ASWU leaders take a personal approach to zone rep recruitment

by Courtney Murphy | Editor-in-Chief

This fall ASWU leaders faced a new challenge when it came to recruitment for zone representative applicants, senior executive vice president Dylan Reyes said. In years past the application was advertised heavily through all-campus emails, but this year ASWU leaders have a reduced ability to send out those emails.

“[Not being able to send our emails] really makes my job more difficult, but…it’s made me more creative about how I go about approaching the zone rep application,” Reyes said.

Reyes said he and the leadership team have opted for a more personable approach, talking to students individually instead of mass advertising. This strategy corresponds with Reye’s goal of making the application process, and student leadership in general, more accessible and equitable, he said.

“I know there are individuals who because of the way the system was set up in the past haven’t always had easy access to that application because they don’t know the right people to talk to,” Reyes said”. I’ve been making an effort to whenever I talk about it with people, make sure I’m reaching all areas of students, both the students that are like me and student leaders, but also students that are completely not like me.”

Some groups of students in the past have felt the opportunity to run for zone representative was inaccessible to them. First generation college students and others who don’t fit the “Whitworth mold” may not feel equipped for the position, Reyes said.

The typical Whitworth student leader has traditionally been someone who is outgoing, knows everyone, takes a lot of credits and actively involved in many things, Reyes said. While these qualities often make it easy for students to run and get elected for positions, they are not the only valuable qualities.

“In my mind a healthy applicant is someone who is willing to be uncomfortable, willing to be someone who’s able to talk to the most students possible and create healthy conclusions based on who they interact with,” Reyes said. “That isn’t always the same type of student that’s historically been a Whitworth mold kind of leader…I don’t want to neglect leaders that currently do that well, but has the system and application process been bent toward one type of leader?”

Arend senator junior Amber Van Brunt said that ASWU hasn’t traditionally been a very diverse group of people, but “there are different qualities needed for a leader than just being outgoing and enjoying events.”

“International students don’t know [running for zone representative] is an option for them,” Van Brunt said. Van Brunt served as zone representative in Arend last year as a sophomore  before becoming senator. As senator, Van Brunt has been talking to her residents personally about the zone representative application and showing them how to apply, she said. One strategy she has is talking to people who are involved in dorm activities and ask questions about how to improve the dorm community.

Despite Reyes’ and Van Brunt’s efforts to be more inclusive during recruitment, many students are intimidated by the application. The application for zone rep is almost identical to the ASWU applications for positions like special events coordinator and sustainability coordinator, Reyes said, which may prevent some students from applying. Because zone representative is an elected position, after the application students still need to campaign.

“‘I don’t have time [to fill out the application]’ is the biggest thing we hear,” Reyes said.

The purpose of the application as he understands it is to make sure students running for leadership positions are able to be good students too, so there are certain GPA and resume requirements, Reyes said. However, many students feel inhibited from running because of the lengthy application process.

The application is good to have to show a person is serious about running, but it is extensive and students can feel they will be rejected from the position based on their application, Van Brunt said. However, the application is more of a screening device and applicants don’t need to have perfect responses, she said.

“People are worried that those things like the resume and GPA are things that inhibit them from being leaders in general, not just running and being in the position but also does something psychologically to students where it tells them they aren’t good enough or smart enough to be leaders,” Reyes said.

Reyes hopes to revise the application process for elected positions before the spring elections, he said.

Despite the lengthy application process and reduced ability to send campus-wide emails, Reyes is optimistic about the new recruiting strategies because it causes him and other leaders to be more creative, he said.

“Whenever I’ve told students they are able to do something, it’s so cool to see the lightbulb moment in them,” Reyes said. “I think that’s the funnest thing about jobs in leadership is we get to tell people they can do things, and equip them to do things well. If we don’t utilize the different voices and stories we have on campus…it’s going to take away from our experience too, as students and as leaders.”

Zone representative applications are open until 8 p.m. today, Sept. 22. If you would like to apply contact your dorm senator or pick up an application from the ASWU front desk.