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Op-Ed: SGA and Leadership Development

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Op-Ed: SGA and Leadership Development

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As I come to the end of my fourth year in the Student Government Association, as well as the end of my term as vice president for academic affairs, I have gotten a chance to reflect on my tenure in the association. The core mission of SGA is to have a positive impact on our fellow students, which is often done by representing them to the administration. However, a part of this mission that is often overlooked is the positive impact that SGA has on its own members.

I joined SGA to represent the College of Computer and Information Science, specifically the first-year CCIS students I regularly interacted with. After collecting the signatures required to become a senator, one of the first things I did was go door to door in the CCIS Living Learning Community with another first-year CCIS senator to ask students if they had any issues we could help solve. That pushed me, a shy first-year, way outside my comfort zone, and it would not be the last time my role in SGA required me to step beyond the boundaries of what I was used to.

The Senate also pushed me by forcing me to speak in front of a room of 80 of my peers without a script. It took me some time to gain the courage to talk during meetings, and when I did, I was not very articulate. Over time, I slowly became better at expressing my thoughts, and standing up to voice my opinion in debate became more natural.

In addition to the Senate, I also joined the Student Involvement Board. The board played host to many in-depth debates concerning the recognition status of student groups, allowing me to further improve my public speaking skills. As vice president for academic affairs, I have had the chance to practice management skills, including how to empower others to work on projects they are passionate about.

Through working with administrators, I have learned how to form strong, positive working relationships while negotiating difficult asks. The Cabinet has faced both internal and external challenges this year, each of which has improved my interpersonal skills and ability to navigate difficult situations with compassion, poise and honesty. In my current role, I also get to watch new students find their footing in SGA the same way I did my first year. Members of my committee, who took a month to start talking in meetings, are now contributing to discussions, working on key projects and meeting directly with top administrators.

I am so proud of these students, and helping empower them in carrying out this work has been one of my favorite parts of my role. SGA has helped me learn how to articulate complex ideas, negotiate, maintain relationships, manage people, empower the people I manage, make the decision to go with what is right instead of what is easy and so much more.

I face the end of my time as vice president in both a celebratory and melancholic mood. I am leaving something behind that was an important part of my time in college, but I am also making room for others to have the same experience and growth that I did. I am honored to have served in the role of vice president for academics, and to have had the chance to support others as they grow through their experiences in the organization.

Josh Driesman is a fourth-year computer science and information science combined major.

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Op-Ed: SGA and Leadership Development