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SMC leadership builds during ‘transition year’

Caitlin Housley | Thursday, December 8, 2011

Learning, leading and listening have been and will continue to be the goals of what Saint Mary’s student body president and vice president have labeled the “transition year.”

President Nicole Gans and vice president Jacqualyn Zupancic began the year tweaking the Student Government Association’s (SGA) constitution and bylaws.

“This year [Nicole and I] felt as though we came into our positions ready to go and fired up,” Zupancic said. “Everyone had all these great things they wanted to do, and then we slowly started to realize that our time was being consumed with financial things, with different policies and mending the bylaws.”

After restructuring the Student Government Association (SGA), Gans and Zupancic researched how to make the board more effective. Recently, the voting members of SGA agreed to transition into a Student Senate structure that will be in full effect next school year.

“Next semester we will be working in an interim between the two structures, and we’re going to be working very closely with the Office of Student Involvement and the Multicultural Services (SIMS) to get our policies laid out, so for April first, the new board can start running on that,” Zupancic said.

The new structure will call for student councils rather than student commissioners, thus opening new positions for greater student involvement, Gans said.

“[Restructuring SGA will] allow [for] even greater student input and more student representation,” she said. “That is the greatest change in our platform from last year.”

Zupancic is also happy with the changes, but said the board will have to work hard to keep the process moving.

“We definitely have our work cut out for us, and we want all of this to be in place as soon as possible,” she said.

However, Zupancic said the process has also been exciting.

“Our board is doing a great job of getting the word out there and still staying motivated through all these changes,” she said. “Everyone is very adaptable, and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback.

“Everyone is very enthusiastic about the changes, and they want their opinions to be heard. It’s great. In our meetings, no one can stop talking about it.”

Gans and Zupancic said these “transition projects” have made them realize the many facets of leadership.

“[This semester], Nicole and I realized how long the path is to becoming leaders,” Zupancic said. “We’re still becoming leaders and still honing our leadership skills everyday because problems come up, and we have to exactly be on our ‘A’ game and problem-solve every day.”

For this reason, Zupancic and president Nicole Gans began a monthly leadership program this semester.

“We wanted to create some sort of series that [teaches] students who may not be in leadership positions, who are aspiring to be in them or who are currently in them … about the different components of leadership and how to motivate and organize different structures and focus on your goals,” Zupancic said.

The program started in November and will run through March. It consists of talks held by current Saint Mary’s professors, coaches, staff and alumnae.

“We don’t really have leadership classes, so we wanted to bring in different alum, or different professors from the school,” she said

Zupancic said the program has been a success thus far.

Looking toward next semester, Gans and Zupancic both said a major goal would be better communication with the student body.

Gans said she wishes SGA would have administered more student feedback programs to allow students to voice their concerns this semester. However, Zupancic said this process is difficult because not many students find new problems at Saint Mary’s.

“There aren’t very many issues here at Saint Mary’s that we have to deal with. Still, I think we have a long way to go to making Saint Mary’s the best place possible, and the hardest thing to do is to make something good better,” she said. “It’s not that we hope students will find something to complain about, but feedback on day-to-day issues if it’s a class, or even if it’s (that) people want to get paid every two weeks instead of monthly, is beneficial.”

Ultimately, Gans and Zupancic said their biggest goal for next semester is to spread awareness that SGA values the needs of the student body, Zupancic said.

“I wish students saw SGA as their ally and us fighting for them,” she said. “But if there aren’t fighting issues, it’s tough to make students aware. We want to change their interests into tangible things that make them grow.”