by Rebekah Bresee
Spring is the season of change. It is also the time of year to start preparing for the election of new ASWU executives for next year. As the changes begin, President Molly Hough, Executive Vice President Timothy Gjefle and Financial Vice President Matthew Valdez were asked to reflect upon what they have accomplished in their term thus far and what goals they strive to achieve before their time is up.
Accomplishments and Challenges
Hough said the mission of ASWU is to inspire growth, passion and action within the student body and community.
One of the ways Hough has attempted to fulfill this goal is through Unite.
“We hope people find what they’re passionate about and pursue it,” Hough said.
Unite has put on many programs throughout the year. The group brought speakers such as Mark Kadel from World Relief and Jason Soucinek from ProjectSix19. They also hosted workshops with the Not For Sale Academy World Tour and put on a “Dream Workshop.”
The “Dream Workshop” consisted of students, professors and community members coming together and sharing their ideas on how to stand against human trafficking.
One of the ideas dreamed up was to create a video, which is now part of the current Unite project, “Ellen’s Unite Challenge.” The video will be sent in to Ellen Degeneres, asking her to be a leader in standing up against human trafficking.
Though it originated at Whitworth, Unite has expanded its vision, and local churches, high schools and nonprofit organizations have gotten involved.
“It is fun to be a part of something bigger than Whitworth,” Hough said.
Along with her commitment to Unite as well as being ASWU President, Hough has had to also balance her involvement with BELIEF, a program that provides Spokane high school students in low-income areas with resources and practical tools to make higher education an obtainable goal.
Hough made a promise during her campaign to give up some of her responsibilities with BELIEF but now admits balancing both BELIEF and ASWU has been a struggle.
“I have an incredible team of people at BELIEF who are supportive and understand the roles we both have,” Hough said.
A big focus of the ASWU team has been to build relationship between the leadership teams, clubs and students.
EVP Gjefle promised during his campaign to connect with students by attending Prime Times in specific dorms regularly.
“I love being at Prime Times. I was an RA for two years so I am used to that atmosphere,” Gjefle said.
Building relationships is at the core of what an EVP does.
“The beauty of my job is that I have had the opportunity to sit down with different members of ASWU leadership and learn how I can support them,” Gjefle said.
He meets with senators and representatives every two weeks and coordinators once a month to follow up on their progress and also to find out how they are doing.
Organizing the clubs was a campaign goal set by FVP Valdez. Carrying out this commitment was a major focus during Jan Term.
“I saw a lot of clubs willing to collaborate with each other this last semester,” Valdez said.
He said he believes the clubs have become more organized and involved with ASWU.
“I do my best to be open to conversation and hear what individuals from around campus have to say,” Gjefle said.
During his campaign, Gjefle said that diversity was a problem at a Whitworth University.
One of the ways he has been working on that issue is by collaborating with the Independent Colleges of Washington, an association of 10 private, nonprofit colleges in the state.
Gjefle represented Whitworth at a meeting with the association three weeks ago. Together, they are working on lobbying for grants for students that come from low-income families — such as Pell Grants and National Science Foundation funds.
“This has been an opportunity for me to take action. It is an important action for our community,” Gjefle said.
Part of connecting with students included showing them who the leadership team was.
“We want students to know we are accessible and approachable,” Hough said.
Multimedia is used as the main connection source to students. Hough sent out videos which explained what was covered in the latest ASWU meeting.
During the campaign last year, one of Valdez’s goals was to make students more aware of what was being done with funds.
“I would give myself a low mark on this task,” Valdez said.
He plans to get more information about funding out to the students through the Whitworthian this next semester.
The team is still working on how to bridge the gap between ASWU and students.
“The hardest challenge is making financial decisions with the best interests for students. It is hard to judge which programs to give money to that will most affect students,” Valdez said.
For example, study programs receive funding but only affect a small group of students.
Goals for This Semester
ASWU conducted a survey Wednesday, Feb. 20, which asked students to give feedback on a variety of topics.
The results showed many students are still unaware of the opportunities ASWU provides for them, such as meetings being open for students to attend.
“We would love for the student body to be in the ASWU meetings,” Gjefle said.
Inviting different groups to ASWU meetings was a promise Gjefle had made in his campaign last year. He admits he has not successfully fulfilled this goal.
The leadership intends to involve groups in ASWU meetings more this semester, especially when the meetings will be covering specific speakers that would pertain to said group.
“We strive toward continuing to reach students and keep them motivated to get involved. We hope to be a source of information to them,” Hough said.
Gjefle also mentioned he wants to see ASWU attend Prime Times as a team during the semester.
“I am thankful we still have time to make these changes,” Gjefle said.
The end of the year festival for students and community known as Springfest will be called “Spokane Block Party” this year. The themes of this event are “Spring to Action” and “Unite the Block”.
The celebration will be held at the Service Station. It will consist of family-oriented activities, performances by local dance groups and improv groups, and possibly a basketball competition between law enforcement and firefighters.
“It is going to be such a cool celebration of our community,” Hough said.
Local churches, law enforcements, high school Unite clubs, and non-profit organizations will be attending the event as well.
Hough is also working with the Gonzaga student government to get them involved in the event. She wants to collaborate with them to bring in a band for a benefit concert to conclude the celebration.
“I am excited for the events that are coming this spring,” Gjefle said. “Our coordinators are phenomenal.”
Events to look forward to this spring include concerts, different senior events and outdoor recreation adventures.
As for next year’s campaign, Hough said she cannot wait to provide guidance for next year’s team and is excited about what changes could be made.
“I want to show them what we’ve done and ask what they would like to do. I want what we’ve done to be built upon rather than have everything start over,” Hough said.
Similarly, Valdez said he hopes to set up the FVP positio
n to be more organized for the next person by leaving a list of leaders of the clubs along with contact information. Overall, the executive leaders agree that the year has gone smoothly.
“This has been a great group of people. We’re excited, we’re learning, and getting ready for the rest of the year,” Hough said.
Contact Rebekah Bresee at email@example.com