Student senate selects cabinet for 2016-17 year

By Jess Hodge | 4/18/16 12:30am

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GVL / Luke Holmes - Andy Oeffner makes his speech for Student Senate President. The Student Senate held their election in the Pere Marquette Room Thursday, April 14, 2016.


Talking turned into whispers and a hush fell over the room as Maddie Cleghorn and Jorden Simmonds walked to the front of the student senate body.

Cleghorn and Simmonds, student senate president and executive vice president respectively, were about to announce the next president of Grand Valley State University's student-run governing body.

“I would like to congratulate senator-elect Ella Fritzemeier as the next student senate president,” Cleghorn said.

Fritzemeier has served on student senate for three years, making this next school year her fourth. During the 2015-16 year, she served as the vice president for public relations. She ran against two other previous vice presidents: Sean O’Melia, from the campus affairs committee and Andy Oeffner, from the external relations committee. Each candidate was allotted five minutes to give their speech and then 15 minutes to answer questions from the senate body. After, there were 10-minute discussions, which lead into a written vote.

Fritzemeier’s platform revolved mostly around GVSU students and being the voice for them.

“Student senate is not about advocating for your own projects, it is about representing the 25,000 students here at Grand Valley,” she said. “Communicating effectively with groups of people is imperative for the rest of the senate to be successful and advocating on behalf of the student body.”

For internal senate changes, Fritzemeier expressed her desire to make senators feel welcome and supported as they worked on various projects. She also committed to continue working on cross-committee collaboration and to hold all senators accountable. Externally, Fritzemeier focus on three things: senate’s relations with other student organizations, civic engagement with the community and increased opportunities for mental health awareness.

“Being a leader does not mean that you are the boss, instead you are the guider and the vision for the group that works to support whatever is needed to ensure success for everyone,” she said.

Next in line for elections was the position of executive vice president (EVP).

The two candidates were O’Melia and Libby Liebertz. O’Melia won the election and was happy to continue his time on senate.

O’Melia, like Fritzemeier, has served on senate for three years and will serve his fourth and final year as EVP. He vowed to enhance the leadership at student senate and around the university.

“I want to give students an outlet, that’s one of the big things, getting the students knowledge so we aren’t just working on projects that we think is best," he said. “I can focus on being internally successful (so) we can be so externally."

O’Melia talked about his love for student senate and his dedication to be the right-hand man for Fritzemeier and be that sense of support for senators.

"I am passionate about everything I do because it’s what I do,” he said.

After Fritzemeier and O’Melia were elected, hours passed before the entirety of the cabinet was set. The new vice president for the senate resources committee is Jeremy Turnbull. He hopes to support senators as they transition into their professional lives and provide them with leadership opportunities.

The new finance committee vice president is Rachel Travis. She hopes to improve the transparency and consistency of finance appropriations.

The new vice president for the campus affairs committee is Beth Hopkins. She vowed to use her persistent attitude and connections around campus to solve problems that affect GVSU students, such as parking.

Malayna Hasmanis was elected as the new vice president for educational affairs. She hopes to increase collaboration with schools to talk about higher education and to create more inter-committee teamwork.

The new diversity affairs committee vice president is Brandon Fitzgerald, who said he is committed to making the campus safe and comfortable for all types of students and staff.

The new vice president for the external relations is Nikhil Watsa, who wants to focus on showing the Allendale community how and why GVSU students can be a benefit and promote civic engagement.

Noelle Milad was elected for position of vice president of the public relations committee. She hopes to help make student senate more transparent for students and to be a resource for all students.

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