Learning to Lead: Behavioral Sciences Major Michael Madison

“Black History Month is a time to recognize all contributions that African-American individuals have given, not only to us, but to the world,” said senior behavioral sciences major Michael Madison, right, with a mentee (Dillon Adams photo).

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

(Editor’s note: In celebration of Black History Month, we profiled five campus leaders. Here’s the fourth in the series.)

For Michael Madison, there’s a clear line connecting his past, present and future.

This behavioral sciences senior grew up in South Central Los Angeles and attended Crenshaw High School.

After enrolling at Los Angeles Southwest College for football, Madison realized a four-year university would be a better fit. However, once at SJSU, he was off to a rocky start.

“In the beginning, I was lost in the shuffle and fell through the cracks,” he said.

All that changed when he joined SJSU’s Educational Opportunity Program.

Making connections

Madison now maintains a 3.0 GPA and is a member of the Gospel Choir and Black Student Union. In January, he joined Leadership Today, which he says was one of the best experiences he’s had at SJSU.

He also mentors 10 students with EOP’s “I Can/I Will” program, created last summer to provide academic support for incoming freshmen, transfer students, Guardian Scholars, and male Latino and African-American students.

“I tell students that I can’t tutor them, but I can give them connections,” Madison said. “I have been through a lot of the things that they will face.”

Madison’s favorite part of his job is that his mentees feel comfortable enough to come to him for answers.

“Not a day goes by without them texting me or wanting a conversation,” Madison said.

His inspiration comes from his grandmother, who raised him, and Cornel West, the African-American scholar, author, and activist.

“He’s an intellectual of our time and needs to be recognized more, especially in the black community and within our schools,” Madison said.

Celebrating innovation

For Madison, Black History celebrates ancestors who were innovators and who secured access to resources including education.

“We wouldn’t have a lot of things like open-heart surgery or the signal light,” Madison said. “Also, without Little Rock, we wouldn’t have been integrated in schools.”

One day, Madison hopes to build an academy for troubled Latino and African-American youth to share not just what but how he has learned at SJSU.

“In my experience, SJSU really cares,” he said. “They make it easy to be accessible and successful.”

That sense of caring is integral to Madison’s views on leadership, reflecting in his favorite quote.

“You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people,” West said. “You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.”