Leadership in Her Style

by Joe Selmont  |   

Katie Scoggin poses with her guitar.
Katie Scoggin poses with her guitar in front of Rasmuson Hall, home to the Student Health and Counseling Center.

Katie Scoggin, a first-year student in UAA’s political science program, believes that it is our shared responsibility as individuals and communities to make the world a better place. She believes that when there is a need going unfilled, then it is our duty to pull together, roll up our sleeves and get to work.

That is the message behind her new song “It Starts with Me,” which recently won the top prize in UAA’s Leadership in Your Style competition. The purpose of the competition was for UAA students to express the meaning of leadership through music, art, prose or any other form of self-expression. It was part of the MLK Student Leadership Appreciation Event, and it was judged by members of the YouAA Committee and keynote speaker Aisha Fukushima.

Fukushima is a poet, musician and activist, and her keynote address flowed freely between poems, meditative reflection on Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, and calls-to-action for UAA’s budding student leaders. She is the founder of RAPtivism, a project that combines hip hop and activism, which spans 20 countries and amplifies local fights for freedom and justice.

Like Fukushima, Scoggin believes in advocating for marginalized communities and creating space for those communities to advocate for themselves. “The world today just feels so divided and I can’t remember it ever feeling like this in my lifetime,” said Scoggin. “Everything just feels a bit out of control, and there’s so much work to do, work that we can only really do together. When something is wrong, we can’t just sit back and watch. We can’t wait for somebody else to solve our problems. If you see a house is on fire, then you have to go grab a hose!”

As far as Scoggin is concerned, using her voice and songwriting to spur others to action is the bare minimum that she ought to do. She must also be engaged in the action herself, which is part of why she joined the sorority Alpha Sigma Alpha and is about to start a new job as a peer health educator for the UAA Student Health and Counseling Center.

Scoggin said, “Our sorority received bystander training from a peer health educator, which taught us some skills for safely intervening in unsafe situations. I realized that here was a job that I could do — that there was an unfilled need that I could help fill. So when I saw the job opening, I applied right away.”

For Scoggin, the concept of leadership is connected to her thoughts about Martin Luther King Jr. In King, she sees a leader who put the needs of the community over his own needs. King’s fight wasn’t about advocating for social justice in the abstract, but for real people. “It seems like he had these unshakeable beliefs and really strong morals, yet he was still able to listen to others and bring them to the table,” said Scoggin. “I just hope I’ll be able to do the same thing in my own way.”

While Scoggin doesn’t expect to graduate until 2024, she is already looking ahead. There are a few paths that she can see herself taking, but she is perhaps most excited about the possibility of going to law school and becoming an immigration lawyer. Scoggin is an immigrant herself, having been adopted from China into an Alaskan family when she was still an infant.

When asked if her personal history as an immigrant has had an impact on her desire to become an immigration lawyer, Scoggin said, “I honestly don’t know. It’s hard to say. When I think about my experience, about how I was able to enter the country and become a citizen, then I think about how much privilege I have. And there are families out there that don’t have the same level of privilege — families that get stuck or ignored by the system. That’s where I feel like I could make a difference.”

In the meantime, Scoggin will forge ahead. She will continue to make music, identify unfilled needs and do what she can to fill them.

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