In the last school year, Jamie Cardenas has served as student body president with Carlos Martinez as her vice president. In this interview, Cardenas looks back on her administration.
Hilltop Views: Overall, what would you say your experience as Student Body President has been like?
Jamie Cardenas: I think it’s been a really great experience. I’ve really enjoyed connecting with different people within SEU leadership to be able to talk about what the students need, want and are looking for. Through this position I have had a lot of opportunities to talk about what they maybe are experiencing from the student perspective. I realize that not as many students have the opportunity as I do to talk to faculty, staff, the trustees and say ‘this is what the student experience is like here and these are things that we would like to see better or changed.’ Things like that.
HV: What has your biggest challenge been while in office?
JC: I think the biggest challenge is when you have a goal and a mission and you see things going a certain way but other people don’t see it the same way. So having to communicate what is ultimately going to be best for the association but also for the student body. I think that’s one of the ways that Carlos (vice president) and I work best together. That we can both look at a problem and see two very different perspectives and use those to work together to create a better outcome.
HV: On a scale of 1 to 10- 1 being least successful and 10 being most successful- how would you rate your success as student body president?
JC: I would definitely say between a 7 and an 8. I always think that there is room for improvement and in no way want to claim it’s been perfect because it hasn’t and that’s impossible. But I think we’ve done a great job this year and administration takes us a little more seriously. In that aspect we’ve been very successful trying not to stay put at this one plateau moment and not having all kinds of drama.
HV: What has been your proudest accomplishment as student body president? Be it a piece of legislation or any type of change.
JC: Honestly, I think the aspect I am most proud of is being able to have our meetings with President Martin. To have him come out and address the student body and really give students that face to face contact with him. Being able to provide that has been rewarding and we are really stoked that he is going to be doing it again for us and we are hoping that it’s something that can remain in the years to come.
HV: Is there something you wish you had done differently or better?
JC: I think at first the communication within the administration was hard. Trying to figure out where everyone’s roles were. At first that was kind of rocky but through a lot of conversation and saying anything that has to do with the senate, I go through Carlos or if it is something that he thinks is easier for me to just tell everyone then that’s something that I do. So yeah the communications aspect at first was a little rocky but through conversation with each other we’ve been able to figure out a solid flow.
HV: Let’s look at some specific campaign plans and how successful you think those have been. The most prominent one I think is the promise of a commuter lounge. What have you done about that so far throughout the course of your administration?
JC: We had some conversations with people towards the end of last year and early this year and so within those conversations we came to the conclusion in looking at the master plan and strategic plan. So the thought is that it’s going to be implemented in there in some way. I know from my experience sitting in on the strategic plan. We had a focus group and that’s one of the things that was talked about- the student experience. Hopefully it’s something that will be seen into fruition within these next plans. It just gets so confusing for a lot of students when we say this issue is sitting on so and so’s desk and we’ve brought this up to these people and to students it seems like ‘what does that mean?’ But for us it’s like ‘yes this is really great’ because they’re reviewing it and sending it back to us. So we probably could’ve done a better job at communicating what had happened with it and where it’s going.
HV: How close are we to seeing a commuter lounge?
JC: I don’t know that I can give a specific date just because with it being in discussion and strategic plan and the master plan that are still in discussion and those won’t be finalized until a little ways down the road so i can’t really give you a date. But rest assured that it’s something I’m advocating for.
HV: It looks like your four main platforms are unity, safety, sustainability and accessibility. Let’s talk about some of those.
JC: I was talking to Carlos (Martinez, vice president) the other day and somewhere along the lines we’ve modified our four pillars. I really don’t know how this happened but the four pillars that we’ve truly adapted are sustainability, safety, accountability and accessibility. I think we have made ourselves available to students. And as far as the students who are representatives, we have a lot more that are freshmen this year. We also have our ambassadors who have taken over the hot seat initiative and both of our ambassadors are transfer students.
HV: What was the purpose of the Hot Seat initiative and do you think it’s been effective?
JC: Originally that was a way for us to reach out to students. We like to hope that if students have a need then they’ll come to us but that just doesn’t happen and so we decided that it would really help to have this program where students can be like ‘oh let me go talk to them’. It also helps that the inflatable couches themselves have become an image that people associate with SGA. I think it has been beneficial in that students can now recognize us. But we did see some issues because sometimes students have no idea what to talk about so something that we are doing is giving some sort of prompt or subject. As far as campus safety, we’ve had some students within our safety committee in the senate help to decide upon a campus safety app that should be implemented by next fall. Carlos especially is a very precautionary person. He walked by the seal where all the construction was happening and he saw that it was dark so he shot Scott Burnotes an email and within the next week there were temporary lights put up against the fencing. So that relationship with the office of campus safety is one of the best that we’ve formed this year.
HV: What about sustainability? How have you all addressed that?
JC: So just continuing with the green referendum. Also Carlos and I met with Christina Borden who is responsible for sustainability all over campus and talked about what students are looking for. We’ve compiled all the research that we’ve done throughout and looking at peer institutions. And so we have another meeting coming up again so we can present that here is what we propose, here is what we should do, let’s do it. We’ve also been in open communication with Students for Sustainability and talking about how we can collaborate on things. We’ve also been in conversation with Residence Life on how to make living in the dorms more sustainable. I just think that SEU leadership has a lot of respect for us within the scope of what we’ve been doing and how we hold ourselves and the way we present ourselves in meetings and things like that so the they start trusting us with more and more and so we then have to ensure that we are held accountable so that we continue to have their respect. So, it’s important to have regular meetings with them, and semesterly meetings with Dr. Martin as well, and it’s been really beneficial.
HV: What vision do you have for the next administration?
JC: I hope they continue to sustain these roles and relationships that we’ve created this year. I think it helps us to remain legitimate as an association and it allows us to advocate better for students. I really hope that they are able to keep up with these relationships we’ve maintained with the Office of Campus Safety, with the Health and Counseling Center, as well as with the Vice President of Student Affairs. Hopefully they continue meeting with Dr. Martin. Part of what Carlos and I wanted to do was create a sustainable foundation that’s solid that we can only go up from.