Carr looks to prove himself as new MSA Senate Speaker

Carr’s first full Senate meeting as speaker will be March 18.
Junior Kevin Carr poses for a portrait Sept. 2, 2014, at the MU Student Center in Columbia, Mo.

Late on a Tuesday evening six months ago, junior Kevin Carr left the room so the Missouri Students Association Operations Committee could deliberate his confirmation as Student Affairs Committee chairman. In a 4-2 vote, the committee denied him the position, a move which was unprecedented in recent history at the time.

The Operations Committee approved him the next week, and he would spend the following months leading the committee and becoming a candidate for the MSA Senate speakership.

But when he walked into that very same room on Tuesday for the very first time as the newly-elected MSA Senate Speaker, he still carried with him the stigma of past failure. After all, it's what helped get him there in the first place.

"I think that failure, and especially in the eyes of your peers, creates this seed that stays with you," said Carr, a junior political science and philosophy major. "That seed sprouts out at different points of your life, and the purpose of that is to prove those people wrong. I keep that article that The Maneater published (about being rejected as Student Affairs chair) on my wall, and every day, I look at it at least once. There's a very high desire for me to reclaim that Operations interview by proving them wrong every single day that I can by showing them that I was the right candidate."

At full Senate on Feb. 25, running unopposed, Carr was unanimously elected Senate Speaker. His first full Senate meeting as speaker will be March 18.

Carr said he has three main goals he will be tackling during his term: an improved culture within Senate, better communication with students and more consistency when it comes to long-term goals.

"(Former Senate Speaker) Ben Bolin did a great job, and the majority of what he has built upon has led us into an area where we can really start capitalizing on coming together as a group," Carr said. "We have a weak culture around us. Our members don't know each other too well. For the most part, it's a lot of business."

Bolin said he too believes in Carr.

"Carr will do well as Senate Speaker," he said. "He is self motivated and passionate. Two very important aspects of an effective speaker. At the same time, he will learn a lot. This task sets a number of challenges you do not experience anywhere else. I look forward to hearing of his future accomplishments."

One part of improving the culture is reforming the Senate mentorship program. Modeling his changes after the MU Improv mentorship he founded, Carr said he hopes to boost Senate's retention rate and foster friendships by getting upperclassmen invested in the success of their mentees.

He also hopes senators will interact more with the student body during office hours that double as tabling time in the MU Student Center.

"We have the luxury and privilege to talk and listen to everybody on this campus by physically taking yourself and walking downstairs and talking to people,” Carr said. “That's how you make people understand and appreciate the resources they have available to them. That means that more people will know that we are here for them and that we can be a voice for them, should they need it."

Carr said he wants to establish the "Longbow Committee," a group made up of committee chairpersons, the speaker and other members that will process long-term goals.

"It's very hard as student leaders to accomplish any sort of long-term goals," he said. "Right now, individual chairs maintain those projects and plan ahead for the future. The problem with that is that it's not coordinated, and all that information can be lost as chairs are replaced."

Carr identified successfully lobbying for vegan dining in the Pavilion at Dobbs remodel as a major achievement of his committee, but he credited the members of the committee and not himself.

"My success is owed to the hard work of many people," he said. "My proudest accomplishment is being able to manage well and to delegate well because that gives every person a stake in what's going on. In a volunteer organization like MSA, you have to make them realize that their work is meaningful and that we really appreciate them for it."

Senator Abby Ivory-Ganja, who nominated Carr for speakership, said she believes he will make an "excellent speaker."

"Kevin is approachable, accessible and always genuine," Ivory-Ganja said. "He is adaptable, and he understands there will be roadblocks in projects but encourages you to move past them, to keep going. He wants to see Senate succeed and will do anything he can to make that happen."

To Carr, his new position is a chance to prove how much he cares about MSA.

"You ask yourself, 'How can I care more? How can I give more to the people around me?'" Carr said. "In this case, this is the ultimate act of showing I care, by giving my time, my wisdom, my expertise to all the people around me. I think that if you had the wrong person as speaker, a lot of what we do here would be all for naught."

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