Augsburg’s weekend and day student body presidents have a lot on their plates. In addition to taking classes and maintaining a personal life, they each have the added responsibility of representing hundreds of students.
Christine Smith is the weekend college student body president. She is a communication studies major from St. Paul. Houa Lor is the day college student body president. He’s a sociology major with a minor in political science, and he is also from St. Paul.
We talked with Christine and Houa about their responsibilities, challenges, and ideas. While their constituencies have some differences, it seems they also have a lot in common. And, perhaps not surprisingly, the presidents’ advice to the students they represent is very similar.
Congratulations and good luck to both Christine and Houa!
Why did you run for student body president?
Christine: I’ve done things like this before, and it was a good experience. And right now I have the time for it.
Houa: I tell my friends it’s a calling. I have been in several leadership positions, so this was just the next step for me.
What are your main responsibilities?
Christine: My responsibility is to help with communication between staff, faculty, the weekend senate, and the student body. I need to be a voice and an example to weekend students and contribute to the mission of the College.
Houa: My responsibility is to really listen to the students and to see what they are concerned about. I really want to be an advocate for students and a liaison between students and the faculty and administration.
What concerns are you hearing from students?
Christine: Students talk to me about parking and bus cards. My personal concern is that weekend students do not have the same interaction with staff and faculty that day students have. I don’t think they [students] know about resources, benefits, and amenities like the fitness center.
Also, I don’t think there is a sense of community in the weekend program, and that’s something I want to work to improve.
Houa: Students have a lot of financial concerns about financial aid and tuition. I’ve heard that through the three years I’ve been here, so it’s not new. Students want to work with departments on costs; for example, with food on campus.
What ideas do you have for making changes or improvements?
Christine: Weekend students are on a mission. They need their college experience to help them fulfill and reach their goals, so their education really needs to yield something. We are trying to make opportunities for students to network with employers while they are on campus. So many educated, qualified people can’t find the right fit once they graduate, and we want to help.
Houa: We are looking at the food policy and also the Augsburg Experience requirement. We would like to add criteria to make sure that students in leadership roles could use that experience to meet the requirement.
We didn’t want to set too many goals; instead, we wanted to come with a few ideas that could be accomplished this year. I told the senators that some ideas we have might not take effect this year. We may not see the results, but we still need to get the ball rolling.
What challenges do you face?
Christine: Finding the time to do everything—meetings, organizing, research, networking. I am also working on trying to adapt and be organized as things change. The weekend senate is new, and it’s always challenging when you have something new.
Houa: I think a challenge for students is how to feel empowered; they need to know that they have a voice. Student government is here to listen and make sure students know their opinions are valued. Sometimes I feel like I can only do so much, so it’s about helping students know who they can go to for that empowerment.
If you had the opportunity to speak to the entire student body, what would you say?
Christine: I would say, “Talk to the person next to you.” Education is a beautiful thing and can enhance your life and your family’s lives, but until you can communicate with people, you will be missing opportunities. Facebook and social networking are great, but meeting people face-to-face is how you make connections and build relationships with them.
Houa: One of the things I try to do is to make sure to focus on relationships, networking, and making connections. I keep the mission in the back of my mind and really try to live up to it. In order to be informed citizens, critical thinkers, responsible leaders, and thoughtful stewards, we need to build relationships with people where we can come together to have a conversation with each other.