Meet the 2017-18 student senate

By Jenna Fracassi | 8/20/17 9:54pm

GVL / Luke Holmes - Kevin Chui makes a comment during the meeting. Student Senate held a meeting in the Pere Marquette room Thursday, Mar. 17, 2016.

As the 2017-18 school year approaches, Grand Valley State University's student senate is gearing up to get back to work.

GVSU's student senate is a non-partisan organization comprised of 50 members divided among seven different committees: senate resources, finance, campus affairs, educational affairs, diversity affairs, external relations and public relations. 

Each committee is appointed a chair who sits on the student senate cabinet, along with the senate president and vice president. Members of the cabinet work individually with their respective committees, as well as collectively, to make sure the goals of the student community are best represented. 

This year, Dan Ziegenfelder, vice president of student senate, hopes to "increase awareness to students about what kind of a resource student senate is for them."  

"We are here to help them, and there are so many ways we can do this through different meetings with administration, sitting on university committees, passing resolutions, etc.," he said via email. "I want students to approach us willingly with what they want or need and know that we are here to listen and work towards making the appropriate changes." 

The overarching goal of student senate is to create a positive campus environment for all GVSU students. The senators work to improve campus safety, academics, student life and more.

According to the GVSU student senate website, the senate "works to investigate and resolve common student problems; advocate for the inclusion of students in the overall policy and decision-making processes of the university community; promote awareness of the role students play in the academic community; enhance the quality and scope of education at the university both inside and outside the classroom; and empower students with leadership opportunities." 

However, in order for senators to implement positive campus changes, GVSU students must be active participants. 

"I would like to see more involvement from the student body in terms of attending general assembly to bring up campus issues," said Kevin Chui, chair of the senate resources committee, via email. "Students should realize that their voices do matter."

Chui hopes to bring forward an "atmosphere where people can feel comfortable expressing their opinions and giving feedback on how to improve campus."

Student senate general assembly meetings are held every Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in the Pere Marquette Room of the Kirkhof Center on the Allendale Campus. There is a public comments portion during every general assembly meeting when all students have the chance to share their comments and concerns. If you are unable to make any of the meetings and still want to have your voice heard, you can fill out a form on the senate website. 

Jakob Bigard, chair of external relations, said he would "like to see students more engaged with the local residents of Allendale and Grand Rapids" because he thinks there is a separation of the two groups. He hopes to spread a message of inclusion this year. 

"The message I hope to send during my time on student senate is that students, regardless of creed, color, gender or religion, have an effect on the university, and student government is one of the best outlets for them to express concerns and seek change on campus," Bigard said via email. "The things I want to bring to GV are not tangible objects, but rather a sense of community and safety to all students. 

GV is a place to learn and grow as individuals and groups, and there is no room for anything that does not contribute to the learning process." 

Madison Rhoades, chair of diversity affairs, echoed the focus of inclusion, saying she wants GVSU to be "as warm and welcoming as we can be." She also noted that she wants "every student at GV to feel like there's someone in their corner."

"I am a big believer in being able to help someone, and if I can't, I want to help provide those resources of someone who can help them, it being students, orgs, staff, social justice centers or the greater community," Rhoades said via email. "I want to bring a strength and empowerment to every Grand Valley student. They are valid, and there is a place for them in the Grand Valley community."

GVSU students are encouraged to volunteer in senate events and even apply to be a senator themselves. To become a senator, you can apply for a vacant seat, run for election or even nominate an individual you think would be a good addition. Visit for more information. 

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