MSA presidential slates share platforms, motivations

Top left: Kelsey Haberberger and Mason Schara. Top right: Zac Sweets and Zack Folk. Bottom left: Taylor Major and Dan Paterson. Bottom right: Luke Blackburn and Connor Hickox Courtesy of MSA presidential candidates

Four different slates are running in the Missouri Students Association’s 2013 presidential election. Currently, candidates are only allowed to have a presence on social media and through other indirect contact. The slates will begin hard-campaigning Monday, Oct. 21, in which candidates can have direct contact with their constituents.

The four slates offer a variety of perspectives from increasing school spirit, becoming more involved with government, increasing MSA’s involvement with its auxiliaries and increasing MSA’s connection to students.

Luke Blackburn and Connor Hickox

Luke Blackburn and former MSA Student Affairs Chairman Connor Hickox are campaigning to be MSA’s next president and vice president, leading a campaign based on spirit, connection and advocacy.

“When you think of spirit, you think of foam fingers and fans at a sporting event,” Blackburn said. “But we want to instill this love of MU through promoting the traditions we already have, taking pride in athletics and everything that makes MU what it is, unifying students and athletes and increasing engagement in less-attended sporting events.”

Blackburn said he would want his administration to go beyond praising diversity.

“(All) MSA presidential platforms will have diversity,” Blackburn said. “We want to take that to the next level, celebrating diversity and connecting people, bring the resources we have already to both the student body and a bigger population.”

In regard to advocacy, Blackburn said he is working to advocate for all students and is working with the LGBTQ Resource Center to include gender identity to its list of things for which the center would advocate. If elected, he said he wants to focus on getting his cabinet and students on the same page before making any changes.

“Connor and I know we're only two pairs of eyes, and getting a better feel for the whole student body is huge,” he said. “I think the first thing we would do is (to start figuring out exactly) how to go about making change.”

Blackburn cited his previous experience within MSA as fueling his motivation to become MSA president.

“I have a high knowledge of the institution of MSA, and think I could make this campus more unified and a better place,” Blackburn said. “... We're committed to working everyday to make the campus better to unite Mizzou. That's my motivation.”

Taylor Major and Dan Paterson

MSA Senators Taylor Major and Dan Paterson intend to become the next MSA president and vice president, focusing their campaign on service, One Mizzou and expanding to the state and local levels.

The Major-Paterson campaign comes with plans to expand MSA’s reach with budgetary changes and its auxiliaries.

“The state and local level portion is about getting MSA involved (off campus),” Major said. “In the state level, we want to get a student vote on the Board of Curators. The second part is for the city level. We want to protect students from housing and other issues similar to Aspen Heights.”

Major and Paterson said they want the budget to be transparent, generate more revenue and permit co-funding with other organizations on campus.

Major said that there is not much need for a secretary of auxiliaries and plans to expand the role of the vice president.

"Because the vice president does the budget and has already made the relationships with the heads of auxiliaries, my vice president will also serve as my secretary of auxiliaries, so that we can save money and increase efficiency,” Major said. “He's also going to be my co-president because we only have one year and we need to get as much as possible done once in office.”

Major said his campaign would implement a system allowing auxiliaries to remain independent but holding managers accountable.

"We want the relationship between the auxiliaries and MSA to stay the same, but because they control so much of the budget, we want to hold them accountable and allow Senate to remove leadership if ever necessary,” Major said.

Commenting on his experiences before running for MSA president, Major said he has been very involved on campus, forging important relationships that would allow his administration to have great speed and efficiency.

“(The MSA president) is the only job in which a person is elected and is right there with the people who got him elected,” Major said. “We share their (students) passion, and we understand what students need and in this type of service you get to see firsthand how your work affects the people that you serve. That's the best thing about this kind of job.”

Mason Schara and Kelsey Haberberger

Mason Schara, former MSA Chief of Staff, and Summer Welcome Student Coordinator Kelsey Haberberger are running for MSA president and vice president respectively, forming their campaign around outreach, transparency, awareness and fortifying MSA.

Their slogan, “Connect Mizzou’s Stripes,” is about “connecting all the smaller organizations and larger organizations, so that we're an organized campus front,” Schara said. “It also means connecting all the students who are and who are not involved in organizations.”

Schara said an essential component to the campaign is its fourth tenant, which places an emphasis on strengthening what already exists within the organization rather than focusing on the addition of new organizations and auxiliaries.

“We have all or more programs than other universities,” Schara said. “Most colleges don't have (the programs we do). So, we really just want to internalize and see what we can fix, and branch out and strengthen the bonds that we have.”

Schara said his first objective as MSA president would be sitting with his new cabinet to discuss the current state of auxiliaries and status with other organizations.

“I want monthly meetings with all of the presidents of each of the organizations,” Schara said. “We should have open communication with these different organizations all the time. If we have the connections, we can work together to achieve a common goal that we all want.”

Schara said his motivation to run is rooted in his appreciation for the community and his ability to help provide the same experiences to other, less involved students.

“I found a great community of people who accept me and are open (at MU),” Schara said. “I want to be a person to make it that way for everyone…. I think we can really make this a home for everyone, to make them feel like they belong here and can be who they want to be here.”

Zac Sweets and Zack Folk

Zac Sweets and former Residence Halls Association President Zack Folk are focusing their campaign upon expanding MSA and strengthening its connection with everyday students.

“We want to make sure students really know what the MSA has for them, and (help them find) resources outside of MSA they can take advantage of,” Sweets said.

Sweets said the program-oriented side of MSA will not be diminishing, but he wants to expand the association beyond programs such as Tiger Pantry and Truman’s Closet.

“(We want to) open up experiences and opportunities for students,” Sweets said. “Really affecting what is at the core of each student, be that some of the resources we have currently … to simple, streamlined communication between students and the administration.”

Sweets made a comparison between the association and “Where the Wild Things Are” to explain a fundamental change he hopes to bring to MSA.

“From my time in Outreach, I noticed that the MSA is kind of like the second page of ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’” Sweets said. “Where you see (the child) walking into the new world, and you have these slim trees, and you see the monsters behind them.”

This disconnect between the student body and the MSA will be one of the administration’s primary foci if elected, Sweets said.

“What Zack and I want to do is bring MSA out in front of the trees,” Sweets said. “People know MSA is there, but do they see MSA, do they know who to talk to?”

Sweets emphasized that if he is elected MSA president he would not dive straight in and begin making large changes to how the association works. Rather, he would connect with his administration and collaborate with the outgoing administration to find out what needs to be done and what can be realistically achieved.

“When I started to get involved, and I got involved in MSA, I saw all the great things that it was doing,” Sweets said. “But having that outside view … (helped me realize) that the student government isn’t as strong as it could be…. (We want to) create an outlet for students, and also make sure that the students know that we’re here.”

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