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Saint Mary’s Student Body President and Vice President: McIlduff, Siefert assess strengths, weaknesses

Katie Kohler | Monday, December 11, 2006

During a period of transition at Saint Mary’s, Susan McIlduff and Maggie Siefert emerged as student body president and vice president last spring with one goal in mind – assessment.

This year, however, they came prepared to act.

“We are using the foundation from last year to make changes,” McIlduff said. “This year, we are stepping back to see what works and what doesn’t work by looking at student needs.”

The pair acted early by following through with its campaign goals to continue successful student oriented programs, raise the expectations for student government members and work with the administration to change curriculum requirements.

One of its most successful programs is the expansion of the Collegiate Readership Program. Their initiative to double last year’s program by working with USA Today made the College’s program – with four major newspapers circulating campus daily – the largest in the Notre Dame/Saint Mary’s/Holy Cross network.

“We know how important it is to have access to the world outside the bubble of campus,” McIlduff said.

The activity created by McIlduff and former student body president Kellye Mitros, Heritage Week, will continue this year to educate students on the College’s past.

Heritage Week will take place from Jan. 22 to 26. With a theme of “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” the week will allow students to tour Reidinger House, go ice-skating and enjoy a dinner with many Holy Cross Sisters and members of the College administration.

“We are trying to bring back fun traditions to make students more aware of where they came from,” Siefert said.

McIlduff and Siefert decided to continue Heritage Week after a positive student response last winter,

“We are going to build on what was successful last year and hopefully have the same feedback from the students in January,” McIlduff said.

McIlduff and Siefert saw one of their most prioritized campaign goals accomplished on Nov. 17, when Saint Mary’s co-sponsored the Notre Dame-Army Pep Rally.

“The pep rally has proven to be one of our top priorities this semester,” McIlduff said.

Student body pleas to once again host the pep rally led McIlduff and Siefert to request that the College serve as a co-host.

“When we were campaigning, we asked what [students] want,” McIlduff said.

“Many were upset that we didn’t host a pep rally last year, so this year, we fought tooth and nail to change that.”

While training their boards for the 2006-07 school year, McIlduff and Siefert thought it was important to address diversity – a noticeable issue at the small College.

To educate their staffs, they organized a diversity training initiative at the start of the year.

“It was something we thought we needed to do because the issue was still fresh,” Siefert said.

The diversity training became a project under the umbrella of the Student Diversity Board (SDB).

“We wanted our board to be held accountable for knowing what to do in various circumstances,” McIlduff said.

McIlduff and Siefert also did some housekeeping within the Student Government Association (SGA) by raising the minimum GPA for a SGA member from 2.5 to 2.8.

“We want the best of the best,” McIlduff said. “We want girls who can devote time to student government as well as significant time to their studies.”

The new minimum is equivalent to what is needed to maintain a Dean’s Scholarship at the college.

The two also worked to increase student-administrative interaction within the academic realm.

As coordinator of the Student Academic Council (SAC), Siefert began to work with Associate Vice President and Dean of Faculty Joe Incandela to revise general education requirements.

“Our goal is to get [SAC’s] name out there,” Siefert said. “We want to make some liaison between student government and academic departments.”

Siefert and Incandela have been taking input from students as well as looking at the curriculum as a whole to make changes.

“We are trying to create a better understanding of curriculum by speaking with the administration. We are well on our way to accomplishing that,” Siefert said.

One of the team’s best assets, McIlduff said, is giving their boards increased freedom.

“We let our boards form their own ideas and we support them. We don’t just assign tasks,” McIlduff said.

After a year of transition, the most important task for McIlduff and Siefert is to form strong relationships with the administration.

“We want to build a bridge between us,” she said. “We don’t have to fight. Saint Mary’s is a nurturing and supportive environment.”