Opening conversations with this year's student reps

Student Body President Lauren Rowley and Student Body Vice President TylerWaaler sat down with us to discuss the changes within the 2018-19 Student Government and their goals for the year.

Can you start by telling us your roles and what they entail?

Lauren (L): “I will be serving as the student body president. In the context of SG, that’s the one that’s a little bit more and big-picture, student body-facing. I’ll be sitting on the Board of Trustees, meeting with President Ryken and other members of the Senior Administrative Cabinet and sitting on Faculty Council. So any big picture content about the student body goes through my role, and then Tyler’s role is a little more board-facing.”

Tyler (T): “So unlike Lauren, I’ll be working mostly with the board and helping them work on proposals and to work on different programing that would help the board be more effective in representing and creating programing for the student body … I’ll be helping the board represent different areas of the school for different events when they might want to hear student input.”

How do you understand what the campus needs and get student input for the board?

L: A lot of it comes through other student leaders and being in touch with student organizations, meeting with other student organizations on a regular basis from all the different offices. Our Executive Vice Presidents each represent different areas of campus and all of those individuals on our board are expected to know specifically about that pocket of campus. But a lot of that will come through Tyler and me building personal relationships with student leaders as well as offering forums throughout the year. We’ll be having office hours on a regular basis where students can come and share with us what they would like or faculty at large to know.

T: A large part of our role is representation and ideally we’d have as many students as possible coming into board meetings. However, we recognize that at times the boardroom can seem very formal and doesn’t seem like a place where students would like to come and share ideas, so different roles on Student Government are designed to reach out to campus and reflect that feedback back to the Student Government board so we can make decisions that more adequately reflect the different student experiences.”

How has the transition process been as the Student Government roles have been switched around? Did the transitions that happened last year make that process any easier?

L: I think in terms of past transitions, every transition that happens is different. No story is the same, so it’s hard to loop them all together because every process is different. This transition was rather last minute, but it came at a time when Christian and I and our advisors were able to work together to come to a good place where it was really the best fit for everybody involved at the end of the summer. It’s important that the VP has served on SG before, so they understand board dynamics since they lead board meetings. When I was choosing a new Vice President it made the most sense for me to choose someone who had served on SG in the past. I’ve learned that every Student Body President is learning as they go even if you knew for the whole summer you would be serving. You’re still going to have a learning curve and I think that’s just pushing us to rely even more on the Lord during the transition.

T: The wonderful thing about stepping into our roles and learning as we go at HoneyRock is that the rest of the board is also learning their roles. I think there was this trust built up at HoneyRock as Lauren and I were learning our roles as the rest of the board was learning their roles, and so we could give each other grace and trust one another. I am really excited to see where the board goes after HoneyRock.

What was the procedure when you realized that you had to fill those roles?

L: So everything that SG does is formulated by the constitution. Usually, if the Student Body President resigns, the Vice President assumes that role, so that was an easy transition. really no rules for how the president will choose the Vice President, but in speaking with my advisors and closely, we all determined that it would be best if it was someone from the board. Then it has to be voted in by the board, so when we got to HoneyRock it had to be written in formal proposal format. I was sworn in as president and then we had to swear in Tyler as Vice President and then we could assume our duties.”

Can you comment on the fact the SG president has stepped down two years in a row?

L: Yeah, the reasoning behind both was very, very different. It’s been a fairly easy transition in that Christian and I are still good friends and there is no animosity there, which I think gave the board permission to move forward and walk confidently into the year knowing that Christian and I still have a great relationship.

T: Also with that, Lauren and I very much wanted to make it clear to the board and to the student body that SG is still moving forward. We’re not harping on these resignations, we want to take the board forward. We have work to do and I think dwelling on the resignations will delay our ability to get to that work this year.

Moving forward, what are your individual and shared visions for the year?

L: One of the nice things about going from Vice President to President is that I was already planning on serving the student body in this capacity, so we had already envisioned a lot of things that as a student body we wanted to do moving into the next year, and that will be carried into this President and Vice President ticket. Those are conversations we’re willing to delve into with grace, being lovingly rebuking if needed, but also coming in with teachable spirits and letting and faculty teach us about their side of things, as well as us bringing forward student experience that they may have not considered in the past. We want to facilitate conversation and forums among student leaders and among students from all over campus not making assumptions about other groups but rather building relationships to understand their backgrounds and maybe learn something new in the process.

T: Particularly in HoneyRock we focused a lot, as Lauren mentioned, on representation. One of more personal goals for SG this year is to foster a more inclusive campus community where SG can be better about going out and getting those diverse student experiences.

Any final comments for the campus?

L: I would just want to re-emphasize that we are eager to get to know students, get to know their stories, who they are. Not just as the representative, but to be their friend. To come in with teachable spirits to learn something from them that maybe we didn’t know before. My hope for our board is that at the end of the year, maybe no one remembers who served … but they remember seeing Christ through SG and they remember feeling like they were given the opportunity to let their voice be heard. I want them to feel empowered with their own voice.

T: I’m really excited about the board. It’s a new year and we’re all really excited to see what we can accomplish and how we can help the students enjoy a better student experience here at Wheaton.

The quotes in this article were edited for brevity and clarity.

Student Body President Lauren Rowley pictured on the left and Student Body Vice President Tyler Waaler pictured on the right.
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