MSA’s first all-female led administration looks to create a legacy of outreach
MSA president, Jennifer Sutterer, and MSA vice president, Mary O’Brien, talk about growing up together and what they hope to accomplish atop the MSA in the next year.
Sep. 17, 2019
The first all-female Missouri Students Association president/vice president power duo look to bridge the gap between the student body and the MU administration.
A small suburb of St. Louis, called St. Charles, housed two girls who would go on to lead a campus of approximately 22,500 students. MSA president, Jennifer Sutterer, and MSA vice president, Mary O’Brien, grew up only five minutes apart.
“We went to grade school together, were in band together,” Sutterer said, “[We] both played the flute and the piccolo,” O’Brien added, “[And we] always fought for first chair!” Sutterer said.
A short separation in high school did nothing to hurt their friendship. Sutterer attended St. Dominic High School in O’Fallon, Mo, while O’Brien attended St. Joseph’s Academy in Frontenac, Mo.
Sutterer knew this was the path she was going to take all along. Drawing from her experience in high school student government, Sutterer immediately wanted to get involved with the MSA.
“I got involved with MSA my freshman year,” Sutterer said. “I was the student body president [in high school] as well. It was such a positive experience. I was able to have a very direct impact on that community and it taught me a lot about leadership and what can be done in those positions.”
However, O’Brien took a very different path to her current position in MSA.
“I did not want to come to Mizzou at the beginning,” O’Brien said. “ [But] that quickly changed through my Summer Welcome experience. I found some different leaderships and passions that I wanted to do through [being a part of] Panhellenic Counselor[s], student council, safe sisters, etc. Throughout my first three years at this university, I came to fall in love with it.
Though grateful for having won, it was not always easy. The campaign trail caused lots of priorities to change.
“It was a lot of time commitment,” O’Brien said. “I actually was going to take the MCAT in May and then hopefully apply and go straight from undergrad to medical school. It was just a huge time commitment for the campaign especially, so I decided to take a gap year and move back the MCAT as a result of that.”
Sutterer and O’Brien were crowned the victors by a slim 120 vote margin, but the celebration did not last long. Soon they were hard at work shaping the policies that will define their year in charge.
“So a typical day, we get up pretty early, you know, some days we’re here in the CSI working for 12 or more hours,” Sutterer said. O’Brien added, “Yesterday I wasn't even holding office hours, but I’m always in my office, so a few people came by and talked to me about things.”
Student involvement in MSA is very important to Sutterer and O’Brien. Some positions still open are Communications Director, The Board of Election Commissioners chair, Student Court positions, Chancellor’s Standing Committee positions and At-Large Senate positions.
“We spoke to an administrator who said ‘Please, please fill my [Chancellor's Standing] Committee. I want to know the student opinion, I’m not gonna do anything without student opinion.’” O’Brien said.
Policy ideas fill their office’s whiteboard. They hope to stock every residence hall with NARCAN, a nasal spray that can help reverse an opioid overdose and keep the person alive long enough for medical attention.
“Something that we discussed a lot throughout the campaign is one student life lost is one too many,” Sutterer said. “We want to make sure that we are doing everything possible to prevent that.”
Another big project they are working on is implementing income sharing agreements on campus, in which the university covers a student’s costs initially and the student pays the university back later on.
“Half the time it’s not even the loan, it’s the interest rate,” O’Brien said. “The thing about loans is they look at your past, but an income sharing agreement looks at your potential.”
They are also looking to start holding MSA town halls. Town halls are events they’ll be hosting with the MSA Senate for students to come discuss ideas, ask questions and hear what MSA has been working on.
“It’s really all about transparency with the student body and being more accessible to them,” Sutterer said. “Something that we felt was really lacking on campus was MSA’s outreach to the students directly. Our overall vision is that we really want to make this campus a place [where] every student feels safe and they feel that they can be themselves and be accepted. That’s just really important because Mizzou’s given so much to us.”
Sutterer and O’Brien hope to implement those ideas and more over this next year.
“Well, first of all, I do want to just say it is such an honor,” Sutterer said. “That is something that Mary and I talk about a lot. We’re just so grateful to be in this position.”
Edited by Ben Scott | email@example.com