It's campaign season on college campuses across the country! We spoke with Sam Graska, Student Body President at Kent State University, to hear some insights into his leadership experience.
What issues did you run on last year? How have those issues come through during your term?
I ran on issues based on the transparency of the USG at Kent State University. This involved the overall improvement and transparency of the connection between USG and the student body as well as USG and administration and most importantly between the students themselves. I eat sleep and breathe unification and what it means to care regardless of color, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation, and making that diversity a forefront for USG as a body, the student organizations, as well as the general students of the body. I have lived every day of my term with those values at heart, and have done everything possible to pursue those goals.
What have you found to be the most rewarding part of serving as student body president?
The most rewarding part of being able to serve my fellow students comes in the quiet satisfaction. Meaning it's the things that I do behind the scenes, and student body presidents everywhere do behind the scenes pouring in hours of work knowing that their name may not live on past their graduation, but that the endless amounts of care and policy changes and decisions will live on for years to come. It's all about doing our best to create a better tomorrow for everyone who will follow in our footsteps.
What are you most proud of from you term thus far?
We had some friction amongst the USG body this year, and after some time had passed and a lot of emotions had surfaced we were able to come together. We healed in a way that I think perfectly represents who we are as a student body here at Kent State University - a people who are built on healing, and using that to meet goals, shatter stereotypes, and push others to be their best selves. I am proud of the student leaders that I serve my student body with, and I am proud to have seen them all grow as leaders, as students, and as individuals over the last year.
What has surprised you the most about serving in this leadership role?
I was, am, and I think will always be blown away by the amount of time that goes into the role. The late night phone calls, the 3 am emails, the endless responsibility that you will never understand until you are sitting in the position. I will definitely say I was not prepared but am happy to say that I learned quickly.
How would you describe your leadership style? Do you have a political figure or person you look up to?
I am a leader who is built on passion and believes in a vision, I thrive by others believing in the same vision that I pursue and fighting the good fight by my side. I have never actually considered myself a political person, simply someone who is willing to stand in the gap for those who cannot stand, and speak for those who cannot. I believe we learn the majority of life lessons and opinions by our own experiences, and basing that too much off of any one person's political ideology jeopardizes that purity of thought. That being said, I truly don't have one political figure that I look up to - but rather educate myself on the overall history of the good and the bad. However, I hold our University's President Beverly Warren in the highest regard and look to her leadership style the most, especially over the course of this year.
What piece of advice would you give to aspiring student body presidents?
I could write a book on the advice I would give aspiring student body presidents...but I would say number one is this: act not unless it is in or for the best interest of the student body and those students that will come and go throughout your institution for years to come. To be selfish is to not only fail yourself but the entire student body. Everybody gets to play in the pool, and it is your job to ensure that they do. And if you ever need any help or have questions - don't be afraid to ask. Get my contact info and shoot me a message if you can't go to anyone else, you're never alone.
As you move toward the end of your term, what do you see as the biggest challenges facing your student body and higher education generally?
I think the biggest issues focus on the exact topics I chose to represent my issues of focus. Transparency and unity are not only what we need as a student body but as a nation...and it is something that students, faculty, and staff everywhere struggle with. In order to survive, we have to learn to not to coexist, or to simply agree with others but to stand united proud of the diversity of thought as that is what gives us true strength as the next generation of leaders in this country.
What do you hope to do after graduation?
I am currently working on my own medical device start up where we are integrating emergency and daily medication into the convenience of your smartphone case, and we are launching a crowdfunding campaign early April for our product called alula - the first phone case to hold, protect, and dispense women's birth control pills. So, I hope to pursue that full time because I believe it is an immediate way for me to make the biggest impact on human life. I plan to either pursue graduate school in either hospital policy and management or business administration to coincide with my undergraduate cell and molecular biology degree. But really, who knows what's actually next? I am just going to prepare myself for anything that comes my way!
Cover photo source: Kent.edu