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SGA Presidential Candidate Profiles

Name: Denisse Molina-Castro

Major: Political Science

Classification: Senior

Brownsville Vice President: Alondra Galvan

Edinburg Vice President: Peter Averack

Executive Ticket Name/Slogan: UTRGV Voice

Why are you running for Student Government Association president? “I had the pleasure of serving as one of the vice presidents this past year, and I felt there was still a lot of work that needed to be done, and that there [are] still a lot of issues that we as student government need to continue to work on. That’s my primary factor that motivated me to run for president.”

What experience do you have related to the position you are seeking? “As I mentioned, I had the opportunity to serve as one of the vice presidents for the first inaugural year. Aside from that, I’ve also been involved in other organizations, like NSLS, National Society of Leadership and Success. I was part of the executive board there. I’ve developed other leadership skills in other jobs where I have had in campus and off campus. I currently work as a student assistant in Student Involvement. I’ve also had the opportunity to intern in various departments and offices in Cameron County and Congressman Filemon Vela.”

What are some of the challenges facing the student body and how do you plan to address them? “I think some of the challenges mainly arise from the lack of communication between our university, between departments, staff, students. Sometimes the way that the information gets handed to the students can be conflicted, which generates a lot of misinformation, and arise, issues arise from that. I feel that us as student government, we have to be more transparent with the students, and there needs to be that communication within the university and the students. That is something that we have to work on, and uniting all the departments, making sure that all the departments are on the same page. Like from

Advising to UCentral to Student Involvement and making sure that they have the same information [and that] the same information goes out to the students.”

Do you think there is tension between the campuses? If so, why? “Having served as one of the vice presidents of Brownsville, I do feel that there is this tension. It’s just maybe because there is change, there have been a lot of changes, and for a long period of time we were used to having things just a specific way, like either the UTPA or UTB [part]. Changes are always something that is hard; it’s hard for an individual, even as a person it’s hard to adjust to certain things. So I believe that changes, because things are changing, because things are being different, that’s why there might be this tension versus, like, this campus and the other campus, but, having served as one of the vice presidents, we as student leaders must set that example. We need to be the example for everyone, not just for our students but for the departments, for the administration. We want them to, like if as SGA we can work together and we can accomplish great things, working together as one campus, then we’re gonna be the example. That’s what I wanna do, that’s what I have instilled this year serving as the vice president, that’s what I wanna continue to do. We need to be the example so things can start changing around the university. As student government we are in both campuses. We are one SGA but we are in both campuses, and we have, yes we have had rocky issues within the SGA, but we have become one SGA. There’s, like, that connection between students. Students are traveling; our SGA members are traveling to Edinburg, Brownsville. They’re going to other events in other campuses, so they’re more open to the idea of this one university.”

How do you plan to unite students on both campuses? “I feel like if I do get elected as president, it starts with me. I, this past year,

although I served as one of the vice presidents for a specific campus, I still traveled to Edinburg. I still got to interact with other students from Edinburg. I still attended events. So, as a student leader I have to be doing that. There is time, there is always that time. I’ve made time adjustments to my schedule to be in one campus at one time and the other campus at one time. If I can’t do that, just scheduling meetings. I feel that it starts from one person; I have to set the example for the rest of the administration, for the rest of SGA. Not being negative. There are great things that every campus has, like; we are unique in a specific way. Brownsville has, like, a beautiful campus, and yes it might be a smaller, like, geographical area, but there are a lot of great things a student can experience by coming to the Brownsville campus. Edinburg had a bigger campus, but they have all this cool, like they have athletics on that side. You can go watch a game, you can ride shuttle, go to a game, interact with professors. They’re unique in their own way, and students need to experience both campuses.”

How do you plan on getting the student body more involved in university affairs? “We were really successful this year in Brownsville. We hosted a lot of events, I know sometimes, we invited the media, and we collaborated with other departments. Among some of those events were your town halls, tablings or you just come in and have lunch with SGA. We got invited to other events, like the Fresh Start Conference. So, just us being involved with the student body, we had a great turnout. This year we have more people seeking positions, and still asking [after the deadline passed]. The elections, the applications, closed. There’s a lot of interest in people wanting to join, wanting to be involved in SGA. That’s how I plan to continue doing this, continue to do this in all campuses. Let’s say there’s an involvement fair, having SGA tables in both locations, or there’s this going on, having tablings, or just us as student representatives attending events. That’s something that I would like to continue doing.”

What are your goals for the 2016-2017 academic year? “My goals are to be active, active and proactive, as I call it. We already have some issues that are in need of immediate attention; one of them has been, like, the Vaquera resolution that’s in committee that hopefully has been passed. Another thing is that you don’t stop there, other resolutions need work. You can expect to see SGA everywhere being productive, being active with the students, attending events, hearing the students, inviting students, making sure that everyone can attend the senate meetings. … That’s what they can expect with me as a president. Also, an open invitation, making sure that if I do become president, I am accessible and available to students, making sure that if a student wants to meet with me I have the time, I make an appointment, and we can sit down and meet and discuss any issue they’re having.”

— Compiled by Felipe Zamorano

 

Name: Rodrigo Gonzalez

Major: Civil Engineering

Classification: Sophomore

Brownsville Vice President: Imran Murtuza

Edinburg Vice President: Marisol Castillo

Executive Ticket Name/Slogan: “Together we can”

Why are you running for Student Government Association president? “Well, I’ve been a student here since 2013 and as an international student I went through a lot of struggles here at the university. My most recent one was when I was trying to get employment here on campus because as an international student you can only get employment here on campus. So, I faced the reality that even though this university supports and cares a lot for their students, there are many things to improve and I didn’t know about student government until 2015. So, those are two years where I was struggling there by myself. That made me think that we need a very approachable and more strong, outgoing Student Government Association. In 2015, when we were facing the closing of UTPA and UTB and in the process of becoming UTRGV, I discovered that it was a really good opportunity to start from zero, SGA in UTRGV. Since then I got the idea of running for president. First, I wanted to say, it is going to start from zero, so let’s try first another position, and then see if the year starts good, then I’m not going to run, but if there [is] a lot of room for improvement, then I’m going to run, then I’m going to try my ideas and try how it is going. So this year, it was a very kind of hard year. There were a lot things that were left in the blank, and student government, I can say that in this inaugural year of UTRGV wasn’t that strong, not that outgoing, so we just dragged what we were carrying all the way from UTPA and UTB and we just placed it here at UTRGV, and so I said like, ‘OK, we can do way a lot better,’ and that’s why I’m running for president, to push more student government, to make it more [known] to our students and our community.”

What experience do you have related to the position you are seeking? “I believe the position of the Student Government president, more of the students in school see it as a privileged position. When you hear president, you’re immediately thinking power. The truth is, and what i’m convinced and I believe, it is not a powerful or a privileged position. It is a position to serve. So, my experience is that as a student employee, as an orientation leader during the summer, and now at the Office of International Admissions, I’m just really used to hearing concerns and communicate it to people, and that is my main source of experience. I’m used to students getting mad at me when I’m not guilty. I’m used to hearing concerns, from very easy ones like, ‘I cannot log into my UTRGV account’ all the way to very difficult ones, like ‘I’m about to get deported, what can I do?’ When someone tells me that they need help, I just feel the necessity to help them. I’m not one of those persons that can see someone crying out for help and do nothing about it. That’s the reason why I’m running for this position. I live the struggle, I’ve seen the struggle every day and I want to fix that, and I have that serving experience. But if we would like to go even more into background, when I was in my Catholic high school, I served in a lot of charities and foundations with the Catholics, so I’m really used and I like to do service for other people.”

What are the challenges facing the student body at UTRGV and what are your plans to address them? “Just like I say, I hear it every day. However, now that I’m running and that I’m doing this campaign I have seen way more. Sometimes you see a mess, but once you go try to clean it you discover that there’s a bigger mess. I can seriously tell you that parking, transportation, employment,  , misrepresentation, school spirit, even ecological initiative in this university are missing and the students tell me that. … Recently, I met with the soccer team and they told me ‘We don’t have school spirit and they said like it’s going to be really hard for us because in the first place, students don’t like neither the name of the university or the mascot.’ So, we have a really big challenge, how are we going to construct or how are we going to push school spirit when in the first place nobody likes the name. So, that’s a really big challenge, that’s a challenge that our student-athletes are facing. Our international students, some of them come from very far places, and some of them are making an extra effort to be here. They have chosen UTRGV from the universities of their country and all the way to the United States, and when they get here and they need scholarships or they need employment to pay for their expenses, there’s none or very little opportunities, so that’s another big thing. The parking lot, there’s not a lot of housing options around here or even on campus, so a lot of students have to live very far and they have to come here and park, and parking is either too expensive or not enough. Another challenge to tackle down, a green initiative is a really big thing. We have a lot of eco movements here at the university and they said like ‘Nobody listens to us, nobody cares about what we said, we’re supposed to be a 21st century university but then we’re not acting like one, so what can we do?’ That’s some of the challenges I have been facing on my campaign. Student organizations tell me, ‘We need support, we need someone to be with us, to help us, to walk us through the problems and we don’t get any help.’ We reach for student government and they say, ‘That’s not with us, we cannot do anything about it.’ Instead of having the initiative to help, we just wash hands and throw it out. Student movements, they want to present the initiatives and either the time to get them approved is way too long or it just never happens. Things get twisted and in the end we have another different thing that we propose. I can really go on on what I’ve seen throughout this campaign and throughout this year but I think that would take two or three hours.”

Do you think there is tension between the campuses? If so, why? How do you plan to address it? “I don’t see it more as a tension, I would see it more as a misrepresentation feeling. Students in the Brownsville campus … told me, ‘Edinburg has way more things than us, when are we going to get that?’ and students at the Edinburg campus told me, ‘There were a lot of things that were here at Edinburg and now they’re leaving to Brownsville because they want that in Brownsville.’ I don’t see it as a tension thing, I see it more as a misrepresentation feeling or more like a ‘my bigger brother has this and [I don’t],’ that kind of problem. It is going to be really hard to fix it and override that feeling, but I believe that our first task and the first action that I would take if elected student government president will be my executive cabinet will be split in two, and what I’m planning to do is to [tell] both my vice presidents do not wait when an issue comes out to consult with me or to consult with the whole cabinet to fix a problem. If Imran has something to tackle down in Brownsville, he can have the initiative to fix it the way he believes. If the things require me to intervene or he wants my counsel on it, then I’m going to intervene, but I want that independence, so that way I can be focused more on fixing all these platforms that I’ve been proposing. … It’s not a self-centered campaign, it’s a campaign including all of us and this team and the way we plan it is that way, so that the opinion of all of them matters. Of course, there’s going to be a difference in authority and responsibilities and duties, but they’re going to be independent when they feel they can be and they will be empowered and they will have nice support. That’s the way I plan to tackle this, so that way we won’t be delaying things and we won’t be making students wait like, ‘Can you wait two weeks from now when we have our cabinet meeting to see what we can do?’ We want to tackle this quickly.”

How do you plan to unite students from both campuses? “By promoting both campuses. Let’s suppose an organization can say we want to have our event here in Edinburg because it’s bigger, there’s a bigger population of students, but my input is going to be but Brownsville campus is way beautiful than here. So, if you want a really beautiful image of your event, try in Brownsville, that way organizations that are here in places like Edinburg can go and recruit people in Brownsville, same thing with Brownsville organizations. When I was in the Brownsville campus, an organization told me, ‘You see how we are doing this initiative?’ They were giving away lemonade, they said that, ‘There’s almost no one here.’ I just told them well if you approach me, I will get SGA to help you get your event [publicized] … and present it to the Edinburg campus. So bring down, or disappear completely that barrier of ‘We are from Brownsville. We are from Edinburg,’ and start giving that sense that we are a whole university. I sincerely will not feel uncomfortable at all by taking a class in Brownsville, even though the distance, we are the same university. So, we need to start promoting that it’s no longer Brownsville, Edinburg, it’s UTRGV. That’s how I’m planning to tackle this down.”

How do you plan to get the student body more involved in university affairs? “I would like to answer that question by asking a question. Why [do] people that go to Austin feel so proud to be at Austin? Have you ever seen how even if you go to Florida and you stop at a gas station, you see Longhorn caps or shirts or all of those things. Why is that? Because they promote it so good, because they give incentives to their students because they generate the feeling of belonging to a university, so we need to give that to our students in many different ways. … To give you an example, international students. Let’s make a special shirt for international students so they can go and cheer up our games. OK, well it’s the day of the engineer? Let’s give our engineering students something, an incentive, something that will make them proud to be an engineer at UTRGV. … In order for the students to give us something, we need to give them back. So, it needs to be a two-way street: we give, we receive, they receive, they give. If we promote it, if we have that kind of marketing, students will start loving it here. Me, that I come all the way from Mexico, I would be really proud to go to Mexico with a UTRGV shirt. However, how do you get a UTRGV shirt right now? You have to buy it. I don’t have money to buy a shirt. That’s the way we can do it and that’s the way we will be spreading that spirit and feeling of belonging.”

What are your goals for the 2016-2017 academic year? “I hope that a year from now, I will be able to at least have 70 percent of the student population knowing what SGA is. I would like to have at least 70 percent of the population interested in SGA. Hopefully, we will be having elections by this time next year and we will be having races, not only for executive ticket–that’s always contested–but also for all other positions that didn’t get filled in this year. Students will know that SGA is there, students will go to SGA and we will have a very strong SGA that will be leading other student organizations and the student life here at the community. So, that’s my main goal. Right now, I see that seven out of 10 students don’t know what SGA is. I want that a year from now it is going to be backwards. Only a freshman student that’s been here for a week will not know what SGA is, but the rest of them will know it. They will know their senators, they will know their executive cabinet, they will know their vice presidents and they will know the president and they will see them working, being effective, ethical and they will see SGA as what it really is and what is its purpose, which is to address the students concerns and solve them.”

— Compiled by Bryan Ramos

 

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