As spring semester comes to a close and graduation approaches, it means the end for the executive branch of the Associated Students of the University of Utah’s (ASUU) one-year term. Connor Morgan, Maggie Gardner and Xandra Pryor look back on their time serving the school with their favorite moments and the things they have accomplished for the school that students may not be aware of.
Connor Morgan: Student Body President
Connor Morgan is the student body president. He is a senior graduating this May with a degree in biology and political science. During his term, he has tried to make ASUU about promoting resources for students since, according to Morgan, “for better or worse, ASUU has been program-centered.” This does not mean that having programs for students is a bad thing, but helping those events to be more student-focused has been a priority. An example is the upcoming screening of the newest installment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Captain Marvel,” shown in partnership with the Women’s Resource Center.
This partnership is just one way in which the ASUU president is attempting to advocate for students. Another way is through raising the student fee to provide better mental health services on campus. They have President Watkins’ support behind them and were able to successfully propose raising the fee for next semester by eleven dollars. The proposal now just has to be formally approved by President Watkins, the Board of Trustees and the Board of Regents.
Another priority for the year has been campus safety. ASUU members have been working to create ways to make the U safer for students. The steps taken toward making those changes include working closely with existing university safety resources to make improvements, establishing a campus safety task force and ensuring a focus on mental health concerns.
The issue of parking on campus is a problem that many students face, mainly because the U is a commuter school. Morgan said that ASUU has been working on ways to make “commuting services more open with students.” There are some obstacles with parking that may never be solved just because of the way that the school has been set up, but there are already changes that they have made to help make parking easier. Now, most A lots become U lots and pay lots stop charging money after a certain time of day. Commuter Services has been willing to work on these concerns with the student body.
The executive branch has also focused on increasing student involvement on campus. This means helping people find a sense of community at the U when they do not have one, working to make Welcome Week for incoming freshman more exciting and inspiring students to find a group on campus. They have also focused on making it easier for students to find groups that match their wants, simplifying the process of creating a new group and making it easier for student organizations to receive funding.
ASUU has also been working closely with the local government to help students present issues that concern them. There are students involved with the government regulations board as well as ways for them to lobby and learn lobbying skills. Morgan remarked that this is “one of the most effective ways we as a student government get to affect change.”
As Morgan looked back on his year-long service as student body president, he said not every day has been fun but that overall he has had a successful term and loved being student body president. Morgan lamented that it is “unfortunate to only have had a year in this position” because he feels he is still meeting people and wishes he had more time to integrate those people and their plans.
One frustrating aspect for him is that it is hard to get major changes to happen in one year. He compared it to trying to turn a battleship around — it will not happen quickly and it will take a lot of effort. He also recognized that a lot the work he started needs to keep going after he leaves office.
For those wanting to get involved, Morgan said that at ASUU, members are trying to break the stigma of not letting new people get involved. He is proud of the diversity within ASUU’s current leadership. He said he is working to “make student government as representative of the students as possible” but there is still work to do.
Maggie Gardner: Vice President of University Relations
Maggie Gardner is the vice president of university relations. She is also graduating in May with a degree in human development and a minor in disabilities studies. She has participated in ASUU all four years she has spent at the U. She started as a freshman in the First Year Council and then became the associate director of sustainability before finding herself in her current role.
As she reflected back on her time serving as vice president, she is most proud of the opportunity she had to work with childcare centers on campus. A major focus for Gardner has been the students going to school who also happen to be parents.
She recalls a family movie night that was held on campus which she helped to organize that had a turnout of six hundred people. They screened “The Incredibles 2.” She said she remembers seeing two excited little boys in their Incredibles shirts. Gardner said, “I like being able to see populations of students excited and a part of something.”
Gardner also talked about increasing the student fee to twelve dollars to help with mental health issues on campus, money that would allow the U to hire three new staff members. Gardner revealed the school may end up matching the money from the fees to double the cause’s funding. She said that they “hope in the future … to help students succeed.”
Gardner’s advice for those who are interested in joining ASUU is that they should start where they are and work with what they can. “It is really cool to take whatever you are good at and apply it,” she said. She tells students to seek out organizations that appeal to their likes and join them.
She believes that a year-long term is not enough and wishes she had longer in office. She has found ways to be happy with what has been done, however. “All of history has been shaped by individuals doing the best they can and have a part to play.” She said it is “beautiful to be a part of something you can’t control.”
Gardner said her position has helped her learn about herself and the professional sphere, giving her clarity on what she wants to do when she graduates and lending an understanding of bureaucracy and working around red tape.
There are two projects that Gardner looks forward to this spring: a “stress buster week,” which will include a series of events for students trying to get through finals, and applying for the university’s Ivory Prize for Excellence, which awards $10,000 to participants who wish to fund a project. Gardner hopes the funding will turn into a self-generating fund to help student parents.
Xandra Pryor: Vice President of Student Relations
Xandra Pryor is also a graduating senior at the U and was elected vice president of student relations. She was not able to provide information for The Daily Utah Chronicle in time for publication, but she has been hard at work helping to make changes alongside Connor Morgan and Maggie Gardner.
If you are a student who would like to get involved in the ASUU program, you can go to asuu.utah.edu and look into their events or other ways to become more active on campus.