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Soler, Bell reflect on term’s achievements

John Cameron | Friday, April 1, 2011

Today marks the end of a student government era as outgoing student body president Catherine Soler and vice president Andrew Bell turn over their office to incoming student body president Pat McCormick and vice president Brett Rocheleau.

Soler and Bell’s term was characterized by an emphasis on building community relations and reforming aspects of student life like pep rallies, student costs and campus improvement.

Reflecting on their term, Soler and Bell said they are most proud of the work  they did to improve the Notre Dame experience for students not only in the present but also in years to come.

“We’re really proud of our efforts with the police, and we think through our recent agreement we’ll be able to have a lasting impact,” Soler said. “The input we’ve had on the [planned] DeBartolo Lounge renovations and the lights on McGlinn fields, the Rent-a-Text program and the Students for South Bend discount program — those things that took a lot of effort now, but will be in place later.”

Soler said she hopes the University’s recent agreement to establish an administrator for off-campus issues will help extend her administration’s work into the future.

“We just passed a resolution in CLC [Campus Life Council] recommending that one administrator be a central point person for off-campus students, and we got a response from Fr. [Tom] Doyle [vice president of student affairs] that it will happen this summer,” Soler said. “I think that is absolutely a direct result of our conversations this year.”

Bell said results such as the finalized police agreement and commitment to creating the off-campus administrator were important because not all projects-in-progress can be passed along for completion by the time the next administration takes over.

“Now, especially with turnover, we realize that it’s hard to really pass along everything to the next people. That’s why we’re so proud of this police agreement, because it’s something structured we can pass on,” Bell said. “These relationships, which Catherine especially has been great about building with police, are important.”

Soler said the unpredictable and vast expectations of her office presented the greatest challenge.

“Andrew, Nick [Ruof, chief of staff] and I were thrown into a lot of situations this year where we didn’t expect to be called upon to show so much leadership and to take so much responsibility,” she said. “It was our greatest challenge to step up in those times, to be leaders.”

Soler said the most trying times were also the most fulfilling.

“Especially the spike in student arrests, Declan [Sullivan]’s passing, things like that, where our involvement in the issues was unexpected,” she said. “We think that was our greatest reward, to be able to take leadership in those times.”

Neither Soler nor Bell said they would regret an end to the more monotonous chores associated with office.

“I’m not going to miss the everyday tasks, the mundane things that aren’t as exciting as the dynamic meetings where you can be creative and see results,” she said. “I’ll be happy to receive less emails.”

Bell said the weekly labors made it exceedingly difficult to accomplish the greater goals that drove them to run for office.

“It’s a struggle. There’s so much going on behind the scenes to plan meetings, it’s easy to get distracted from overall goals,” he said. “You know you have ‘X, Y, Z’ to do this week but you also have to focus beyond that.”

Soler and Bell attributed much of their success to the student leaders and staff who worked alongside them.

“We have a great environment in the office with everyone we work with, and I think that extends to the administration and community, so I’ll miss working with them on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “We’re really proud of the way everyone worked on issues that were relevant at the time but also took the time and energy to work on issues that will affect people after we leave.”

Now that student government will not be the primary consumer of time for the pair, Soler and Bell are looking forward to summer internships in New York and Chicago, respectively, and to making the most of their senior year.

“I’m going to be interning for a few weeks with [the] Student Activities [Office] working on Frosh-O and things like that…then this summer I’ll be working for Deloitte in New York,” Soler said. “[Next year] I’d like to spend more time doing service. I’d like to volunteer at the Women’s Care Center [of South Bend].”

“I’m going to be doing finance in Chicago, so I’m excited I managed to get a job. Next year I’m going to be a Resident Assistant in Knott Hall, which is something I really hoped to get since coming to Notre Dame,” Bell said. “Beyond that, I don’t know what I’ll be doing, and it’s kind of exciting and scary.”

Despite the perks of having increased free time and flexibility next year, Soler said leaving office will be bittersweet.

“I’ll miss putting in the time and energy for the greater good — that’s really rewarding and important,” she said. “It’s been an honor to do that for students, for my friends, for everyone.”