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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Strengthening community, empowering student body: Saint Mary’s student body president and vice president reflect on fall semester

At the beginning of their term as Student Government Association (SGA) student body president and vice president, seniors Eleanor Hanson and Adriana Salgado set out to strengthen and enhance the tri-campus community relationship and to empower the women at Saint Mary’s. 

When Hanson and Salgado ran for their respective roles last May, their platform included a focus on gaining an understanding of what the women of Saint Mary’s want to see on campus. Their platform also emphasized the need to integrate all voices in order to create change on campus.

In an email from Hanson discussing the progress she and Salgado have accomplished thus far this semester, Hanson noted the benefit of many lifted COVID-19 restrictions from last year.

“Due to more relaxed COVID restrictions, SGA was able to function in a relatively normal fashion this year,” Hanson said. “We are incredibly thankful for this as it has given us the opportunity to work closely with our fellow big board members, host large-scale events and meet more of our fellow smicks.”

Following the events that the tri-campus community faced last year, Hanson noted that the main focus for her and Salgado was building the community.

As for programming held this semester, Hanson mentioned that most of the events were held at the beginning of the semester and were centered around welcoming in the first-year class, as well as returning students. She continued by recognizing all the work and support from the SGA committees and co-chairs.

“We couldn’t credit the success of SGA without acknowledging our committee chairs and the role they have played in creating and executing events throughout the semester,” she said.

When discussing the planning process leading up to the fall semester, Hanson said a major concern was finances and budgeting.

“When discussing our plan of action leading up to our fall semester Adriana and I agreed on being more conscious of how SGA spends its money,” Hanson said. “We wanted the students who attended our events to leave feeling appreciated while understanding what the event’s message was.”

Hanson spoke of some of the events and programming that the committees have hosted, each with their own missions as a committee and each event with a meaning that aligns with their mission.

“Some examples include [the] Sustainability [committee] bringing in guest speaker Piper Carter who spoke about environmental justice and grassroots feminism,” Hanson said.

She also spoke to the events that Student Life and Campus Inclusivity [committees] have been able to program and host including move-in week which includes BelleFest — held right before DomerFest to get the first-year class and transfer students excited for the night — and Belles Being Holiday Cheer — where students will have a chance to write letters to adopted families. 

Another initiative Hanson was excited to start up this semester was big board collaboration. Saint Mary’s has four major boards that all serve different missions and needs of students on campus, including SGA, Residence Hall Association (RHA), Student Diversity Board (SDB) and Student Activities Board (SAB).

“This semester we have also created bi-monthly meetings with our fellow big board executive boards to discuss events together and potential collaboration,” Hanson said. “This has been incredibly successful in developing relationships that promote leadership in all aspects on campus.”

She also highlighted the working relationship between Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and Holy Cross.

“Working alongside these women has been a privilege,” Hanson said. “We have also been able to foster a relationship with both Notre Dame and Holy Cross’ student government organizations.”

In discussion tri-campus relations, Hanson brought up the controversy surrounding negative comments made against Saint Mary's students on the social media platform YikYak in September and the way the community was able to come together.

“With the situation that arose via YikYak, we were all able to come together and stand up against sexual violence in our tri-campus community — while raising money for the Family Justice Center and suicide awareness,” Hanson said.

Looking back at the semester as a whole, and the work she has been able to accomplish alongside Salgado, Hanson is left feeling accomplished and proud.

“For this being our first go in large scale student leadership positions, we feel proud of everything we have accomplished,” Hanson said. “It has been a process of understanding what works for us personally and our team as we aim to empower the women of Saint Mary’s. This definitely hasn’t been easy, but it has all been worth it to see the impact we can have on the student body.”

Hanson concluded her remarks by saying she looks forward to serving the student body in the spring.

“I will always be a proud smick. We are grateful for everyone who has made this possible and looks forward to what we can accomplish next semester.”

Vice president Salgado reiterated Hanson’s feelings of accomplishment and emphasized building up the campus community.

“I think we have made really good progress in terms of fulfilling initiatives in our campaign,” Salgado said in an email.

Salgado said it took time to get fully operational, but she is proud of all SGA was able to.

“We had a slow start but we are so lucky to have been able to do all that we did this semester like Smick Day and other events,” she said. 

Salgado also acknowledged the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, saying that everything SGA has accomplished would not be possible without the executive board and committees.

“None of this would’ve been possible without the incredible executive and committee members that have been a part of SGA this year,” Salgado said. “I am very excited to see what they have in store for next semester.”

Salgado noted that a big part of program planning was spent on the student-led events for the inauguration of college president Katie Conboy.

“I think we pulled off the Inauguration extremely well with the collaboration of other big boards,” Salgado said. “None of it would’ve been executed with so much grace without the open communication between ourselves, SAB, SDB, RHA, Class Council and of course, [Associate Dean of Students] Shay Schneider and [Interim Vice President for Student Affairs] Gloria Jenkins.”

Salgado took a moment to reflect on her personal feelings as she rounds out the first semester as vice president.

“I always joke I’m ready to go but the reality is, I am holding on to these last two weeks of the semester and the spring quite strongly,” Salgado said. “The last year has been a whirlwind of emotions for all of us, SGA has helped find some sort of middle ground in the midst of the craziness.”

She said she is looking forward to another semester serving the student body, building community and growing as a student leader.

“I can not wait to see how the rest of the year unfolds and continue serving my community,” Salgado said. “I hope we can all come back healthy in January and cultivate a semester full of excitement and happiness, especially for the class of 2022.” 

During their term, the Hanson-Salgado administration has focused on building tri-campus relations and uplifting the voices of Saint Marys students, which is a crucial part of creating a more inclusive and welcoming campus community. Hanson and Salgado have made progress in promoting student voices through collaboration among student leadership organizations. However they could benefit from increased engagement directly with the student body. While the administration has shown their commitment to the student body through large scale events, they would benefit from assessing the needs of students as they continue their term.