For what might be the first time in the history of the Undergraduate Student Senate (USS) at Pacific University, the recently elected executive team for the coming 2018-19 academic year is made up entirely of students who have never served on the Senate before.
“I believe in the nine years we’ve had the Student Senate we’ve always had at least one, if not a few officers return, or had experienced senators run for executive positions,” USS Advisor Steve Klein said.
Next year’s executive team will be led by Junior and new USS President Vicki Lee, along with Adriana Jones as Vice President (VP) of Campus Betterment, Dalith Leon as VP of Leadership, Aslee Kasayuron as VP of Finance and Anthony Yamashiro as VP of Communications.
Their lack of experience on the Senate, however, is no indicator to their experience and involvement on the rest of campus. Lee is already a Resident Assistant (RA), a member of Greek Life and founder of the Asian Pacific Islander Student Union club.
Though Lee admitted she does not yet know the ins and outs of the USS system, she does not see her lack of direct Senate experience as a setback.
“We’re coming in with an outsider perspective,” Lee said. “A lot of times people get stuck accepting how things are run because that’s just how it’s always been done. Coming in, we can bring the change and we can be the change.”
Senior Katie Lightcap, the current USS president, also believes the new executive team can overcome their lack of experience and not let it hinder their progress.
“I think next year’s executives will be challenged with their lack of experience, but it is nothing they can’t handle,” Lightcap said. “They are all very active and capable leaders who will take this campus to the next level, as each Senate has tried to do over the years.”
For her part, Lightcap was proud of what USS accomplished this year.
“I do think the Senate has had a successful year overall,” Lightcap said.
She specifically mentioned the record high number of responses to the annual USS survey, the Senate’s efforts to implement feedback from the survey and involvement with national movements like the “March for our Lives,” as key moments of success for this year’s USS team.
“We called our administrators out on many topics, as well as voiced rampant concern with many changes as we thought students would,” Lightcap said. “We held more open forums than previous years, and we received a lot of constructive criticism that we felt we responded to well.”
Klein saw these achievements as successes for the Senate as well.
He added that he was proud of the way the USS worked with the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Sarah Phillips and her office to rein in the Winter II May III proposal.
Lee acknowledged the work of this year’s USS executive team, but also noted where she wants to see improvement for next year’s Senate.
“One thing I want to bring next year is availability and accountability,” Lee said. “We’ll be there when you want us to be there. We’re there when you need us.”
Connection, collaboration, engagement and empowerment are other key themes she hopes the Senate can improve on in 2018-19. Lee wants the Senate to help different clubs and organizations on campus to connect and collaborate more with one another.
“It feels like clubs only look to collaborate with other clubs at the end of the year when they’re out of money,” Lee said.
Lee also wants USS to directly engage more with students and vice versa.
“I want to make students feel more engaged on campus,” Lee said. “I feel like there is a lot of apathy, students not caring about what Senate does if it doesn’t directly involve them.”
Klein agreed on the communication gap between Senate and students.
“Often, we are under the assumption that students know what’s going on as we have more than 20 students around the table during senate meetings.” Klein said. “These senators represent many constituencies across campus and we expect them to share the messages and minutes from meetings but, that’s not always the case.”
The transition between the two executive teams has already begun.
Lee recently met with Klein to begin discussing ideas for next year’s Senate and the two teams have connected as well.
“The two executive boards met this past weekend for four hours to tell stories, work one-on-one with positions held and basically began to hand off the baton,” Klein said.