Fresh off a new St. Norbert College Student Government Association election cycle, the campus community is embracing a new year of leadership. As always, new blood is a source of excitement and everyone is very excited to get to know the new students who will be standing as representatives for the student body.
This upcoming year, SGA features two young women in high leadership positions that are also dedicated members of the Honors Program: President, Elisha Jaeke and Vice President of College Relations, Sarah Rolfs.
The two newly elected members offered to share a bit about their past campus involvement and their future plans for the organization and the campus as they begin their terms.
Q: What are you studying at St. Norbert?
Jaeke: I am a double major in Biology (biomedical concentration) and Spanish.
Rolfs: I am studying Biology (Biomedical concentration) but I have no clue what I want to do with that major yet!
Q: How did you decide you were going to run for SGA? What drove you to your particular position?
Jaeke: After experiencing just how much can be done when students work together toward common goals through previous involvement as a class representative, it seemed natural that I run for an executive board position to deepen my personal involvement and work to widen the scope of SGA's impact. It did take a lot of time and consideration before deciding to run for the presidency. What swayed me was the possibility of working alongside other members of the team to develop a platform and articulate a feasible direction SGA could take to better address student needs and include crucial campus voices.
Rolfs: I wanted to hold the office of Vice President of College Relations for a few reasons. I felt equipped to handle the job as my involvement in previous organizations has given me practice with leadership, conflict resolution, communication, and teamwork. I knew I wanted to hold a leadership position in SGA but I wasn't sure of where I wanted to end up. After going through the E-Board positions in the constitution, I saw that VP of College Relations would fit my interests the best. SGA has so much potential, and I have a strong desire to work to make it a better representation of the student body. My roommate, Elisha Jaeke, has also been a representative for two years and we had shared interests and goals for the association. After talking with her earlier this year about the future of the association, we decided to dive into it together. Elisha and I have worked together in a variety of environments and we balance each other out well.
Q: Have you been involved in SGA in previous years?
Jaeke: I have served as a Class of 2020 Representative for the past two years (with a semester-long hiatus during my time as an international student in Quito, Ecuador). Throughout this time, I have served on several campus committees and internal SGA committees, chairing the Student Empowerment Committee and leading the Affordability Task Force.
Rolfs: I didn't know much about SGA until the end of my freshman year when I was elected as a Class Representative. After being a part of the association for two years, I was able to learn about St. Norbert and become involved in ways I had never thought of before. I found my interest in student government increasing as I learned more about my own passions and saw the ways SGA could make an impact while fostering my own personal growth.
Q: How else are you involved in campus?
Jaeke: As the 2018-19 Newman Civic Fellow, I have worked closely with the development of the first-generation college student initiative, Proud to Be First. Additionally, I serve as secretary for the American Medical Student Association, and was a participant on the International Medicine Trip to the Dominican Republic this past January. I am also a member of the Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Sigma Iota honor societies, and work as both a Biology Teaching Assistant and the Honors Student Programming Coordinator. As part of the Residential Themed Communities program, I am also a volunteer with the Jefferson Elementary Boys and Girls Club, and I'm a member of Concert Choir.
Rolfs: I have been involved in a few organizations throughout my time at SNC. In the past, I have been involved in Pen Pals and National Residence Hall Honorary. Presently, I am involved in Student Government Association, Alpha Xi Delta, TRIPS, Residential Themed Communities, and Order of Omega.
Q: How was the election? Was it stressful? Was it enjoyable?
Jaeke: This election brought with it a new level of stress and tension that I don't think anyone was anticipating nor meaning to create. Everyone who ran for office truly cares about molding this campus into a better, more equitable place, so the week of campaigning brought student concerns and college issues into a more public light. While that part was extremely positive and beneficial, I do know that the politics of it got ugly at several points, and I want to reach out and apologize for anything unintentionally hurtful that came from campaigning. Nothing was done out of malice on either side. While those directly involved have been active in discussions, I want the larger campus community to know that we are more than willing to personally discuss anything from the campaign that would, to any extent, hinder working together for the greater good.
Rolfs: The election, although quite stressful at times, was great for the campus. More students than ever were involved in the different campaigns going on, which is ultimately the best outcome I could hope for, regardless of what future the results would bring. A main goal Elisha and I talked about was simply creating more of a presence for SGA on campus, which definitely improved during the election. I was immediately thrilled and humbled when I heard that I had won my position. I realized that the crazy election week had given me a unique opportunity and that it was time to get to work.
Q: What plans do you have for SGA in the next year?
Jaeke: Throughout my time on campus and especially during my time as a representative, I have seen that affordability is something that hits students particularly hard. I've been active in conversations across campus having to do with steps the college can take toward improving access, and I am excited to see how these actions can benefit students in the future. Additionally, our team would like to work toward more internal SGA reform, particularly in reworking our outdated constitution, as well as making executive board and general assembly members more accessible to the students they are representing. In addition to this reform and outreach, I believe SGA will be crucial in following up on issues that are being handled outside of the scope of the governing body itself, notably Title IX. This will be done while also pushing for improvement and campus-wide cultural changes in the realm of environmental sustainability and better supporting students of backgrounds and identities that often lack representation.
Rolfs: Our team has a lot of plans centered around inclusivity and empowerment of students, particularly underrepresented groups on campus, and creating reform internally in SGA that will allow it to be a more accessible resource for students for years to come.
Q: What are you going to bring to SGA?
Jaeke: I believe that compassionate leadership, with equal parts listening and acting, is what I bring to the table. I want to use this position as a way to amplify voices and push toward a more open and receptive campus climate committed to putting power behind student voices and ideas.
Rolfs: I am excited to bring my passion, experience, and enthusiasm to the leadership in SGA. I find so much value in collaborative and empathetic leadership, and I am prepared to use this platform to represent student voices to the best of my abilities.
Q: Is there anything you're particularly excited for in your upcoming positions?
Jaeke: I am so very humbled and incredibly optimistic to work with and for students throughout the 2019-20 academic year. Building sustainable connections and continuing the push toward a more accessible, representative, and legitimate student governing body is, in my eyes, an attainable reality that I look forward to building together.
Thank you, Elisha and Sarah, for taking the time to talk to about your experiences, we look forward to seeing your leadership contributions next year!