Today all of our current students received an email asking them to vote for who they want their next Student Government Association (SGA) President, Vice President, and Senators to be. For the occasion, we asked Dylan Cullen, current Student Ambassador and SGA President, what a day in his life looks like.
I’ve been asked to write a post about a typical day in the life of the Student Government Association President (that’s me!). The problem is that there is no typical day in my position. However, there is always something to do and, exciting or tedious, it has to get done.
I’m someone who is a list guy. There’s nothing more satisfying for me than checking something off my “to-do” list. In that spirit, here’s what a typical “to-do” list looks like for my role:
- Check and respond to emails (I get a minimum of 15 a day, but I’ve had days upwards of 40 during busy times). This is strangely rewarding. I’ve had the unique opportunity to work with many of Champlain’s brightest minds and most dedicated staff, faculty, and administration. They have truly helped me to delve deeper into my personal growth as well as my growth within leadership roles. Some of those relationships have started as simple email communication, and have blossomed into rewarding friendships and professional partnerships.
- Develop the weekly Cabinet meeting schedule, keeping in mind the different projects and initiatives that need to get done. In a ninety minute meeting every Wednesday at 8:00AM, it is impossible to cover all the necessary topics. That’s why it’s crucial to prioritize, a skill that is incredibly useful in college in general. Some days, you’ve just got to wipe the sleep from your eyes, roll up your sleeves, and dive headfirst into the beautiful mess of the day.
- Read over the weekly Senate meeting agenda and review any grant applications, proposals, resolutions, or notes that the Vice President (my partner in crime) sent out. As the President, I also serve as a voting member of the Senate. I take my vote seriously, but often abstain (vote to add my own voice to the majority) as a sign of trust for the other voting members of the Senate. The Senate is an incredible team of dedicated, passionate, and innovative students who serve as Senators for their academic divisions. They have constantly looked out for students, taking their needs into consideration and being thoughtful about the impact they make.
- Check in with the Cabinet. The Cabinet is comprised of myself, the Vice President, and four directors: Director of Clubs, Director of Finance, Director of Operations, and Director of Communications. Each position has specific roles, accompanied by projects and initiatives to work on. The Cabinet is a high-functioning team, and it is always rewarding to see how seriously they take their positions, even at those 8AM meetings.
- Work on any committee or council projects for the week. I have had the opportunity to serve on both the Diversity Council and College Council this year, and social justice and inclusion have been huge themes in what I prioritize. Earlier this semester, I worked with Ame Lambert, the College’s Chief Diversity Officer, as well as CORE Professor Faith Yacubian and President Don Laackman to deliver a message to the student body after the tragic events surrounding Eric Garner and Michael Brown. It was so encouraging for me to watch this progress. Sustainability and resilience in ecological systems rely on diversity much like any community does. Don was incredibly receptive and played an integral role in the process, helping to host an open forum for students to talk about race-related police brutality and unpack difficult feelings.
- Engaging in larger conversations about campus-wide initiatives. I spent a considerable amount of time this semester focusing on increasing student engagement. The Student Government Association partnered with the Center for Service and Civic Engagement to host Burlington’s mayoral candidates on campus for a debate. The Center also helped register students to vote in the state of Vermont. For Student Government elections this year, we have a goal of increasing our voting turnout by 10% this semester, which will pull us high above the national average.
- Meetings, meetings, meetings! Much of my life is spent in meetings. If that sounds boring, think again. Sure, my schedule is always packed, but these meetings are where the real magic happens. Important conversations are had, moments of enlightenment make way for innovative solutions, and lasting partnerships are made that make everyone’s jobs easier. I love the meetings I’m in not because I feel as if I’ve accomplished something tangible every time I leave the room (some meetings create more questions than answers), but because the sharing of ideas and the asking of big picture questions helps to refocus the efforts of everyone in the meetings and provides a space for us to hash out ideas and get feedback from each other.
My time as President of the Student Government Association is coming to a close. I am confident that my successor will continue to make positive changes on Champlain’s campus, and it is my hope that more and more students choose to be engaged through the SGA. I’ve loved every minute of the time that I’ve been involved with the SGA, and I look forward to many more empty checkboxes to fill as a student leader at Champlain in my remaining two years.