New SGA executive board works to promote change

For the first time in Gannon University history, the student body has voted for all women to fill the six elected Student Government Association executive board posts.

The 2011-2012 school year editorial board will consist of junior journalism communications major Landis Erwin as president; freshman physician assistant major Lexie Mastro as vice president of academic affairs; freshman physician assistant major Kerri Stasiak as vice president of public relations; sophomore LECOM 4+4 biology major Caitlin Szczupak as secretary; sophomore LECOM 4+4 chemistry major Erica Rider as treasurer; and junior liberal studies major Allison Adkins as vice president of clubs and organizations.

The two SGA executive board positions appointed by the elected board members – vice president of technology and parliamentarian – will be filled by junior software engineering major Brent Elder and junior finance and accounting major Dan Morelli, respectively.

Erwin said the executive board is made up of “strong and outgoing” individuals who are looking forward to serving the student body.

“We are fully aware of our positions on the board and are willing to work for the students to the best of our abilities,” she said. “We do work well so far, and our ideas are intense and exciting.”

Stasiak said that she sees “much potential” in her fellow executive board members, even though it took the group a while to adjust to each other’s leadership styles.

“We have hit a few bumps, but that is expected to come with any new group,” she said. “But, we worked through them well, and we all learned from it.”

The female-weighted executive board goes against a national trend of male-dominated student governments. The Washington Post reported March 16 that of the 50 colleges ranked highest by U.S. News & World Report, less than a third have women as student body presidents.

In the same report, The Washington Post added that the American Student Government Association stated that 40 percent of student presidents across the nation – including those at community colleges – are female, but the percentage is believed to be lower at four-year colleges.

Gannon, founded as the all-male Cathedral College in 1925, went co-educational in 1964. SGA’s first female president, Lori Kelly, was elected in 1985, said Kathleen Gausman, SGA faculty adviser and associate dean of student development.

Gannon has had a total of five female SGA presidents: Kelly from 1985-1986; Stephanie Forrest from 1993-1994; Elizabeth Akers from 1996-1997; Deanna Lescovec from 1999-2000; and Nicolette Critelli from 2008-2009, Gausman said.

Erwin said she is excited to begin her year as SGA president and add to the list of women who have served in that role.

“I think it’s great to be one of the few,” she said.

Erwin added that she thinks more women leaders will take charge of SGA and other student clubs and organizations in the university’s future.

“The women of Gannon will always be able to stand strong – to do things around campus and get things done, no matter what position they are in,” she said. “And they will all represent Gannon very well.”

Gausman noted that the executive board generally sees an even mix of men and women, but when the ratio tips in favor of one gender, the students interact among themselves in a distinctly different way.

“I have noticed that there is definitely a different style of leadership and communication when the board is primarily one gender,” she said. “I’m not making a judgment on good and bad – it is just different.”

Mastro said the executive board has been meeting regularly to transition into their new roles and establish goals for next year, one of which is to establish effective communication.

“We have a lot that we want to do, and it is such a surge of power and inspiration that will hopefully diffuse out to the rest of the General Assembly and even the student body,” she said. “It is a great time to get people excited about SGA and raise awareness of what we actually do as the governing body.”

Erwin agreed.

“I know we are all excited to get started,” Erwin said, “and make it a productive year.”


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