After downsizing the executive cabinet this spring, the Student Association has lost more than half its freshmen membership and plans to redouble its recruitment efforts to revive its younger base.
Student Association President Christian Zidouemba said the number of freshmen on the SA has dropped from about 20 freshmen on the executive branch last term to six this term. He said he did not open applications for executive positions to the entire University, instead opting to encourage freshmen who interacted with the SA at events, like the SA’s orientation event and the student organization fair, to apply.
“I think me being able to have efficiency is key,” he said. “Oftentimes, you have a lot of people, you don’t know how to manage all of them.”
He said about 10 people applied for positions on the executive branch earlier this school year.
Zidouemba said he publicized position openings on the SA’s Instagram and his personal page. He said he focuses on delegating tasks to freshmen, giving them opportunities to prove themselves.
“Those are the students that you have, people who are motivated, people who do their research, people who are willing to do the work,” he said.
Freshmen who joined the SA’s executive branch said they hope to recruit other freshmen and provide resources for mental health.
Freshman Adam Galland – the SA’s acting director of inventory who helps disburse the SA’s budget to student organizations – said he wants to make the allocations process more efficient as a response to this year’s decreased budget. The SA’s budget dropped by $300,000 from its previous term after losing funding for student organizations to the University-Wide Program Fund earlier this year.
“Managing that type of money for students isn’t just a civic responsibility,” he said. “It’s a fiduciary one.”
Galland said he and his fellow freshmen on the executive branch are prioritizing outreach to other freshmen and planning a variety of events for the coming months on both the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses to spread information about the SA’s ongoing work and “mental health initiatives.”
The SA Senate is set to vote on Galland’s nomination Monday night.
Ethan Fitzgerald, a project assistant in the executive branch, said mental health and school spirit are his top focuses for his position. He said he wants to make sure freshmen are aware of the resources offered for mental health and feel comfortable using them.
“Coming out of COVID, as a lot of people went through more difficult times than usual, we have a really great opportunity to destigmatize the issue,” he said.
Fitzgerald said he wants the SA to build partnerships with different student organizations to bring awareness to issues that students are passionate about and how they can get involved. He said he wants to make sure the SA is supporting the social transition for freshmen in addition to the academic one.
“This presents a great learning opportunity and a great opportunity to advocate for mental health and for school spirit and connection,” he said.
Jenna Do, the director of first-year outreach, said she hopes to create a lounge for commuter students to help build community, and she hopes to create a “mentorship program” between upperclassmen and freshmen. She said she plans to reach out to student organizations that focus on mental health to recruit people to participate in the program.
Do said the SA is planning to collaborate with the Residence Hall Association to hold events designed to connect freshmen with the SA and the larger campus community. She said the executive branch is considering distributing food near the Mount Vernon Express stop during midterms to provide stress relief for students on the Vern.
Do said she has plenty of support from senior SA executive branch members to guide her in her position.
“If I need assistance, then I’m not completely responsible for managing every single other sector of the executive board,” she said. “I’m more so guided by other seniors or upperclassmen.”
Do said she will focus on listening to students’ wants and communicating them to the rest of the executive branch to improve policy. She said while collaborating with other SA members and student organization leaders might be “intimidating at first,” she hopes to strengthen her communication skills by participating in events and meetings.
Special Adviser to the President Sinan Kassim said he works directly with Zidouemba to promote inclusivity and engagement with the SA. He said promoting a culture of respect will help unify the body.
“I believe that representation will go a long way in creating that same environment within all of the students here at GW,” he said.
Kassim said he is optimistic that his experiences in the SA will foster his development as a leader. He said he hopes to hold “roundtable discussions,” which would bring together administrators and students to have “honest conversations” about inclusivity and unity on campus.
“That’s something that I’ve directly been working on to help connect first-year students and all students to our administration to talk about ideas and what we can do better here,” he said.