Establishing a presence on campus
KAITLYN RABACH | Thursday, December 12, 2013
Since taking office April 1, Saint Mary’s student body president and vice president Kat Sullivan and Maddy Martin have worked with members of Student Government Association (SGA) to promote unity on campus and to increase transparency between student government and the student body.
When the duo chose to run for office last spring, they focused their platform on three main issues: encouraging better communication with SGA board members, making SGA more transparent and emphasizing community participation.
“Whenever we pick a board member, plan an event or make a decision, we think about these goals,” Sullivan said. “This year, we have really been able to create a sense of community within student government, and we worked hard to pick people in SGA that would go off and running with their positions. Having people in student government that are passionate about SGA, that are passionate about Saint Mary’s and really want to make a change here on campus, is one way we can focus on these goals.”
Presence on campus
Martin said vocal, passionate members of student government, as well as social media campaigns, have enabled this SGA administration to have one of the most visible presences on campus in recent history.
“I think we have done a really great job of having a presence on campus,” Martin said. “It is not necessarily that we are sponsoring events every day, but rather that we are constantly updating our Facebook page, utilizing OrgSync and posting photos on Instagram. At a small school, we have the ability to be recognizable, and I think we are.”
After attending an American Student Government Association seminar last summer, Martin said, she wanted to encourage students to view SGA as more than just a club.
“We were taught to think of ways to set ourselves apart as a full governing body,” Martin said.
As part of their campaign to engage more with the student body, Martin said she and Sullivan have encouraged the use of the Belle Tower through OrgSync, the website used to facilitate club registration. Martin said because members of the campus community now understand OrgSync better, more people have gone to club events.
“On average, in just one day, at least 800 different people access the Belle Tower,” Martin said. “That is a good portion of our student body, and the numbers have definitely increased since last year. We push our board to utilize OrgSync as much as possible. Anything like sign-ups for the upcoming Chicago trip to registering for the Navy Dance are done on OrgSync.”
Sullivan said she and Martin implemented event evaluation forms for all members of SGA, in order to ensure they attend events sponsored by different groups on campus.
“We created this form for our board asking each of our board members, including ourselves, to fill out three event evaluations per semester,” Sullivan said. “This is a way to keep people accountable, and it is also a good way to get feedback.”
Following the word’s of Sr. Madeleva
Sullivan and Martin said their administration’s motto is the words of Sr. Madeleva Wolff, the College’s third president: “Every one of you has some part in the making of every other student. This is a fact, a privilege, a responsibility.”
“This quote really embodies what we are trying to do,” Sullivan said. “I think this can be said for our work with Belles Beginnings and for our work with Support a Belle, Love a Belle [SABLAB].”
To kick off this year, Martin and Sullivan focused on facilitating personal interaction between members of the class of 2017 and the College’s student leaders during first-year orientation. Sullivan said these changes to orientation directly resulted from her and Martin’s goal of engaging with the larger campus community.
“This year we played such an active role in Belles Beginnings, and the first years know who we are, and they know we are a resource for them on this campus,” Sullivan said. “That is huge.”
After recognizing mental illness as an issue on college campuses, Sullivan and Martin decided to address the often-stigmatized topic by dedicating a week to promoting dialogue about mental health. This week was called “Support a Belle, Love a Belle” and was the third of its kind. Sullivan and Martin said this week, which occurred in October, was one of their most significant accomplishments so far.
“Teaming up with the tri-campus community and including Notre Dame and Holy Cross on this week was a good decision,” Sullivan said. “I think mental health discussion is very important and is often not talked about as much as it should be across the nation.”
Sullivan said Belles attended the week’s events to support their peers.
“The most successful event was ‘Share Your Story,’ where students shared their struggles with mental health,” Sullivan said. “A large portion of the community came to support their peers. … Also, at the prayer service at the Grotto, students from Saint Mary’s walked over. We had about 30 to 40 Saint Mary’s girls there.”
Based on midterm evaluations, Martin said SGA members are pleased with the work of student government overall and look forward to continuing their work next semester.
“Overall, we have had pretty good reviews from our board,” Martin said. “Again, it is just important for us to evaluate as a board and as a student body as a whole because we cannot just pat ourselves on the back. We need to know if we are being as efficient and effective as possible.”
To capitalize on this efficiency, Sullivan said the group will continue to edit its constitution and bylaws next semester.
“Every council has bylaws, and we have had our senators look at our constitution, and we are editing those,” Sullivan said. “By turnover, our constitution will be revised, which is good because in looking at it now, there are some gray areas, and there shouldn’t be gray areas when you are a governing board.”
Martin said this accords with SGA’s goal of transparency and its desire for all members of the body to have clear, defined positions.
“Our constitution is on our OrgSync page with our bylaws for people to reference,” Martin said. “Right now, we are editing the positions so you know exactly what you are getting into. This will also hold people accountable.”
The duo said they plan to look deeper into sexual assault prevention on campus next semester.
“I think a lot of that comes down to really promoting the resources that are already on campus, like BAVO [the Belles Against Violence Office] and more so, giving students an understanding of what those resources are, what they do and how it can help,” Sullivan said. Looking toward the future, Sullivan said she wants her administration to continue to promote unity within student government and amongst the greater student body. She said this would encourage people who are eager to make a difference on campus to become more involved.
“I am looking forward to seeing how things will change within the next few years,” Sullivan said. “Hopefully, this administration can help prepare the future leaders of Saint Mary’s College.”
The Sullivan-Martin administration has successfully increased the use of OrgSync, resulting in a more informed student body. They have executed some of the key points from their campaign platform, such as increasing community participation and creating more dialogue between student government and the student body. They increased student government’s presence on campus with their changes to Belles Beginnings and their sponsorship of Support a Belle, Love a Belle. These passionate leaders inspire their board members to create positive change on campus and so far, their board has delivered.
Contact Kaitlyn Rabach at [email protected]