One of my favorite things about college is the ability students have to make real changes and take control of their experience. In high school, I had always wanted to be involved with student government but, at that time, it was more of a popularity contest than anything else. Our class officers had little impact or responsibility other than asking homerooms for food donations for one week in the fall and selling prom tickets for one week in the spring. In a college setting, members of student government have much more power and flexibility in terms of their ability to run with their programming and initiative ideas with the intent of creating positive and permanent change on campus.
What is student government at Nazareth?
The Undergraduate Association is made up of the executive board, class officers, and the senate. Together, these bodies are responsible for representing students at Naz and acting as liaisons between them and the college administration, overseeing campus clubs and organizations, allocating funds for trips, programs, and other activities proposed by organizations, and hearing students’ concerns and working to address them. I am one of two Residence Hall Council Senators, meaning I represent members of the student body who live on campus. There are also three senators for each class: two from the Commuter Association, two from Diversity Initiatives, and two for Student Athletes. Every other Friday of the semester, the Senate meets to review student proposals for everything from new clubs to requests for funding. Student concerns are brought to us via multiple channels and we make an effort to resolve them to the best of our abilities or reach out to other parties on campus that can address the issues. For example, the senate received some feedback about the mail room hours last semester so we reached out to Residential Life, the department responsible for that entity, to try and have the concerns resolved.
How does student government at Nazareth work?
One of the many awesome things about the Senate is the fact that it’s a fairly autonomous body. While we do have one Nazareth staff member, the head of student activities, sitting in to provide guidance or interfere if a major issue arises, the meeting is run entirely by the students and all decisions and actions taken are those of students. Just like how the Vice President of the United States is head of the Senate, the Vice President of Executive Operations is the head of the Nazareth Senate. He has the responsibility of preparing the agenda for, gathering the paperwork for, and moderating the meeting. The twenty senators as well as the VP of Finance and the VP of Communications have voting power. The President is also present but he, as well as the VP of Executive Operations, do not have the ability to formally vote on any motions. When voting, senators are tasked with considering how and if the matter at hand will impact their respective constituencies and vote with that in mind. As a Residence Hall Council Senator, I am tasked with representing students who live on campus so my responsibilities include voting for motions that are in the best interest of campus residents, voting against those that may not be, and going to Residence Hall Council meetings to bring comments and concerns raised there back to the Senate.
Why get involved in student government at Nazareth?
When I came to Nazareth and started investigating extracurricular opportunities, I started to hear a lot about the Undergraduate Association. As I said, I was always interested in holding a leadership position and being involved in student government but I never really had an opportunity to do so in the past. Almost all of the majors on campus have at least one associated club and while I have been a part of getting the Nazareth Communication Society up and running, I didn’t necessarily see any others organizations that I felt I identified strongly with. I am leaning towards a career working in public relations or customer relationship management and I realized that many aspects of these roles, including problem solving and addressing peoples’ needs, are also part of government and public service. I decided the best way for me to get involved on campus would be to become someone who can help support clubs and their involvement efforts, hear student concerns and problem-solve ways to fix them.
Now, I’m in my second semester as a senator in the UA and my only regret is that I didn’t join sooner. When elections came in the fall of my freshman year, I wanted to run, but changed my mind at the last minute. I was intimidated by the idea of elections and it was only a week or two into the semester so I wasn’t sure how I would be able to handle a leadership position in addition to a college workload. In fact, this concern is something we hear a lot from students, especially freshmen. Even if you think the workload may be too much right off the bat, my advice would be to just go for it! I know when I started at Naz, the phrase “college workload” was frightening, but with good time management and organization it can definitely be manageable. Also, even though the idea of an election can seem scary, the process is really simple. To run for a senator position, you just have to get a petition with fifty signatures and prepare a short statement of purpose. After that’s done, it’s just a waiting game during student elections.
More so than just being a great resume builder, holding a position as senator is an extremely rewarding experience. Our mission statement really says it all: “The Undergraduate Association is Nazareth College’s Student Government, which provides funds, information, and other resources for the purposes of encouraging student involvement and empowering students to pursue their own interests.” The UA as a whole and the Senate specifically have the power to change the landscape of Nazareth College as new students with unique interests come to us to get support to do the things that they want to and truly make their college career their own. Resources that are critical to their ability to make a difference and add to the ever-growing tapestry of our school rests in the hands of the student government. The position of senator is one that I am proud to hold and I truly enjoy having the privilege of helping students and organizations achieve their goals and mold their college careers into whatever they want to make them.
If Karah’s post about student government isn’t enough to convince you to get involved during your time on campus be sure to read Nicole’s blog: “Top 10 Benefits of Engaging in Student Leadership”