There is no community like the Celt community, according to student body presidential candidate and junior accounting major Rosa Sotelo.
Sotelo and other student leader candidates for the 2019-20 school year spoke at a debate forum on March 5 in Cullen Hall, which was attended by a scant 15 people and mediated by Assistant Dean of Students Amanda Villanueva.
Student leader voting is open to students through Blackboard as of March 6 and will close March 8 at 3 p.m.
The timeline for voting was supposed to be March 5-7, but was extended after technical difficulties with Blackboard caused the process to be suspended temporarily. An email sent to students by Villanueva on March 6 stated that all votes cast prior to the suspension were removed, meaning that students who voted before the technical difficulties will need to vote again.
Positions up for election correspond with the new student organization structure approved Jan. 25 and include student body president, vice president of diversity, chief justice, vice president of senate, vice president of campus activities, vice president of treasury, vice president of campus initiatives, and sophomore senator.
Four student body presidential candidates are running, and all attended the forums: Terencia Blackshure, junior communication and psychology major; Nadin Fallah, junior international business major; Carlos Gutierrez, senior marketing and accounting major and Rosa Sotelo, junior accounting major.
Under the new organizational structure, the student body president will oversee all student organizations and positions, including the Student Government Association vice president (the previous position of SGA president has been dissolved) and the vice president of the treasury.
At the forum, student body presidential candidate Sotelo said that in the past, the SGA president represented students, but that this new “government doesn’t have to rely on the Student Government Association to do anything.”
“This position is completely separate,” she said, “so they have more time to completely devote to representing your concerns, your opinions, your voices, on the administration. It’s a really awesome opportunity, because you won’t have to be bogged down by the senate, but also you can fully, 100 percent, dedicate your time to this job.”
Candidate Blackshure said she considers engaging with students the No.1 opportunity provided by the new student body presidential position, and candidate Gutierrez made a similar point.
“I think as a new position, and [this is] specially a challenge previous administrations have faced, is basically… this issue of recognition,” Gutierrez said. “I see that as an opportunity to get out there and speak to every student individually.”
Candidate Fallah called the the student body president “an empowerer; being a stepping stone to students’ success.”
Moderator Villanueva asked the candidates how they would try to persuade potential students to come to UST, and what sets the UST campus apart.
Sotelo said she would tell people how great UST is through orientations, showcase Saturdays, and visiting other schools, while Gutierrez said he would mention UST has a community that “can’t be replicated anywhere else.”
Fallah said she would draw attention to UST’S smaller class sizes and Catholic identity, while Blackshure said she would highlight the way UST students can “manifest themselves into who they want to be” and how the University can enhance any student career-wise.
Each candidate gave a different approach to making his or her presence known on campus if elected.
Fallah said being the student body president means forming a lot of relationships on campus and beyond, and increasing social media presence to maximize exposure so students know who their student body president is.
Sotelo said she would try her best to attend on-campus events and be accessible to students through office hours.
Gutierrez said he wants to implement open office hours where students “concerns and issues can be heard an relayed back to the administration and officials of this university.”
Blackshure said she would try to show her personality more and engage as much as possible with students.
The two candidates for the vice president of diversity position, Samaria Herbert, junior international studies major, and Emily Olvera, sophomore pre-pharmacy major, also summarized their plans if elected.
“I want to create a safe space for students to highlight their cultures and feel like they truly belong here at UST,” Herbert said. “My goal is to create an event every month that highlights a different culture on campus, whether it be a movie night or a cultural dinner; no event is too big or too small.”
Olvera said she plans to implement Hispanic heritage-, Asian-Pacific heritage- and Black History Month-programs, focusing on education about culture.
“I want to make UST a home for every culture, every shade of skin, every background,” she said. “ I want to carry on what our ancestors and activists fought so hard for: the ability to feel comfortable in our own skin regardless of where we came from.”
She also said she wants to create events to celebrate first-generation college students.
Chief justice candidates Youssef Ahmed, sophomore biology major, and Anita Creech, junior political science major, also participated in the debate.
“I have three major reasons why I’m running for chief justice,” Ahmed said. “The first is I really have a passion for mediating discussion; two is I have experience with judicial council procedure already…[and] Three, I live on campus so I’m easily accessible.”
In contrast, Creech said she doesn’t have experience in judicial council, but can offer extensive leadership experience as captain of mock trial and a member of senate, along with a fresh perspective.
Vice president for treasury candidates include sophomore criminology and theology major Anthony Aquila and graduate accounting major Andy Prada.
Anthony Aquila said he served on SGA for a year and a half, which he said gives him “experience on recognizing recurring flaws.” He noted that he was also part of the process for the new, recently approved constitution.
Prada said he has experience with funds and works well with non-profit organizations.
Sophomore communication and political science major Jack Dowling is the only candidate running for SGA vice president. Dowling said he will focus on running a “transparent’ and “honest” senate.
Sophomore psychology major Eveleny Plata, the only candidate for vice president of campus activities, said she would emphasize the community at St.Thomas.
Junior political science and international studies major Katrina Ngyuen is the only candidate for vice president of campus initiatives. “As a Celt, I know that we train leaders that are passionate about their job, but I want to train leaders who are compassionate about others,” Ngyuen said.
The debate also included sophomore senator candidates Salvatora Aquila and Heather Luu.
Aquila, freshman criminology and theology major, said he is very passionate about making UST a home for everybody.
Luu, freshman political science major, said she wants to make sure students voices are heard and create a more collaborative culture between the University and the city of Houston. She also said she wants to create volunteer events that will benefit UST’s community and the local community.