SGA President Judson Pickett discovers love of leadership at USC Aiken

Exercise and sports science major Judson Pickett didn't find student leadership; rather, it found him. A transfer student from Augusta, he first majored in chemical engineering at Georgia Tech but soon realized it wasn't for him. He tried biology, but that, too, was the wrong fit. He knew some changes were in order.

"When I didn't like biology either, I started thinking about nursing or exercise science," Pickett says. "USC Aiken has both of those, and it's small. I really wanted to feel like I was part of the student body."

Pickett enrolled at the University of South Carolina Aiken, and his path to student leadership began at transfer orientation. There he met Ty Barkell, assistant director of student leadership and engagement, who invited him to a leadership retreat. Pickett says he's not sure what Barkell saw in him, but he soon realized that SGA was something he needed to be part of.

Barkell says, "At that transfer orientation, it didn't take long for me to notice how inviting of a presence that Judson had when he stepped into the room. His charisma is truly unmatched. Judson has a natural ability where people gravitate to him, which is a quality in the best of leaders."

As soon as an opening was available, Pickett was plugged into a student government position. During his first year on campus, he served on SGA's New Student Advisory Committee, and soon thereafter he was asked to fill the vacant vice president position.

"They trusted me with that position, so I said 'Why not?" Pickett says.

As vice president, Pickett was most proud of SGA's efforts for commuter students. The organization led improvements to the commuter lounge, establishing a "home base" for them to get to know one another and feel more at home on campus.

Pickett will now transition into the role of president for the 2023-24 academic year. During his term, he plans to improve communication with the student body by increasing SGA's on-campus presence and distributing monthly emails spotlighting SGA members so students recognize them on campus. "When I was vice president, I met a lot of people who wanted to know what SGA is," he says.

Another goal is to increase collaboration with other campus organizations and host events that are appealing to students. "We want to host events that are fun, not just informative," Pickett says. "We aren't strictly business. We can have fun too."

Above all, Pickett just wants to do a better job of being open and communicative so that students are comfortable reaching out.

Barkell is confident in his ability to get the job done. "Judson is the type of leader that will spread joy and positivity around our campus community and bring out the best in those that work alongside him," he says. "He lights up every room, he's polite to everyone he interacts with, he always seems to put a smile on everyone's face and he is flat out just a good person down to his core."

USC Aiken has likewise made an impact on Pickett. As he looks to the future, he envisions possibilities he never considered before his arrival on campus. "I never thought about being in politics, but that could be in my future," he says. "I just really like people. Maybe in the next couple of years, I'll get involved in other capacities, such as with the NAACP or the Student Life Office."

Barkell adds, "The world could use more people like Judson Pickett, and I intend on exposing him to as many people as I can, so his positive energy will be absorbed by as many people as possible."

For more information, contact Christen Engel, (803) 641-2825,