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ND’s Baron, Shappell, Kozlow reflect on year

Maddie Hanna | Friday, March 31, 2006

For Dave Baron, his year spent as student body president all boils down to the campaign slogan that came to him one sleepless night – one student voice, 8,000 strong.

And three leaders who believed in doing it right.

Baron, student body vice president Lizzi Shappell and chief executive assistant Liz Kozlow will bow out of their positions Saturday – except Shappell will be taking a step up to become student body president. Bill Andrichik will serve as vice president and Liz Brown as chief executive assistant.

It hasn’t been an easy year for student government’s top three, and the end was no exception. Baron, Shappell and Kozlow were visibly stressed after Wednesday’s Senate meeting, which centered on Minority Affairs committee chair Rhea Boyd’s lobbying to win permanent status for her currently ad hoc committee.

“I’m 100 percent behind this issue, [but] it’s a structural question,” Shappell said. “To not do it right the first time is irresponsible.”

With student evictions, Hurricane Katrina relief and pep rally and bowl game ticketing fiascos clamoring for attention, the Baron administration has shouldered a pretty heavy burden – and the emphasis has always been on responsibility.

Baron, Shappell and Kozlow all said professionalism was integral to their success this year especially in dealing with issues like the inauguration of University President Father John Jenkins and South Bend’s newly-revised disorderly house ordinance.

The key, Baron said, is to be “respectful and respectable.”

“We advocated and lobbied for the Student Union,” Shappell said, “embracing the opportunity with a new [University] administration to set a new tone between student government and the administration …

“I’m very proud of our effort to do it right.”

Just as student government has grown under their leadership, so have Baron, Shappell and Kozlow, individually.

“One of the things I’ve learned [is] you can’t take every issue that comes your way that you want to support and put everything behind every issue,” Baron said.

And it’s impossible to predict and plan for the unexpected, Kozlow said.

“You never know what issues, how many e-mails you’re going to get,” she said.

“[Student Union Board president] Jimmy Flaherty used to come over and say, ‘There’s a flavor of the week,'” Baron said.

One issue the leaders encountered almost immediately was student apathy, Kozlow said, based largely on the belief that students have no impact on big picture decisions at the University.

Not only did the Baron administration work to counter that apathy by mobilizing the student body – “I’ve seen people who used to be apathetic come and enjoy to-go cups, minority students who used to not [participate] come and petition,” Baron said – but it also shattered perceptions that students have no say.

“I think a lot of people come into student government with a bit of cynicism,” Kozlow said. “The administration really does take us seriously. … And I think we did [take advantage of that] this year.”

While his interactions with members of the administration have helped his administration achieve its goals, for Baron, those conversations have transcended the working environment and developed into lasting relationships.

“I consider myself extremely lucky to have seen Notre Dame from an angle that most students don’t get to see,” he said, “to come to know personally this assembly of people who have committed their lives to furthering the mission of the University.”

Baron said he considers Vice President for Student Affairs Father Mark Poorman “one of my greatest friends” and Jenkins an “introverted leader, as a listener too … his sheer ability to listen and lead at the same time.”

“That’s shaped me in ways I have even yet to figure out,” Baron said.

While Shappell attested to the deep rapport between this year’s student government administration and the University, she said it was relationships with students that made the experience stand out for her.

“It’s been more working with peers … motivated to improve this University,” Shappell said. “You’re grown up and you’re still in college, and you’re acting like an adult and you’re still in college. It’s something we struggle with.”

“I think the team we’ve worked with has been phenomenal,” Kozlow said. “Our attempts, the way we put our hearts into it – that’s been the most rewarding.”

This year’s lessons, Baron said, will carry him into his future.

“I’d say I learned a lot about what it means to be a leader, that leadership is not about being at the forefront of the Student Union. … It’s about service, putting yourself in the middle of what people care about.

“It’s paradoxical that by following you become a leader. But that’s a very Catholic message,” said Baron, who believes his faith has grown through his leadership experience.

Friendships have formed as well, bonds the three say that grew somewhat unexpectedly.

“Not to get all reminiscing or anything, but not knowing Dave that well, not knowing Liz that well, and now they’re two of my closest friends,” Shappell said. “It’s been a fun ride.”

“Lizzi and I finish each other’s sentences now,” Baron said, half-jokingly.

Kozlow, a junior, will take over as Judicial Council president Saturday. Baron, who is graduating, will be attending law school in the fall.