Former first lady of the United States Michelle Obama once made the statement “success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”
Obama, who was recognized as the most admired woman in a survey released on December 31, 2019 by The Independent, a European-based newspaper, definitely speaks to many young women today—including Salem senior and Yulia Trogdon.
Trogdon is a graphic design major with minors in marketing and professional writing. Along with working towards her degree, she takes on the added responsibility of being a resident assistant (RA) under the direction of Cynthia Jones.
By definition an RA at Salem are: a group of trained student leaders, considered paraprofessionals, that make up a part of the Residence Life staff. RAs are supervised by professional staff members. The Residence Life staff strives to provide programming and events that help students connect classroom learning with their living environment. RAs also provide programming aimed at developing students socially and building community within the residence halls and greater campus community. RAs serve as an additional resource for academic, personal, and social concerns. They are role models for other students and therefore must act in accordance with and support the College in its missions, goals, values, policies, and regulations.
However, when you speak to the 21-year-old Trogdon, you will quickly realize that she is wise beyond her years and definitely is a difference maker in people’s lives. The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of her willingness to put others before herself.
She initially intended on attending The Creative Circus School in Atlanta upon completion of her degree at Salem. The Creative Circus focuses Creative Advertising, Interactive Development, Design, and Photography. The college requires students to develop a portfolio of professional quality work and is a portfolio school.
“After the pandemic I want to own my own business and do some freelance graphic design business,” explained Trogdon. “I feel confident in doing freelance work for the time being—with all the things that have taken place with COVID-19. My uncle is a carpenter and this pandemic slowed down his business, but he has managed to have some minor projects. He is still meeting the people and talking to them, but I know it would be beneficial for him to have an online website.”
Therefore, Trogdon plans to take advantage of an independent study for Dr. Rosa Otero next semester and assist him in a number of ways. “I plan to create a website for uncle’s business. This will drive clients to his business and the conversations with my uncle, who lives nearby, made me see ‘first world’ problems.”
Otero, who is also Trogdon’s advisor, has a project where students were to create a business revolved around design. The class gives students the chance to see all the businesses that you can go into as a graphic design major. “She helps prepare us for the future, owning a business and gets us to think ‘outside the box,’ but most importantly she lets you know that you can do anything,” said Trogdon.
The education of Trogdon extends far beyond the classroom however because she is a strong believer in manifestation. “I like reading self-help books and really like affirmations,” Trogdon explained. “I try to let my fellow classmates and those on my hall know to have faith in the process. You don’t know the future because it is out of your hands. I take my experiences and help shape it to theirs and everything is for a reason, so have faith in it.”
Her major influences in life are her mother and grandmother. “My grandma left home when she was 14 and is a super strong person. She is extremely supportive of me—no matter what I want to do because it is a part of me. That just strengthens my belief in manifestation. I have a hard time dealing with those that don’t know what they want to do.”
Trogdon is a student in all walks of her life, always learning from those around her. As she describes her role as an RA, Trogdon said “it helps to navigate other people. A lot of graphic designers work by themselves and are accustomed to working alone. I want to be different because I like interacting with others, finding out about them and feeding off their drive. I also find that I cultivate off them and really like getting to know other people.”
As an RA she has also been pulled to the idea of being a life coach, but despite thinking far beyond her years, Trogdon is well aware that “youth is a detractor.” Her unwillingness to wear a number of hats and serve as a counselor for those around her has helped others manage their stress level and navigate issues that plague their lives.
She also has great appreciation for the Salem sisterhood. “The sisterhood will help me remember where I come from—despite any potential future successes,” Trogdon said smiling. “Even if I am not in contact with some of my classmates, people come into your life for a reason. They shaped who I am and where I am with the situation I am in right at this moment.”
Trogdon is also hoping to lay the foundation as a young alumnae with a vision in mind for future Salem students. “I started a club—Students for Reproductive Freedom—which focuses on student health. When I started at Salem it was non-existent and there is a lack of resources for sex education nationally—especially for women.
“This is extremely important to me, especially living in a household of mainly women,” Trogdon went onto explain. “I believe that your body can either empower you or you can feel lost about it. I wanted a space where people can feel free to talk or comfortable to feel about sex education. My goal is to connect this club with the entire student body, while staying involved in the future of the club, in order to keep it going.”
Yulia Trogdon will certainly be a Salem graduate that will make her impact felt, while passing along her knowledge, for many, many years.