SGA shows progress through State of the University

Josie Barnes, Reporter

The Student Government Association presented The State of the University Address Nov. 12 to update faculty, staff and students on its progress and inner workings. The address highlighted SGA’s accomplishments and planned future endeavors.

“This State of the University Address aims to open a window into student advocacy for those who may forget to open the blinds sometimes,” said Alyssa Rodriguez, chief of staff for SGA.

Interim Dean of Students Alan Rasmussen spoke to his appreciation of SGA and its work for the student body.

“Any number of issues they talked about today (show) they care about the student body and anybody who cares about the student body,” Rasmussen said. “We can always get behind, and we want to make this institution better, and we’re always trying to find that path, so I can always appreciate that.”

Adviser, Jeff Cathey

SGA Adviser Jeff Cathey said SGA has engaged in impactful conversation to advocate for state funding, expressed concerns about increasing enrollment and its impact, use of the Quinn center by students, recruitment of more diverse faculty and staff, the upcoming election cycle and its potentially divisive impact on the student body.

“These conversations require commitment, a commitment to listening, to dialogue and to the time required for making real engagement happen,” Cathey said. 

He said SGA is united by commitment to student learning, the members’ experience and he recognized the need to hear student input. Cathey said he hopes students are able to find their voice and take time to learn and understand what is happening around them.   

Vice President, Michael Davis

Michael Davis, SGA vice president, spoke of SGA’s advocacy of continued student use at Quinn and growing enrollment concerns that he said could put a “strain on our already existing university services.” He proposed to establish a working group with housing and administration to iron out details.

“It’s a two way thing. We’re not just hearing from students to get back to administration. Administration can give information to us, and then we share that with students. That can be just as powerful,” Davis said.

Davis said SGA works to share information and correct misinformation to “leave (the) organization better than we started.”

He said SGA will continue working and continuing to grow, establishing equity, transparency, academic excellence and students’ holistic wellbeing. 

Davis ended with, “If service is below you, leadership is beyond you,” and former Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Leroy Wright’s personal motto, “Take care of ourselves, each other, and this truly special place that we all call home, I think we’ll being doing just fine.” 

Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Jay Edwards  

“(When) DeJon first told me to give a speech at The State of the University, he also said that I have the opportunity to put all these different people in the same space and whenever am I going to get an opportunity like this again,” Diversity and Inclusion Director Jay Edwards said.

Edwards said he wants to accomplish a message of inclusivity and equality in a respectful way rather than simply blaming people.

He said administration shouldn’t let students make strides of equality on their own.

“Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve seen students of color, queer students, trans students, doing so much work to make this school a safer place, but they shouldn’t be having to do that work. They should just be having to come here to the school as a student and be able to just go to school and not have to worry about making the school safer and more comfortable for them because someone should do that,” Edwards said. 

Edwards pointed out the already low number of people of color at App State.

“I think about how the students have always done more work, in my opinion, to make this school a better place for marginalized people than the school itself,” Edwards said.

He said he would like to emphasize the importance of engaging in conversation and working to change the marginalization of people of color.

“My identities and marginalization that I face because of my identities do not go away because you’re uncomfortable or do not want to talk about it,” Edwards said. “Instead of talking about discrimintation that marginalized folks face here, the Milbourne Davis administration will be making sure that the people who work at this school are doing something about it.”  

Edwards received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his speech.  

Director of Environmental Sustainability, Thanh Schado

Thanh Schado, director of environmental sustainability, discussed initiatives SGA has worked on to improve campus sustainability.

She said the Climate Action Plan is the university’s plan on how to address climate change today and for the next 15 to 25 years.

Schado thanked the many “individuals who have worked tirelessly to meet the concerns of students, and their efforts are greatly appreciated.”

Schado piloted a program called the Board of Sustainable Organizations and Students this year in an effort to create a space for student organizations to collaborate on goals and shared visions.

“I just want to thank REI for being in that space, Beekeeping club, Environmental Sustainability club, forestry and the clime action process for just being huge supporters of this endeavor,” Schado said. 

SGA also partnered with Luis Aviles, president of App State’s Sustainable Energy Society during the Precious Plastic Initiative. They work together to grind down plastics into other products students can use.

Schado said she looks forward to more projects in the spring semester.  

Director of Wellness, Victoria Moreno

Victoria Moreno, director of wellness, said App State expands the definition of health to“the state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease,” including the eight dimensions of wellness.

Those include one’s emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual well-being.  

She said App State offers three physical recreation facilities, a counseling center for individual and group therapy, health services, a condom fairy and a lactation room as some of the tools necessary to maintain a positive state of well-being.

Moreno said her goals are to assess resources on campus related to wellness, increase engagement of wellness related events, decrease perceived apathy and obstacles involved in wellness campaigns, increase the mediums on campus for student involvement and “meet people where they are at” to provide the best resources to students.  

Student Body President, DeJon Milbourne 

SGA president DeJon Milbourne said he wants to create a better SGA system than how it was found and said how important timeliness is in advocating for students because SGA projects student voices.

“Our job is essentially to be consistently connected to the student voice,” Milbourne said. 

Milbourne asked students to “engage” with SGA and “get in front of us if you need us,” so SGA can better serve the student body.