Zebadiah Johnson, a junior political science major from South Dakota State University, has been elected executive director of the South Dakota Student Federation.
The federation is a leadership organization that represents 33,500 students across South Dakota’s regental system. The Student Federation has a central focus of lobbying both the Board of Regents and the Legislature in support of higher education.
Johnson will be responsible for coordinating communication between the student governments on the six campuses, lobbying the Legislature during the session and organizing Students for Higher Education Day during the session. He estimates it is a 10- to 15-hour per week commitment during the Legislative session.
However, the Van D. and Barbara B. Fishback Honors College student is well prepared for the workload.
During the current school year, he spent 30 hours per week in his role as government affairs chair for the SDSU Students’ Association. He was selected for the position on the Students’ Association executive board by the student body president after initially being elected to represent the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences on the Students’ Association.
As government affairs chair, Johnson was automatically designated to serve as one of the two SDSU representatives on the Student Federation.
During the 2021 legislative session, South Dakota legislators overwhelmingly passed the Freedom Scholarship bill, which contributes $50 million in state funds and seeks to bring in $175 million in private funds to create a $200 million endowment to fund the state’s first need-based college scholarships for in-state students.
“Student lobbying was integral to passage of Freedom Scholarship bill,” Johnson said, noting he was assured of that by several legislators.
Goals in 2021-22 are to create an active Facebook page to facilitate more information sharing with students and to create an email newsletter to share with legislators. This will be in addition to one-on-one lobbying with legislators, said Johnson, who was elected at the April 11 meeting of the Student Federation board of directors.
A 2018 graduate of Garretson High School, Johnson also has been an Admissions Ambassador and an Honors Hall community assistant at SDSU.
After taking a heavy load of classes this school year, Johnson will only need to take six credits during the 2022 Legislative session and then graduate in May. His plans are to enter law school and serve in higher education as an administrator or general counsel. “This will be a great experience to work with a community I care deeply about,” he said of his new position.
Johnson is the first SDSU student to serve as Student Federation executive director since Robert McLean in 2017.