Student government elections prove that hard work pays off
In less than two weeks, Jordan Gonzales and Paloma Mena-Werth became two of the most recognized faces on campus. On March 3, all their hard work finally paid off.
After months of planning and weeks of campaigning, Gonzales, a senior political science major from Morrill, and Mena-Werth, a junior music education major from Kearney, were elected as UNK’s president and vice president of the student body government.
Gonzales and Mena-Werth worked together on the student senate for the past three years, and they believed they had what it took to run the student body government as president and vice president.
“Our years working in the senate and with past presidents and vice presidents gave us a pretty good understanding of both the executive and legislative branch. We were able to adopt styles that we have seen work in the past,” Gonzales said. “We felt that we could have that capacity to serve the students. If we can actually do something, let’s go ahead and do it.”
As Gonzales and Mena-Werth made the decision to run for office, it was not only their experience, but their working dynamic that they believed would make them successful.
“I think one of the main things we have going for us is that, first and foremost we are really good friends,” Mena-Werth said. “We know each other’s leadership and working styles, and we are comfortable with each other. If we think the other person isn’t doing something right, we will let them know.”
After two weeks of tireless campaigning— which went as far as dancing around the UNK fountain to get students to vote— Gonzales and Mena-Werth said they felt a swell of emotions and were ready to get to work.
“OMG was the first thing that crossed my mind after we found out we won,” Gonzales said with a chuckle. “I was very proud and excited, but after the first five minutes it really started to hit me.
I felt really humbled that the students felt confident enough to elect us with such a wide margin.”
With the reality of their roles beginning to set in, both Gonzales and Mena-Werth understood it was their job to serve the students. “It was a reminder that our boss is the students and that we promised them certain things. We have to do our best to give them that,” Gonzales said.
The new leaders plan to sink their teeth into UNK’s food services as the first item on the agenda. With Chartwells’ contract coming to an end, the administration is currently in the phases of examining the proposals of four different food service providers. “We want to get involved with this as soon as possible in order to give the student perspective as well as sit on the food services committee,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales and Mena-Werth’s main concerns in the new food services contract are flexibility in the exclusivity clause to allow campus organizations to bring food on campus whether it is donated or made. They also hope to expand the transfer rate hours for students who may have odd schedules or are unable to eat at the commons during the day.
One of the most heated topics on campus that always seems to arise is parking. Although UNK does not have the funds to build a new parking lot or parking garage, Gonzales and Mena-Werth believe small adjustments will alleviate some of the stress caused by parking.
“We are looking at expanding lots that we have by reallocating spaces, finding ways of fitting more spaces in there, or switching from parallel parking to diagonal parking, We are going to do what we can with the lots we have,” Mena-Werth said.
Gonzales and Mena-Worth also hope to continue the work they achieved on the student senate by working with the administration on a resolution they wrote to transform the lot where Stout Hall once stood into a sand volleyball pit or putt-putt golf course. “Small things like that, on one hand add beautification to the campus, but it’s also a huge recruitment tool.”
With the university’s new budget cuts, one of the things Gonzales and Mena-Werth don’t want to see cut is student jobs. This new space would add more jobs for students on campus. “Whether its work study or just a campus job, students really need that source of income to get through the weekends and other things. They could work out of the ticket office and hand out the materials needed for putt-putt,” Gonzales said.
As the excitement of the recent campaigns begin to calm down, UNK’s new administration hopes to keep students better informed and more involved with student government. Gonzales and Mena-Worth plan to use the resources they already have such as the student bulletin and student newspaper, but their goal is to go above and beyond.
“We plan to expand the executive cabinet to have enough people to go out to the organizations to attend them in their own environment and be able to say ‘What’s going on and what can we do for you?’ We want them to keep us updated,” Mena-Werth said.
They also plan to expand the student body government’s web site to include the university calendar of events, dining services calendar, legislation proposed, upcoming speakers at student government meetings, etc. “We hope students will actually consider coming to a senate meeting if they see something that they find interesting,” Mena-Werth said.
As they being to put their plans and aspirations into action, UNK’s new leaders are excited for what their upcoming term has in store.
“I’m looking forward to being a lot more interactive with the students,” Gonzales said. “We don’t want the programs created to just be part of the Gonzales-Mena Werth administration and then end. We want them to be reoccurring programs year after year. That’s why we are going to be very tedious and get as many people involved as possible.”
With their many plans and aspirations being set into motion for the better good of UNK, Gonzales said it best, “It’s a great year to be a Loper.”