Aher her re-election as Student Body President at Florida Gulf Coast University, Jalisa White is ready to continue increasing transparency between the administration and students. We spoke to Jalisa White about her first year and what it means to serve the student body.
NCLC: When elected, you shared that your biggest goal was to increase transparency between the students and administration. How have you been able to accomplish this?
Jalisa White: That was one of my biggest things to accomplish at FGCU since many students felt they were disconnected from the administration. My goal is to put the "student" back in the student body. To accomplish this, I use my role as SGA president and my position with Board of Trustees to discuss students' needs. With my team, I have been able to roll out a video series on the decisions taking place and make sure to be transparent on social media.
NCLC: What was your experience like as Student Body President on your campus and an active member of the University Board of Trustees?
JW: It has been such an incredible experience seeing the behind-the-scenes work taking place. My role requires me to sit in on Board briefings and work with the Vice President of Student Affairs to truly see the inner workings of the university. I am able to advocate for students when on the Board and discuss the restructuring of the university, including issues in academia and graduation rates.
NCLC: In what ways have you been able to increase shared governance between student leaders and the administration?
JW: We link my cabinet with the administration. This open-line of communication allows student leaders to connect with key decision-makers, and also happens to be a great networking tool. I typically act as the main liaison between student leaders and the administration, but FGCU's current admonition is doing an amazing job listening to students in order to meet their needs.
NCLC: You were recently re-elected for the 2018-19 academic year. What to do you hope to accomplish in the new year?
JW: We did have some challenges with transition our previous university president to the new one, but I'm now looking forward to starting building on our work, doing more for students, building campus and community partners.
I'm really excited about the changes coming to the university. We are even creating a new initiative [called] “student success in enrollment management” to help more students graduate within 4 years of attending the university by tracking students' progress and creating new resources. It's important for us to enhance our foundation and give students the best tools to launch them forwards.
NCLC: What were the student government elections like this year? Was there a higher voter turnout?
JW: We had over 2,900 students participate in this year's elections, a higher turnout than the previous year. I like that students are choosing who is going to represent them. It's not a huge amount, but the fact that it was so widespread was good. Students understand the importance of voting and why SGA leadership must step up to make sure everything is done in the best interest for students.
NCLC: Your campus has also dealt with local events impacting the community, including the shooting in Parkland, FL. How has this incident impacted the university?
JW: We have 91 students who happen to be alumni of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, so it greatly affected them and the entire community. We decided to hold a campus-wide vigil and invited members of the community to honor the victims. Because it hit so close to home, we decided to petition for 50 students to travel to DC for the March for Our Lives event on March 24. It's really important that students know a school is a place of learning and not a place of fear.
When we got back from the march, SGA held an open-forum for all who attended and now looking to use this momentum to increase voter registration. I think more people have realized the importance of voting, so our next big initiative will be to host a statewide and university-wide voter registration drive.
NCLC: Have you faced challenges as a leader when accommodating students in the wake of this tragedy?
JW: Every student has dealt with this tragedy differently. Obviously, SGA serves as a resource for students and some students have come into our office who just want someone to talk to. Some students lost friends. That is why it is important that we serve as a resource.
NCLC: What you have learned from your role as SGA President?
JW: If I could pick one big take away, it would be to always serve with a servant's heart. The most successful leader is one who aims to serve the people they represent. Everything that I do is not for me. The glory comes from giving students the best experience possible at this university.
Photo provided courtesy of Jalisa White