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STUDENT GOV’T INSIDER: Hodges, Payne emphasize communication

Katie Kohler | Tuesday, December 11, 2007

When Kim Hodges and Kelly Payne assumed their roles as student body president and vice president, they began the term with a focus on increased communication between students, administrators and alumnae.

In the fall semester alone, the duo has accomplished all of its campaign promises to some degree, Hodges said.

“In one sense or another, we already accomplished everything in our platform,” she said. “We are lucky our boards are so innovative and creative. From the first years to the senior, they have given us so much to work with.”

The pair ran on a campaign that included increasing diversity and continuing College traditions; improving communications between students, alumnae and administration; altering the format of Board of Governance meetings to make them more focused on specific issues each week; and increasing focus on programming and retention.

While campaigning, Hodges and Payne put strong emphasis on connecting students to student government, student government to administration, and students to administration. They have done so in different ways this year.

“Everything is about connecting important groups on campus,” Payne said.

The first annual Career Insights Fair in November welcomed alumnae to campus, and various ad hoc committees on general education requirements and dining services worked with the administration.

Hodges and Payne built from past experience with the Student Diversity Board.

Hodges, the first black student body president in College history and former vice president of the Student Diversity Board, said she has worked throughout her presidency to address the issues most important to the overall student body while continuing to foster awareness of diversity issues.

“I knew taking this position as student body president that my spectrum can’t be so narrow,” she said. “I looked at the well-being of everyone on campus and broadened my spectrum.”

Hodges focused on bringing to campus a greater variety of groups, people and events to increase student awareness of issues beyond Saint Mary’s.

“I went in with a diversity of thought behind how I present my skills and leadership abilities on campus,” she said. “We need to focus outside the Saint Mary’s microcosm and more on the issues facing our community on a larger scale.”

Last March, Hodges and Payne won the election by only 37 votes. They said the narrow margin of victory has not affected their attitudes for the term.

“When you run, you have to have high expectations anyway,” Payne said. “One vote or 100 votes. We knew what we had to do this year.”

Hodges also recognized the importance of their executive support system.

“Now that we were able to touch on each of our campaign issues, we can dig even deeper next semester,” she said.

The two recognized the development of leadership among their board members.

“They don’t need our hand-holding and nurturing,” Payne said. “They have the skills they need to get things done.”

Promises delivered

Hodges and Payne succeeded by including the talent of election opponents in their administration.

After seniors Annie Davis and Courtney Kennedy were the first ticket eliminated, they publicly endorsed the Hodges-Payne ticket. After taking office, Hodges and Payne welcomed Davis and Kennedy as executives on the Board of Governance.

“Having Annie [Davis] and Courtney [Kennedy] on our board brings a lot we didn’t have,” Hodges said. “They are helping us to achieve more unified goals.”

Davis and Kennedy also brought to the administration experience in College-wide government, as each had the Board of Governance credentials Hodges and Payne lack.

Hodges and Payne teamed up with the South Bend Tribune to be a part of inthebend.com, a multimedia Web site used to keep the community abreast of campus events at Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross.

“By getting our name out in the community, we can bring more people to campus,” Payne said.

The executive branch also co-sponsored a number of events this year to increase club awareness of BOG resources. Such events have included Food for Thought, a regular forum about student government; Booze, Bands and Boys, an orientation event for freshmen; the Student Diversity Board Bonfire; and the Saint Mary’s Shirt.

Next semester, Hodges and Payne are turning their focus to policy. They intend to make changes to the new general education requirements at Saint Mary’s, the BOG constitution and the BOG handbook.

“We must get the new board ready for next year and make sure things are in order,” Hodges said. “Kelly [Payne] is working on changing the fiscal policy for student government and looking to increase funds.”

They will also continue traditions like Heritage Week and SMC Tostal, the College’s biggest annual event. This year, SMC Tostal will feature a performance by singer Colbie Cailatt on April 10.

Hodges and Payne attribute their success thus far to dedication and teamwork.

“The dedication has two parts: our dedication to deliver and our board’s dedication to carry out what we envisioned last year and building off that,” Hodges said.

Grade: B+

While they lacked BOG experience prior to the election, Hodges and Payne surrounded themselves with experienced members on the board, which helped them create a support system ready to act. While many of their ideas are in the process of expanding, it is admirable that each of their campaign promises has been introduced to some degree this semester. Hodges and Payne accomplished a lot with great student support and without much resistance from the administration. However, their biggest challenges are yet to come, as they set out to focus on policy changes in the spring semester.