A record-breaking 716 students cast their votes in the 2016 spring Student Government Association election. Elected as the new President and Vice President respectively were upcoming senior Ethan Stiles and third-year student Katie Cardin, whose friendship and ideas will be instrumental in their goal of “making SGA great again” with the 2016-2017 SGA Administration.
Stiles is a pre-med major with a minor in business administration, as well as a UWG Blue Coat who served as SGA’s Director of Academic affairs for the 2015-2016 Administration. His natural leadership qualities shined in this year’s Senate as he took on more responsibilities than originally outlined in his position.
“I like going into something making order out of chaos,” said Stiles. “Right now, SGA is really chaotic. I’m wanting to create a meaningful organization with the maximum impact and minimal kickback.”
Cardin is a secondary English education major and a colony class member of Delta Zeta. She served as a Senator in the fall of 2015 and was appointed as the Chief Justice in December. Her main goal for the organization focuses on returning to the original mission statement that SGA should “provide an official voice through which student opinion may be expressed.”
“Our organization is the voice of the student body,” said Cardin. “We’re spending their money, and we have to be aware of that with every dollar we spend.”
Other members of the Executive Board include Vice President of Student Life Jake Brooks, Vice President of Budget & Finance Bailey Thomas and Chief Justice Denim Grzesik. Another landmark for SGA, the Vice President of Student Life was decided through a runoff election after Brooks and Morrissa Green tied at 302 votes. Brooks and Thomas are both new to SGA, and Stiles is eager to have their fresh perspectives influence the Executive Board.
“When you have seasoned people, they’re not as open to improving process,” said Stiles.
Many incumbent Senators are also returning for another term, which Stiles and Cardin hope will help guide the new Senators. Even with a relatively inexperienced Executive Board, Cardin emphasized that is not where the power of SGA lies.
“What people don’t realize is that the Senate holds the power – not the President or Vice President,” said Cardin.
The Senators and Executive Board will also be participating in the annual SGA summer retreat, but with a few changes. Cardin has extended the retreat from two days to three days to include more opportunities for team building exercises and Senator training workshops, such as a bill-writing session and kayaking on Lake Carroll.
“We’re not going to work well together as a team if we don’t know each other,” said Cardin. “So we want to emphasize team building and ice breakers so we can bond as an organization.”
Whether members are new or returning, Stiles and Cardin are both adamant to change SGA for the better and to help the organization grow past the barriers it created for itself, elevating it to the level of other college student governments.
“On other campuses, SGA is a big deal,” said Cardin. “Every election is contested, there’s marketing out the wazoo and people take it seriously. I think this year we finally planted that seed at UWG.”
To achieve this goal, Stiles and Cardin constructed a mission statement for the new administration to “be an asset” to UWG and the Carrollton community, which they plan to accomplish by mending relationships with faculty and staff and building new relationships in the community.
“We want to tell faculty that we’re here, and that they should pass us the ball,” said Cardin. “We’ll shoot, we’ll score, and even if we don’t score, we’ll shoot again. We want to make a difference at this campus. A lot of our ideas call for change, and they’ve been great about being on board and just hearing us out.”
Stiles and Cardin will be officially sworn in along with the rest of the 2016-2017 Administration at the SGA meeting on April 14, but they have already begun working towards their goals. Cardin worked tirelessly to pass Senate Bill 63.2-31, which requires all SGA Associate Justices to apply to the Student Conduct Board and, if selected, serve out their term. Stiles is also in the process of drafting further legislation bolstering the requirements for students serving on faculty senate committees.
“I want all the SGAs in the state, or really the country, to look at us and say ‘that is a good administration that has changed their campus,” said Stiles. “We’ve already made leaps and bounds towards this, but we want to take it a step further.”