SG presidents leave legacy for successors

Every time University of Miami students walk past the new U statue by the Rock, they probably do not think about alumni Christina Farmer or Brandon Mitchell, two former Student Government (SG) presidents who conceptualized the project and moved it along.

Instead they think of 2012-2013 SG president Nawara Alawa and her executive board, as they unveiled their first completed project in office in October 2012.

It is platforms like these that have promoted the seamless transition from ticket to ticket over the years, and it is the responsibility of SG president Bhumi Patel to ensure that this pattern continues.

Due to the one-year time constraint, it is essential for presidents to remain in constant communication during the vital transition period. This is not only a time to show the newbies the ropes, but also to align old and new platforms and ideas.

After campaigning against two other tickets, then Speaker of the Senate Farmer and the UFirst ticket were elected to office in February 2010. Despite the fact that a key member of her ticket did not return to UM in the fall, Farmer’s administration managed to complete the majority of proposed platforms, including the farmers market, ICEE machines in the C-store and a textbook rental service at the bookstore.

“An overall thing that I’d be most proud of is just making SG more student-friendly and creating an environment where students really believe that SG was actually there for them and can actually accomplish goals,” Farmer said. “… Brandon and Nawara have definitely continued that on.”

One of the major reasons that transitions have been so successful over the past few years is that newly elected presidents have held key positions within SG. Patel, who was elected this past February, will continue this pattern.

Mitchell was elected president as a member of the Taking U Forward ticket after serving as the Category 5 Chair in 2010-2011. Some of Taking U Forward’s most noted accomplishments include the redesign of the University Center, late night dining and Design-A-Course.

“Overall, I’d probably say the [change in] culture [was our biggest accomplishment] … we wanted to get the word out that we’re a family at the University of Miami,” Mitchell said.

His successor, Alawa, was elected with a month and a half left in his term. During this time, Mitchell said they were able to “sit down, explain what [they] were doing, try to figure out ways to work what she wanted to do into the greater idea of Student Government, and kind of mesh everything together.”

During Mitchell’s time as president, Alawa served as a member of SG Senate’s Student Affairs Committee, the Parking and Transportation Advisory Board, and as a Civic Engagement Task Force representative. Once sworn in, she and the Inspired by U ticket immediately got to work, increasing on-campus programs and amenities, and changing the academic calendar.

“I think it’s very important to know what’s expected of you,” Alawa said. “I want to see the SG after me be better than my SG was … and to constantly be redefining excellence and what this campus expects from its government.”

From new buildings to changing contracts, Patel and the Power of U team will have a lot to oversee in the upcoming year.

Farmer offered some advice to the newly elected Executive Board.

“Rely on your team, because they’re what got you there,” she said.

Brandon Gross, the 2008-2009 SG president, has been another valuable resource to all three presidents because he currently works in the Office of Admissions.

Having seen an array of presidents, Gross stresses the importance of connecting and conversing with the student body right off the bat in order to best represent them during a ticket’s term.

“Make an effort to reach out to the students,” he said. “Keep them informed, and ask them what they want.”