Outgoing SGA president reflects on position, lessons

Mar 14 • News, Top Stories • 1176

When/why did you first get involved in SGA?
I joined SGA as a freshman in the fall of 2015. I was very nervous to run initially because I was very shy as a freshman. Although campaigning was outside of my comfort zone, I really wanted to make meaningful changes on campus, so I decided to run. I wanted to help all students feel connected to the campus. As a freshmen class representative, I wanted to help in any way possible. Although I held no leadership role, I was always volunteering to sit on additional committees, hang extra posters and communicate events with my fellow students.
I was then encouraged to run for vice president of finance during the spring of my freshman year. At first, I was very hesitant to take on such a big role, but I was encouraged to run by previous executive board members whom I looked up to. I also believed it was a great way for me to use my strengths as an accounting and finance student to make a difference.
As a result, I ran. I really loved being vice president of finance. I had a great committee and together we completely changed the funding model. We moved the funding request system online (before, it was paper). We also made it easier for sport clubs to request funding and moved them onto an annual request basis. We also created student engagement funding and streamlined the other funding options as well.
It was really important to me that student leaders felt supported. As a result, I established office hours for students to reach me. I also spent many late nights on the phone answering questions and walking students through the application process. These relationships were very fulfilling for me. I had a great time listening and helping other students.
Through my role, I became aware of more concerns that students were facing as well as major areas that SGA could grow and develop to help meet those needs. As election season grew near, I realized that the best avenue for me to address the needs that I noticed was as president. As a result, I chose to run as SGA president during the spring of my sophomore year.

What were some of the challenges you faced while being president?
Growing can be uncomfortable and I have done a lot of growing as president. It is hard to identify just a few of the opportunities that I have had to grow over my time as president. I think the first challenge that I faced was realizing that I am always representing SGA and Gannon. Part of your responsibility as president is to be a liaison for the student body, the organization and the university. I have been lucky enough to have sent out letters to potential students, to speak at various university events, meet with students directly and other such opportunities.
As a result, many people do not necessarily know me as Kendra Walker but rather as Gannon University’s SGA president. To some people who are trying to get an understanding of the student body, the organization and the university I might be their first impression. Some people may consciously or subconsciously consider me an extension of these affiliates. As a result, I have made conscious decisions to try to always represent all of these affiliations in the best light out of a deep love and respect for each of them.
I think my favorite challenge that I have faced has been learning to be a better leader. Throughout my time in SGA I have had the opportunity to work with really excellent team members who have pushed me to be better all around.
My team has challenged me when I needed to be challenged and together we have had many awesomely uncomfortable conversations. However, there have been times where I have had to push them too. When you are a leader it is never about you but your team. Your job is to be 110 percent committed to their own success.

Are there any accomplishments or distinct moments that stand out when you think about your time as president?
Again, this is a hard thing to identify clearly. There are so many moments since I became president that warm my heart.
I think one of my most distinct moments early as president was when our executive team created our values of community, growth and excellence. My biggest objective coming in as president was to create a strong culture within our organization. I wanted all our members to be able to clearly identify and understand our purpose to transform students’ lives. Next, we needed to identify how we achieve that purpose.
These values came organically from our executive team during our retreat when I was first president and it has been a privilege watching these values be clear drivers within our organization. In pursuit of these values we have grown a lot as an organization from project planning, to fostering relationships and much more. I am excited to see this momentum continue in future years.
However, by far my favorite moments have been watching so many of my team members grow over the years. Being a senior, I have been blessed to witness many of my fellow students (not just in SGA) become confident young professionals ready to take over the world. Sharing in their journey has been very sacred and I don’t know how much more I can share without getting super emotional. However, I am forever grateful for every late meeting, long phone call and conversation that I have ever had as president. These relationships and interactions will always be cherished by me.

What was your favorite thing about being president of SGA?
My favorite thing about being president has been being able to give two years of my life to this wonderful student body and this university. I will forever be grateful to have been able to dedicate part of my life to transforming the lives of our students with amazing team members. My SGA team is truly a joy to work with and sharing this service with them has been amazing. Likewise, my other teammates within the university and other student leaders outside of SGA have made sharing in this service a true joy.
At the end of the day, I don’t think words can properly express how much I love our student body, our university and my team members. But being able to love them and serve out of that love is my favorite part. They make it all worth it.

What legacy do you believe you’re leaving behind?
I hope that my legacy is one of love. When you are president you become the least important person on campus. Your sole job is to care for and support your team so that they can care for and support others. I hope that my team remembers that love and are driven to serve out of a similar desire.
I hope that SGA remembers that our purpose is to transform the lives of the student body. We are privileged enough to be servants and I hope that they never lose sight of why we serve. I hope that I have done a good enough job that SGA remembers who we are, why we do what we do and how we achieve that purpose.

What words of advice do you have to the incoming president? To anyone becoming a part of SGA or looking to get involved in student government?
My advice to David is lead with love and cherish your team above all else. It goes by very quickly, but meaningful change is possible. To those looking to be involved with SGA I ask you to listen to your heart. If our purpose of transforming the lives of the student body matches with your purpose and values, then please consider joining our team.

How do you think SGA has impacted what you hope to do in the future?
SGA has certainly impacted a lot of what I hope to do in the future. SGA has shown me the value of service and doing work that you find meaningful with a team that shares those values. For the rest of my life, I hope to pursue service and use my strengths to transform the lives of those that I come into contact with. I see myself being very active in my community post-graduation whether that community is my employer, residential area, family or more!
I am also excited to continue being an active member of the Gannon family as a forever alumnus. There are so many ways to still serve our Gannon family as an alumnus. I hope to help students the same way that I was helped over the past four years. I am excited to see that relationship take shape and embrace the next chapter of my life!

VERONICA KOWALSKI
kowalski011@knights.gannon.edu

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