Student leaders discuss friendship at first VOICES event

Zaire Carter '22 and Robin Chodak '22 discussed on-campus leadership, their friendship, and the 'Berg community as a whole.

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Moderator Jonathan Lewis '24, Zaire Carter '22 and Robin Chodak '22 / Photo by Cydney Wilson

Zaire Carter ‘22 and Robin Chodak ‘22 filled Miller Forum in Moyer Hall with a spirited dialogue about their accomplishments, challenges and invaluable relationship with one another. 

Nour Yousry ‘23 began the event on Oct. 6, which kicked off the VOICES series, with an introduction. She ended the introduction with, “I ask you all today to open your ears and hearts to a renewal and revival that we will direly need.”

Chodak and Carter are both well-known leaders on campus. Some of Chodak’s leadership roles include serving as the co-president of the Asian Student Association, vice president of the Men of Color Network, and intern at the Office of Multicultural life. Carter serves as president of the Student Government Association (SGA), president of the Men of Color Network, and a residence hall director. Both have also held a variety of other leadership roles during their four years. 

Chodak and Carter met during the Emerging Leaders pre-orientation before officially beginning their first year of college, and both stressed the positive impact that the Office of Multicultural Life has had on their time at ‘Berg. Chodak shared, “This guy stands up in the middle of the meeting and is like ‘I forgot to bring paper to college…’ next thing I know I’m getting breakfast with him.”

The two quickly became involved on campus, beginning with the Emerging Leaders Council and the Men of Color Network. They also both applied to be residential advisors in the second semester of their first year, a position which they still serve in today.

“Don’t feel like you’re not doing enough for yourself or for your community. You being here, especially for the students of color, is already a huge, huge achievement… So many students don’t know your experiences, the places you’ve come from or the challenges your people have faced.”

Robin Chodak ’22

Involvement in affinity groups was highly influential for both students. Chodak explained that Men of Color Network was the “biggest achievement of our freshman year.” Steven Smith ‘19 helped found the group with Robin Riley-Casey. Carter explained that, “Steve was a senior and was gonna go off and graduate and he was asking for folks who were part of it to step up and run it after he was leaving. I don’t know what inspired me to throw my hat in the ring but I did. We needed a secretary, so I was like ‘Oh, I’ll ask Robin…’ I knew I wanted someone who was not only capable and competent but who was compassionate… I needed someone I could trust.”

Today, the Men of Color Network is hugely successful on campus, and has put on events such as barbershop conversations, which are conversations between members of the Network and barbers from the Allentown community. They discuss local issues while the barbers cut the students’ hair.  The Network also put on cuffing grams, which was a tabling event where chocolate covered pretzels were sold and students could send them to someone else on campus, hand-delivered with a song and dance by members of the Men of Color Network. This success is largely due to the work of these two remarkable leaders.

Few may know that, while Carter leads SGA today, Chodak spent time in the student group first. While Chodak said he “just didn’t enjoy the environment very much,” he encouraged Carter to join.

Because of their history of compromise and discussion they have been able to work together and hold each other accountable, even in instances where they may disagree.

“Before we were presidents, before we were affinity group leaders… we were pretty good friends first,” said Carter.

Carter and Chodak also offered advice to the audience, and shared things they had learned from each other.

“[Chodak] showed me that to seek help is not a sign of weakness but… actually it’s a sign of strength,” said Carter.

Chodak added, “Don’t feel like you’re not doing enough for yourself or for your community. You being here, especially for the students of color, is already a huge, huge achievement… So many students don’t know your experiences, the places you’ve come from or the challenges your people have faced.”

Overall, I’m excited to see the newer leaders emerge on campus and how they will take the work we’ve done and go even further with it. Because that is the only way change happens.

Zaire Carter ’22

Allison Mintz ‘23, who serves on SGA with Carter as the executive secretary and attended the event, said, “Listening to Zaire and Robin’s unwavering support for one another was lovely, it’s great to see such a strong friendship that began at Muhlenberg less than 4 years ago.” She added, “Robin and Zaire’s impacts on this campus both individually and as best friends really speak to the supportive communities students have built for and with one another!”

Following the event, Carter said, “I am so glad that students were able to come and hear Robin and I discuss our experiences. Not only has Robin been a great partner, a great vice president, a great president, but a phenomenal brother to me. I’ll always cherish our brotherhood. I hope that students can look at our journey together and see that if two crazy, superhero loving, McDonald’s fries loving people can even effect a sliver of change on this campus, then they can too. And they can do even more than we did!”

Chodak added, “I was really glad to share it with someone like Zaire who reminds you that you deserve to be in the room, on the stage, or wherever you want to be.”

Carter shared, “Overall, I’m excited to see the newer leaders emerge on campus and how they will take the work we’ve done and go even further with it. Because that is the only way change happens.”

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