Juniors Mason Schara, former MSA chief of staff, and Kelsey Haberberger, Summer Welcome student coordinator, are running for Missouri Students Association president and vice president, building their campaign around “Connecting Mizzou’s Stripes.”
“The whole premise of that is bringing the whole campus together and having it be a strong front,” Schara said. “Kelsey and I’s main mission, to be honest with you, is that we really want this to be a home away from home for everyone.”
Upon arriving at MU, Schara said he had no guidance or help.
“I was alone,” Schara said. “Mizzou really greeted me with open arms, in every sense, and it’s a very open and accepting place. But I think that there are still people who don’t know that and can’t really call Mizzou home. … And with that we formed the four pillars that are our campaign.”
The first pillar of Schara-Haberberger campaign is outreach, aimed at representing the many diverse organizations on campus and connecting them with MSA and each other.
Schara said he was shocked when he learned that many of the presidents of the student governments had never met before as a group, something he hopes to change with the Outreach pillar of his campaign.
“(Outreach) focuses on sitting down monthly and having meetings with the presidents of all the large organizations,” Schara said. “… Something that (MSA has) been getting in the past is that while we’re representing the undergraduates we’re not really representing the diverse groups on campus.”
Schara said the apparent division between MSA and student governments represents a fundamental contradiction within MSA’s structure that needs to be resolved.
“Something that I am angry about and have been angry about since I was a freshman has been trying to get people to change how Senate functions,” Schara said. “You need to talk to your constituents. If you’re representing the Arts and Sciences school, you need to go sit outside of the Arts and Sciences school and tell people what you’re voting on next week … and ask them what their opinions are.”
Another way that MSA can become closer to and more supportive of other organizations on campus is by utilizing overlapping goals, Schara said. He suggested that MSA committees work with similar committees of other organizations.
Schara also said that this concept of expanding MSA’s capacity to work with other organizations can be extended to joint session. This could be solved by creating a cheat sheet that informs Senators on how other organizations operate. This allows for a smoother, less confused joint session, Schara said.
The transparency pillar comes down to having greater visibility on campus and encouraging communication between MSA and the student body it represents.
“We really want to increase the visibility of our auxiliaries,” Schara said. “Obviously, we want to keep the website up-to-date with all of the legislation we’ve done in Senate.”
Schara said he plans to continue the online updates started by the current administration that illustrate how they achieve their promises.
The slate has a straightforward, intuitive approach to connecting with students with an event called “a picnic with the presidents,” Schara said.
“(It) would be Kelsey and I standing outside talking to people and letting them know what MSA is doing,” Schara said.
Schara wants to give students more say in the speakers and performers that come to campus, praising the current administration for doing an excellent job but saying that students could have unique opinions that MSA never thought about.
The third pillar, awareness, is intended to raise student awareness about the vast amount of resources available to them and making students more comfortable utilizing them.
“We want (each resource center) to have a month of the school year,” Schara said. “During Summer Welcome, it was pretty overwhelming going through that involvement fair and seeing all those different things you can get involved in.”
Another part of this pillar involves offering greater assistance and more options to students facing financial and housing difficulties.
“We have about twenty people reported on campus that are considered to be homeless, and once I heard that kind of statistic, I said, ‘Absolutely not, that needs to change,’” Haberberger said. “So the idea would be to partner with Residential Life or potentially with another donor of an apartment or a room in a hotel and allow students to have a couple of days or a window of time where they could get back on their feet, but while they’re doing so, meet with the resources on campus, connecting their stripes if you will.”
Schara said he and Haberberger will complete this initiative to some extent even if they do not win.
“Win or lose, Kelsey and I are focusing on this,” Schara said. “No matter what.”
The restrengthen pillar of the Schara-Haberberger campaign is far-reaching, targeting various sections within MSA and improving them, making them available to more students. Some plans involve working with the RSVP Center to rebrand and expand the Green Dot Program, working with the Craft Studio to increase attendance and visibility and pushing KCOU and MUTV to work with other organizations for mutual publicity.
He said he also hopes to make changes within the Department of Student Services with a focus on international students, veterans and non-traditional students, who he said are undergraduates like everyone else but are generally not represented.
Formerly involved with MSA Outreach, Schara noted that the program started off very successful but become increasingly less organized and efficient as it took on a great range of tasks. It could be improved by having a more singular focus.
“Something I think that Outreach needs to focus on is organizational conversations,” Schara said. “While I’ll be having those meetings, … I think they need to actually go out, (and) to table more, … I think talking to students will really change the perception of MSA.”
In regard to the budget, Haberberger said she has gone to current MSA Vice President Zach Beattie for inspiration and is confident that she will be able to have the tough conversations necessary to creating a fair, workable budget. She also noted that she, without former involvement in MSA, will be able to bring needed outside perspective.
“I’m not really one to shy away from hard conversations, and I think that is going to be what happens,” Haberberger said. “I really think that if we can sit down and talk with each other and figure out what really needs to be accomplished, it can happen.”
Schara believes his experience as chief of staff in the last year renders him more capable than his competition.
“I think the one thing that’s really going to be helpful if Kelsey and I win is the fact that I was there during the entire budget crisis, and I helped make the decisions on the budget cut. Connor (Hickox) and Luke (Blackburn) were there during the budget crisis, but they weren’t there in the decision-making,” Schara said.
The Schara-Haberberger campaign hopes to go one step beyond making the 2014-15 school year a successful one.
“Yes, we want to do a lot while we’re in term, but we want to secure that MSA is successful for (years) to come,” Schara said. “We want to secure the longevity of MSA.”