to why we haven’t seen female governance at this school and it made me reflect on this past election in which I feel America wasn’t ready for a female president,” Fontaine said.

Throughout the campaign, Fontaine had concerns that others may not see her as qualified because at times she speaks so quickly it causes her to stutter. However, she found she stutters less when speaking to a large crowd, possibly because of the preparation that goes into a speech.

“It is shocking to me that more women do not run for public office,” Fontaine said. “We have all of the qualities and capabilities that males have to run for these positions.”

She said it is essential to “build yourself to be mentally and emotionally strong so that you do not beat yourself down throughout your campaign. People will always have something negative to say about you so it is important that you are able to emphasize your strong suits so that people see that these outweigh the negatives.”

In general, “it is important for women who do succeed at attaining a seat in public offices to go back and motivate other women to do the same. Sometimes we just need that extra push from someone who is where we want to be,” Fontaine said.

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