What issues did you run on last year? Are there any projects that you plan on spending your time on during the summer in preparation for the start of the academic year?
Seeking reelection for a second term, my Vice President and I campaigned on a few objectives: continue eliciting on-campus interaction; continue our campus enhancement initiatives; expand the role of student government; and provide optimal transparency and outreach.
Our executive board has spent the summer diligently crafting and preparing action plans to effectively execute the aforementioned campaign platform. At the forefront is the establishment of five student-led subcommittees to our executive board. Our student body does not have a student senate; instead, our student body has two elected representatives and six appointed members – amounting to eight executive board members. This initiative is the underlying foundation of expanding the role of government by engaging students in the capacity to represent the student body. It is my hope that through this initiative, a student senate will transpire in the future.
Additional initiatives not mentioned in the campaign platform are “dead week” reform and sponsoring an abroad academic summer program. As for “dead week” reform, I have hosted numerous conversations on this topic. Students inform me that the current system is not conducive to optimal performance during finals week and that their letter grade may not accurately reflect learning and retention. As for our sponsored abroad academic summer program, I will continue efforts to provide an opportunity for members of our student body to become immersed abroad in a foreign culture. The intent is to provide global awareness and vocational outcomes to students through educational studies and service opportunities.
Are you proud of anything in particular that you have achieved thus far?
I am extremely proud of the success with both of our campus enhancement and eliciting on-campus interaction initiatives.
I have presided over the creation of 13 clubs and organizations, as well as the reactivation of three. Clubs and Organizations at Grand View have increased from 27 to 43 – equating to a 59% increase of on-campus involvement. I also designate a portion of the student government budget to a campus enhancement initiative. This initiative provides funding to various projects that encourage recreational activities and enhance overall student life for our student body. In my first term, the comprehensive amount of funding provided to the campus enhancement initiative by our executive board was more than the previous four semesters combined by preceding administrations.
In addition to enhancing student life, these two initiatives are used to appeal to prospective students while on a campus visit. When prospective students attend to visit and take campus tours, I believe our efforts as a student government may help distinguish Grand View University from other institutions and effectively contribute to recruiting the next generation of Vikings.
What do you think makes your student body unique?
I believe the overall size and student demographics distinguish Grand View University. Grand View offers a high-quality education to a diverse student body of 2,000 students in a career-oriented, well-rounded liberal arts curriculum. With regard to our student demographics – nearly 300 out-of-state students represent 38 states and territories; there are approximately 45 international students from 23 different countries; and the College for Professional and Adult Learning serves over 400 students during the evening hours. With 41 majors, 29 minors, 5 graduate programs, and an array of certificate programs, Grand View creates a community of learners where differing perspectives are welcome in a diverse and changing world. The increasing inclusive environment supports students from all walks of life, geographies, religions, and ethnicities.
Growing up in small town Iowa, I was not exposed to this type of diversity. Grand View has provided me with an environment that encourages students to engage with fellow students and members of the community. Through this type of dialogue, we learn that we have more in common than we differ. I, personally, keep in touch with a few international students who recently graduated, and a few of my closest friends are from Illinois, Minnesota, and Georgia. The exposure has enhanced my global awareness while providing me with new perspectives.
What has surprised you the most about serving in this leadership role thus far?
As the student body president, I have discovered that this role requires the incumbent to be an effective listener. When communicating with students, an individual’s ego may obstruct a conversation – thus preventing any common ground from being established. As humans, we are inclined to be reserved towards topics that we cannot relate to or to those topics that fall outside of our comfort zone. If I am attempting to persuade an individual on a particular initiative, I must first preserve and maintain a calm state of mind while seeking to understand the person from his or her point of view. As an elected representative, when I seek to understand, I am better able to follow along with the conversation and consider the perspectives from another person’s point of view.
Additionally, there is a great deal of sacrifice while serving as student body president. At the forefront of each president’s agenda is transparency; however, there is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes unnoticed into effectively running a student government association. Classes may often be missed in order to attend important meetings; e-mails become a primary source of communication; weekends are often designated time for catching up on studies;and 2:00 a.m. becomes a considerable bedtime. When a person is passionate about making a difference, he or she will devote the time and stop at nothing to accomplish it. In my case, it is serving the student body to the best of my ability. I am thankful for my family and have grown more appreciative of my friends for their perpetual support, understanding, and commitment to me with my endeavor.
How would you describe your leadership style? Do you have a political figure or person you look up to?
My leadership style is a blend of participative and transformational. These are two practical application styles of leadership, which I believe encourages dialogue and collaboration. I value input from each executive board member and student, and I also attempt to boost the team morale. I rely on communication and use it as a medium to enhance productivity and efficiency. This blend of styles instills a feeling that each person contributes to the decision-making process.
I look up to my advisor, Dr. Jay Prescott. As the Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Prescott oversees student life and the overall success and development of students at Grand View University. Dr. Prescott has become a close mentor of mine, as I have developed a strong, working relationship with him. As a mentor, Dr. Prescott inspires me to discern my vocation while pursuing my passions and interests. I credit Dr. Prescott’s guidance to my growth in leadership and ability to effectively engage within our community. Despite his busy schedule, Dr. Prescott has an open-door policy and willingly makes time for me each day as I frequently visit him. I aspire to become the servant leader Dr. Prescott not only demonstrates to me, but to our entire campus community.
What piece of advice would you give to aspiring student body presidents?
As student body president, it is important to know that you cannot accomplish everything on your own. It is important to seek out individuals who are equally passionate about making a difference and to appoint them to represent the student body alongside you. It is also important to become familiar with university faculty, staff, and administration members. Although there will be times in which you feel no support from any of these three groups, I can honestly say that they take a keen interest in your professional development and do in fact take into consideration your input and proposals. I am truly grateful for the assistance that I have received from members of the faculty, staff, and administration at Grand View University. Without their support, our student government would not be as effective in representing the student body.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing your student body and higher education generally?
One of the biggest challenges facing my student body is a lack of engagement. I often promote that a college education is not exclusive to your first job; it is an education that will perpetuate with you for the rest of your life. Being engaged on campus has provided me the opportunity to grow as a person; the skills I have obtained and experiences encountered are continuously preparing me for the future. Campus organizations and student leadership are integral parts of education at a private liberal arts university by virtue of their ability to engage students outside of the classroom. In my opinion, you have to make yourself vulnerable and learn to take a risk. Instead of avoiding risks, we should learn to embrace them. Taking risks ultimately denotes confidence and helps you stand out as a leader.