SGA candidate profiles: Bailey Gardin and DJ Evans


Courtesy of Bailey Gardin

DJ Evans (left) and Bailey Gardin (right) announced their candidacy for student body vice president and president, respectively. The duo are both members of the App State Student Government Association.

Jackie Park and Jake Markland

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.

Bailey Gardin and DJ Evans are running for president and vice president, respectively, against Adam Zebzda and Jenn Banh. 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.

Here are Gardin and Evans’ responses:

Where are you from and what made you choose App State?

Bailey: I am from Gastonia, which is so special to me because not many people from there are fortunate enough to receive the same opportunities that I have been blessed with. The reason why I chose to attend App State was due to the fact that I received the Dr. Willie C. Fleming Scholarship back in 2018. As a first-generation college student, I was grateful and proud to be a recipient of the award and recognized that it would help me accomplish my dreams of graduating from a four-year university with a degree!

DJ: I am from Bossier City, Louisiana! I decided to come to App State because when I toured schools such as LSU, Tulane and UNC, every time I stepped onto one of their campuses, I did not feel a strong sense of belonging. However, the moment I stepped foot on App State’s campus, I felt at home. I had random students come up to me and ask me, “How do I like the campus?” “Can they help me get anywhere?” and overall were just being very friendly toward me. When those experiences happened, I knew this is where I wanted to call home.

What is your year and major and why did you choose that major?

Bailey: I am currently a junior and major in political science with a concentration in pre-law
studies. I also have completed requirements for a minor in criminal justice. I chose this combination of major and minor for a few reasons. First, while growing up, my mom and I would watch “Law & Order: SVU” all the time. My favorite part about the episodes was not the first half when the detectives would investigate the crime and try to arrest a suspect, but rather I was always excited for the latter half of the show as it would portray dramatic court scenes. I loved watching these TV attorneys devise crafty arguments to present in front of juries and admired the way they commanded the courtroom. My passions involve helping others and creating opportunities for those who are not as fortunate to achieve those opportunities on their own, so I am hoping to pursue a legal career where I can utilize my degree to assist others, especially when their rights have been violated.

DJ: I am currently a junior and I’m majoring in political science, focusing on international studies. Additionally, I have a minor in Arabic. After undergrad, I intend on attending law school and pursuing a career as an attorney, then hopefully going into some form of international politics.

What is your experience with SGA?

Bailey: My experience with SGA has come with its challenges, but some of the change and initiatives that I have been a part of have truly been special! One day, I will be able to walk away from this organization and reflect on the positive impact that I have been fortunate enough to make on this campus. Through collaborating with hardworking and dedicated senators, we were able to provide academic relief in the form of pass/no credit last semester and are dedicating even more time, energy and resources to pursue the initiative again this semester.

SGA has the potential to be a strong body that advocates for all students, but that requires all members within the cabinet and senate to put their egos to the side and work efficiently. Because when we are not working in unison, the student body suffers, and that is unacceptable for an organization that is supposed to lead by example.

DJ: My experience with student government has been exciting. While I have only been in SGA for one year now, I have realized how much can get done when you put a bunch of great minds together. However, I have also learned that SGA has many flaws that I believe Bailey and I can fix if given the opportunity. The cabinet and senate relationship can be improved by taking steps to develop relationships and understand all senate members so that we can eliminate the divide.

What is the main focus of your campaign?

Bailey: The main focus of our campaign requires us to listen to the concerns of the students so that we can be effective in Amplifying All Voices. DJ and I believe that this can be accomplished through our four pillars: accountability, equity, wellness and engagement. Within each of these pillars, we have strategies and actionable items that will help improve the holistic health of the community and make our administrators more accountable and accessible.

DJ: The focus of Bailey and I’s campaign is Amplifying All Voices. We want to uplift ALL the students at App State and have tough conversations that others will not have. We want to hold faculty and school leaders accountable while also holding each other accountable. Gardin + Evans want to be the leaders into the post-covid era and not return to normal but instead work toward something better!

How will you fight for App State students?

Bailey: I will simply continue to do the work that I have already been doing and look for areas where I can improve so that I am the best advocate and representative for the student body. Through my service as the director of academic affairs and a member of the Black at App State Collective, I have been a part of several conversations with our administration that directly lead to sustainable and impactful change on campus. My involvement in these two organizations, among others, has revealed to me that if you want to create change, you have to be willing to make sacrifices. For me, those sacrifices have come in the form of early 8 a.m. meetings with administrators to discuss the implementation of the Black at App State demands and constantly demanding more of our administration to provide academic relief to our students, especially during this time of COVID-19.

DJ: We will fight for App State students by giving them the support and the platform they need to express their opinions and grievances. We want to be leaders and lead by actions and not by statements. We will make goals, stay task-oriented and remain transparent so that students can monitor that their concerns are being addressed in a serious manner.

In your view, what are the most important issues/topics on the table right now?

Bailey: Some of the most important issues that students and our community are currently facing include the climate crisis, the mental fatigue and stress that has been caused due to lack of academic relief, and students with marginalized identities having to attend a campus that is not equitable, but rather one that perpetuates racism, sexism, discrimination and other negative stereotypes.

DJ: In my personal view, the most important topics at hand are the treatment of marginalized groups and how App State will adjust back into in person in the upcoming semester.

Chancellor Sheri 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?

Bailey: Next semester, we cannot afford to go back to “normal,” because “normal” includes students’ voices and concerns being dismissed, our university taking passive action regarding the climate crisis, and our chancellor not taking harder stances on issues that are detrimental to our community. We have to evaluate our past and create paths that will lead to a brighter future where App State students can truly call this place their home. However, assuming we are able to return to in-person instruction and activities, I am looking forward to our students having the opportunity to make those real connections with each other that can only be formed through in-person interactions. Being a student leader during this time of COVID has shown me the importance of showing grace and compassion because you really never know who has been impacted by this deadly virus. We lost the life of a Mountaineer during this academic year due to complications of the virus and although I did not know Chad, I recognize his death impacted others to degrees that I could never understand. Who knows how else others have been impacted by this virus and how deep that pain goes? So, I try my best to show love to everyone because you simply never know what others are experiencing.

DJ: Although Chancellor Everts says that next semester will be “normal,” I strongly disagree with her. I believe we should not strive to go back to normal, but we should look to excel and be better than we once were as a community. During COVID, I have learned that our school faces many challenges, whether it be discrimination, not holding school officials accountable for their actions, and lastly, ensuring the mental stability of all students here at App State. My plan to help App State move forward is to empower our senators to work for the best interests of the student body, make Bailey and I accessible as leaders, listen to our students and work every day to amplify the voices of all Mountaineers.

What has been your most memorable moment at App State?

Bailey: My most memorable moment at App State would have to be Aug. 31 of last year when I led a social justice march on campus along with the other founding members of the Black at App State Collective. We marched from Sanford Mall, through the expression tunnels and all the way to B.B. Dougherty where Chancellor Sheri Everts’ office is located. Approximately 250-300 people attended, all demanding the same thing: for our chancellor and administration to wake up and do more in ensuring this campus becomes a more inclusive and equitable environment for our BIPOC student population.

DJ: My most memorable moment here at App State was traveling to USC for our football game and being in the stadium when we pulled off that win. It was fantastic to be around all my friends and share the energy and excitement that we had.

What’s your go-to place in Boone? Campus?

Bailey: Some may call me basic for saying this, but I absolutely love going to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I find so much peace and calmness in just looking out over the wonderful views, admiring nature and appreciating our environment! It helps put a lot of things about life into perspective and is a unique staple for the Appalachian community. In regards to campus, I like spending my time in places where I can be the most productive. So typically you may see me on the third floor of the library or hanging out at Crossroads inside of the Plemmons Student Union. The smoothies there are fantastic!

DJ: My go-to place here on campus is the library. I spend an alarming amount of time in the library as I try to stay on top of everything, and for me, it’s just a peaceful space where I can think and relax.

What is your favorite campus meal? Boone meal?

Bailey: Personally, I’m team upper-central in terms of campus dining, but don’t get me wrong, lower has some great options as well! There are so many great places to eat off-campus too, but Comeback Shack is definitely one of my favorite spots!

DJ: My favorite place to grab a meal in Boone is easily China Wok. I order takeout from there probably once a week, and when it comes to campus dining, I would definitely say Cascades is my favorite place.

What would you say to a student who’s on the fence about your campaign to convince them you’re the right choice?

Bailey: I would tell any student who is on the fence about which campaign to support, that their voice and vote should be invested in the proven ticket. DJ and I have a track record of leadership, advocacy and implementing sustainable solutions on campus. We are a campaign that will always put the needs of the student body first. This will only be accomplished by us prioritizing your voice, listening to you and then following that up with intentional efforts and conversations that will address your concerns. This is a ticket that is not afraid to back down but will instead demand more of our administrators and chancellor because we deserve to attend a university that welcomes all and amplifies every voice. It will not always be easy because some of the university administration’s priorities differ from the best interests of the students, but the one thing they will never come close to doing is silencing DJ and me, as we fight every day to prove that we were the right choice for the job.

DJ: I ask students what kind of leaders they are looking for to direct this university in the post-COVID era. Bailey and I will do everything we can to meet all the students’ needs here at App State. We want to be the young men who are leading by example and not by generic statements that lead to no action. We will ask and answer the tough questions that students have! Our administration wants to create an inclusive environment where all students can feel the sense of belonging and safety they are entitled to as students of the university. We recognize the privilege that we have to be in this position, want to use it to better this university community and amplify all of your voices!

Is there anything else people should know about you?
Bailey and DJ: This is an intentional and proven ticket that looks forward to listening and amplifying all voices! We cannot wait to advocate for every single Mountaineer and we are grateful for the opportunity to lead our community into something that is better than the normal we once knew. For more information regarding our platform, pillars, and our commitment to the student body, visit our website and follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @gardinevans21.