Courtesy of Adam Zebzda
The Appalachian sent both campaigns for student body president and vice president the same 12 questions via email. Responses have been edited only for grammar and AP Style.
Adam Zebzda and Jenn Banh are running for president and vice president, respectively, against Bailey Gardin and DJ Evans. The campaigns took part in a debate discussing policy and issues that are impacting the student body Monday.
The voting period lasts from March 31 at 12 p.m. to April 5 at 2 p.m. Students can vote through Engage.
Where are you from and what made you choose App State?
Adam: I was born and raised in Winston-Salem and I chose App State after falling in love with the campus during a college visit. Every other university I visited felt impersonal but as soon as I arrived in Boone, I knew I found my home away from home.
Jenn: I was born and raised in Alamance County, and growing up I had always wanted to go to UNC Chapel Hill. However, when I began touring colleges, I knew in my heart that App State and Boone were going to be my home. To this day, I stand by the fact that App State is for me. I am constantly finding myself falling in love with this school over and over again.
What is your year and major and why did you choose that major?
Adam: I am a junior political science major with a minor in criminal justice. Since I was younger, I have always had an interest in the local political process and how it can be reformed to better serve the constituency it’s supposed to. Through my major and experience in SGA, I’m learning firsthand what it takes to create a more equitable system of representation.
Jenn: I am currently a junior double majoring in criminal justice and psychology with a concentration in human services. I was originally just a psychology major but when I took an introduction course in criminal justice I fell in love (shoutout to Dr. Mullens). I have always found people interesting and understand how their minds worked, but even further, I found out that was because I wanted to know how I can best serve them. I want to pursue a career in law and advocate for the underrepresented to the best of my ability.
What is your experience with SGA?
Adam: As director of external affairs, I focused on finding community-wide solutions to our community-wide problems. Through my position, I was able to expand civic opportunities for students in Town Hall by pushing for the implementation of student representative seats on every town advisory board possible while codifying the student voice as an essential part of local affairs. I was also able to oversee the passage of one of Boone’s most comprehensive climate justice policies as well as a climate emergency declaration to start mobilizing the resources we need to make sure our town continues to thrive far into the future. Even though this has been my first year in SGA, we’ve been able to expand the student voice far beyond a university setting. Now, as a candidate for student body president, I hope to continue and expand the work we’ve begun.
Jenn: I joined SGA this past year because I wanted to make a difference at App. I am the current Multicultural Affairs chair, and I have been working to advocate for the students that I represent. I serve on the external affairs committee and have supported and worked on statements that the committee has released. I have also taken the initiative to join the Town of Boone’s Cultural Resources Advisory Board to better advocate for student needs through the community as well. I want to prioritize student voices in any possible manner.
What is the main focus of your campaign?
Adam: The main focus of our campaign is putting power back where it belongs: into the hands of students. We need to make sure to put students back into the student government association by focusing on reinvesting into our student body, ensuring adequate representation for everyone and pursuing bold reform to fix our broken systems.
Jenn: There are large divisions that are affecting our campus right now and we are actively working to bridge all of those gaps. We are working to make sure that student voices and needs are always prioritized, because right now they are not.
How will you fight for App State students?
Adam: I’ll be fighting for students by ensuring accessibility, accountability and transparency in SGA and university administration. Over the years, both bodies have built walls instead of bridges. When you report a concern, you should have the right to know where it stands in being addressed as well as when you can expect a response and from whom. When you want to meet with a member of SGA or Administration, you shouldn’t have to face an unreasonable wait or go through a bureaucracy. Students should have direct access to those who represent them in all cases whatsoever.
Jenn: I have spent this past year getting involved with numerous organizations to personally get to know and understand student issues. I am not afraid to advocate for student concerns and I will be fierce in implementing the key initiatives in our campaign for real change. Including creating a more sustainable App State or implementing inclusive initiatives for all students whether it is through advocating for Title IX reforms or for student dietary restrictions, we want to make sure every student is being fought for.
In your view, what are the most important issues/topics on the table right now?
Adam: To be frank, the state of our university is not good. Due to inaction, our student body is stuck in place rather than empowered to pursue the change it desperately needs and wants. This past year, we’ve experienced three concurrent crises: a crisis of health from the continued impact of COVID-19, an academic crisis from a lack of mental health resources and university assistance, and a crisis of racism from deeply rooted systems of oppression on our campus. Addressing these issues, as well as underlying and new ones, won’t be easy and will require all of us to work together but we cannot be complicit through silence and allow them to continue.
Jenn: Right now, the most pressing concerns are ensuring a healthy campus as we transition back into a world without COVID, prioritizing student academics by advocating for an increase in mental health resources and university assistance, and actively working on initiatives to fight against the systemic oppression embedded within the campus.
Chancellor Everts says that Fall 2021 will be a “normal” semester. What are you most excited about in a world without COVID? What have you learned being a student leader during COVID? And, how will you help App State move forward from COVID?
Adam: As we slowly return to some sense of normalcy, I’m most looking forward to creating personal connections with people again. Between technical difficulties and how impersonal the platform is, it’s hard to truly meet someone through Zoom or have a constructive discussion. Throughout this ordeal, I learned just how resilient our student body is. No one could have expected the outcomes of this past year, yet we adapted to an evolving situation, made sure to support each other through it and showed what it truly means to be a Mountaineer.
As we move past the pandemic, I’ll be pushing for the expansion of accessible mental health resources for on and off-campus students as well as academic assistance. As our enrollment continues to grow, university services must keep pace so that all students have what they need in order to thrive, especially going into the fall 2021 semester.
Jenn: I am excited to rebuild those personal relationships with SGA members and with students as a whole. I have learned that it is impossible to ask for student engagement when students are unaware of what they should be engaging in. To move forward, we plan on bringing a stronger approach to increase student engagement while continuing to prioritize mental health within the student body.
What has been your most memorable moment at App State?
Adam: My most memorable moment at App State would definitely be when I opened my acceptance letter and learned I was a Mountaineer. The feeling of joy and relief while sharing that experience with my family is something I will never forget.
Jenn: My most memorable moment at App State is definitely having the opportunity to volunteer at the tri-centers. In the time that I have been a volunteer, I have learned so much about the LGBTQ+ community, the multicultural community and even more on women’s issues at App State. It has been such an honor to learn about these issues firsthand and to get to know the different communities more personally.
What’s your go to place in Boone? Campus?
Adam: My favorite place in Boone is definitely Town Hall on King Street. It sounds boring, but Town Hall is the “people’s hall” where elected officials work to better our community. It’s also where I met some truly inspirational local leaders, like Loretta Clawson, who showed me what it means to be a public servant. On campus, my favorite place is the solarium in the union. Something about the environment makes me focus on getting my work done and its vibes are immaculate
Jenn: My go-to place in Boone is either the Local Lion or the parkway. I love going to study at the Local Lion, the place is so welcoming and is perfect for studying. Sometimes I get so caught up in things going on in my life I forget we live in a beautiful area. I go to the parkway as often as I can to decompress and center myself. My go to place on campus is either the solarium or Sanford Mall (if the weather is nice). Both places have given me a sense of normalcy this past year.
What is your favorite campus meal? Boone meal?
Adam: During my first year at App State, I became a very frequent (emphasis on very) customer of McAllister’s. I was a fan of almost everything on the menu but especially their mac and cheese. In Boone, I love going to The Local with friends. I definitely recommend trying the cheese curds as an appetizer followed by the pesto pasta for dinner. Chef’s kiss for sure!
Jenn: My favorite campus meal has been and always will be McAlister’s chicken noodle soup. My favorite Boone meal is the pesto pasta from The Local. Adam and I go there so much I’m positive the both of us alone could keep them in business.
What would you say to a student who’s on the fence about your campaign to convince them you’re the right choice?
Adam: I think we all know that App State is going through tough times right now. The policies of the past and the refusal to pursue bold change have caused us to face unprecedented crises that combine underlying issues with new ones. Character is revealed during a crisis and the character of our campus is on the ballot. That’s why the biggest risk we can take right now is to continue going down the path that got us where we are now and somehow expect a different outcome in the future. We need a fundamental change in SGA and on our campus. And that’s what Jenn and I would like to bring.
Over the past year, you’ve allowed me to represent you as your director of external affairs and look at what we’ve accomplished. You’ve shared your stories of success and struggle with me. What’s clear is that we’re going to have to invest in our student body again through ensuring representation, reinvestment and reform on our campus.
We’re asking for your vote and we promise you that if you award us with the extraordinary honor of being your student body president and vice president, we will work every single day tireless on your behalf and the behalf of our campus’s future.
Jenn: We not only have the detailed plan to create real change, but we also have the proven track record to push for real results. We have advocated for student issues long before we started campaigning and will continue to long after. Vote for the ticket that recognizes the real issues and are not afraid to speak out. Vote Zebzda-Banh.
Anything else people should know about you?
I am fluent in Polish and English is actually my second language.
During the pandemic I’ve become a plant dad and one of my roommates has accused me of having a rainforest café in my room.
And, I currently serve on the Town of Boone’s Planning Commission reviewing zoning regulations and emphasizing sustainable municipal growth!
Couple of fun facts!!
I recently adopted a cat from the Watauga Humane Society. His name is Leo and I love being a cat mom.
I just started snowboarding this past season and I am in love. How come no one’s ever told me how fun it was?
I love chicken noodle soup a lot. I’ve been canvasing restaurants to find the perfect chicken noodle soup and right now Chick-Fil-A and Panera are my top options.