In an interview with The Plainsman, Morgan Gaston discussed her platform and planned course of action following her election for the 2017-18 Miss Homecoming.
Q: Can you explain your platform and how you connected with it?
MG: I had the opportunity to go to China last year, and when I was there, I got to experience what it’s like to be fully welcomed into a community and culture where I did not feel at home. They made me feel very at home and at ease and took me everywhere and showed me their culture. I realized I hadn’t done that back [in Auburn], and it was very humbling. I joined the International Buddy Program, and my buddy helped to open me up to the struggles that they had here. She was actually thinking about transferring schools because I was her only American friend, and I was struck by that and have always wanted to fix things like that. When I got nominated [for Miss Homecoming], I knew that this was what I wanted my platform to be. I did research and learned Auburn has everything possible in place to help the international students. That is where my idea came from – to use everything already in place and get people to be the bridges. We need to be targeting people and relationships because that is where it begins.
Q: Many people aren’t aware of the course of action after the Miss Homecoming election. Can you explain what will be your first actions in implementing your international student platform?
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MG: First off, there is an Emerge group that has contacted me about making my platform their philanthropy. We are setting up a meeting and presentation to show to their entire group. They would have it be a program that focuses on holidays – bringing international students home for the holidays so they don’t have to spend it here by themselves. And even doing stuff for Halloween because most of them don’t celebrate Halloween. Last year, I took my international buddy to a Halloween party, and she’d never had a s’more or candy corn. Stuff like that would be what they would want their philanthropy to be. That will be a great way to get hands-on activities started. I also have a meeting with the cabinet and Senate of SGA later this week to talk about what we want to do to get liaisons and activities involved with organizations. As in, how are they going to help me? I am going to try to use their help as much as possible, but if not, I plan to set up one-on-one meetings with organizations. Having the title of “Miss Homecoming” is really helpful for getting me into meetings with people to get my platform going. I actually already have a fraternity that has reached out to me about getting involved, so that’s two organizations reaching out to me, which is awesome.
Q: What are your long-term plans for integrating your platform?
MG: I want to see these international liaisons happen within all of the campus organizations and within fraternities and sororities. They will reach out to international students and invite them and mentor them within the organizations. We have all the tools already and if we were able to implement these liaisons, then I think it will happen naturally. One thing I read when I was doing a lot of research for this was “integration is a process, not an event,” and that really stuck with me. It’s something that will happen organically if you can help put the wheels in motion. Hopefully, it will show people that it’s not that hard and it will happen. And then, I am going to try to start within my sorority so that I have a person I can personally reach out to in the future to keep things rolling.
Q: Besides student organizations, who all is working with you to get your platform to reach all Auburn students?
MG: Obviously, Auburn’s Global Guides within Auburn Global have been a gigantic help. Along with people in the International Student Organization. They have helped get my message across to other international students and their organizations. They told me what I needed to do, where I needed to go and who I needed to talk to in order to get my message out there. Having their support this whole time has been incredible. Then, my campaign manager Dane Block is amazing. He’s on SGA Senate for business, and he’s on budget and finance for the International Student Organization. He has been huge in helping make decisions with them, and he’s a huge help to me for making decisions. I didn’t know that when I asked him to be my campaign manager – it’s such a God thing. So definitely the Global Guides, Dane, and he is pulling in Senate and Cabinet to help as well.
Q: Are there any other responsibilities other than your platform as Miss Homecoming?
MG: There are not. I am full throttle into my platform. Some people have asked me to do meet-and-greets, which is so funny to me. I mean, I am happy to help in any way that I can, but I think Miss Homecoming is more of a tradition to make Auburn grow and make Auburn better. It’s up to the elected Miss Homecoming to decide how much she will push for her platform to happen, and I know Taylor Wesley, Miss Homecoming from two years ago, did a lot for her platform and really pushed for hers about mental health and wellness. She did incredibly.
Q: Is there anything else you would like Auburn students to know?
MG: I would love to see the Auburn community, not just Auburn as a campus, to come together. I know from the church I go to and places I have been that there are international people that are in Auburn. There are people like faculty and teachers who aren’t from here, and they need to be included. I know that it is even harder to do that as someone who isn’t a student, and we need to pull them in and show them that they are loved here — Auburn-Opelika thing, or a Lee County thing. Or how about Alabama? Everyone, please come help.
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