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Q&A: Meet the candidates for next year’s Academic Senators

Meet the candidates running to represent their college as an Academic Senator for Drake’s Student Senate 2024-2025 session. Voting for all general positions begins at 8 a.m. on April 11 and closes at 8 p.m. on April 12. Results will be announced on Pomerantz Stage at 8:05 p.m. on April 12. If no candidate earns 50% of the vote, runoff elections will be held from 8 a.m. on April 15 to 8 p.m. on April 16.

The ballot link will be directly sent to student emails when voting begins. Students will only be eligible to vote for the academic senator that represents their primary major’s school/college.


College of Arts and Sciences


Candidate Carissa PhanCarissa Phan


Instagram: @carissa4senate

Carissa Phan (she/her) is a sophomore majoring in law, politics and society and international relations with a minor in human rights.


What are your goals for this position? Are there specific issues you hope to address in this position? 

Some of my specific goals are to hold events to bring the diverse majors in the arts and sciences college together. I also hope to promote events from each college on an arts and sciences social media to allow students to support each other, even if the event is not in their particular major. Especially with the implementation of major and faculty cuts, I want to represent those students and their needs because they deserve to be heard on campus just as much as larger majors.


What experience has prepared you for this position? 

I have been the SAB Entertainment co-chair, in which I have helped plan events such as “Build a Bulldog” and “Get Crafty” with SAB. I am also the Residence Hall Association’s Service Chair, and I collaborated with Student Senate and SAB to plan a holiday card making service event to make cards for hospitalized kids. I was also a PMAC and Blueprint Mentor, which allowed me to build communication and leadership skills [and] connect with many students on campus.


How would you make sure you are aware of the needs of Arts & Sciences students? 

I believe the utilization of an anonymous form is important, especially for those with concerns or criticisms. In this position, you represent the student body, and it’s important to hear from them even if it’s things you need to work on. I also believe in communication, and this includes building relationships with students to create a comfortable environment where students feel able to express their needs and concerns. 


Why are you the best person for this position? 

I believe that I am the best person for the position because I love interacting with the student body, and I believe that being on Student Senate will allow me to continue doing what I enjoy! Through PMACing and being on SAB’s exec, I have interacted with so many students, and I love talking to them and making a positive impact on campus. I love seeing the joy that either events or mentoring brings to students! The students on campus have done so much for me, making my college experience an extremely positive one and I want to be able to give that back through being on the Student Senate and representing the students! I also want to ensure that all the arts and sciences majors are included and represented in my position, especially when bringing concerns up in senate meetings. 


How do you plan to balance this role with your other commitments? 

I work at the Iowa State Capitol full-time and have a part-time job as a dance instructor as well as serving on SAB exec and RHA. With SAB, I commit to three office hours per work, and I have also been a PMAC at the same time in addition to a Blueprint for Success Mentor. Although my schedule is busy, including my Fridays, I have become fairly good at managing my time to ensure all tasks are completed. Serving on Student Senate is something that I am passionate about, and I will ensure that I dedicate enough time to attempt to fulfill my goals for this position!


Candidate Petya Haralanova did not respond to an interview request.


School of Journalism and Mass Communication


Candidate Jack HarringtonJack Harrington


Instagram: @jack.for.sjmc.sen

Jack Harrington (he/him) is a first-year majoring in strategic political communications and American politics.


What are your goals for this position? Are there specific issues you hope to address in this position?

If I win this position, my main goal will be to help our publications and student groups as much as possible. I want to help them grow and become even stronger, and I want to ensure they have the funding necessary to do the best job they can. 


What experience has prepared you for this position?

I have held some leadership positions throughout the years, including editor-in-chief of my high school’s newspaper and leadership positions in a couple of student groups. In the SJMC, I have written for Drake Mag and Drake Political Review. I know how important this school is and our role is to this campus.


How would you make sure you are aware of the needs of SJMC students?

Great communication is essential to me. I want to have honest, transparent and open communication with everyone in the SJMC. Students and members of the SJMC community will be able to reach out to me or talk to me in person whenever they need to. I will be very available to everyone and make sure of that. By personally seeing the needs and listening to everyone as much as possible, I will make sure to know the needs and act in a way that will benefit the SJMC and its community. 


Why are you the best person for this position?

I love the SJMC and want to play a larger role in it. The SJMC and its community will always be my first priority, and I can promise that. I am a good leader and love talking to people, so I will make certain that communication is always available. 


How do you plan to balance this role with your other commitments?

This will, without a doubt, be my number one priority. I currently don’t have many high-stress commitments, so I will prioritize this and put as much work as possible into it.


Candidate Skylar LathropSkylar Lathrop


Instagram: @skylar4sjmc

Skylar Lathrop (she/her) is a junior studying multimedia journalism and public relations.


What are your goals for this position? Are there specific issues you hope to address in this position?

My biggest goal with my campaign is to increase student engagement within the SJMC, specifically in senate activities. It can be easy to feel disconnected from Student Senate if events are not being planned to connect students with the senator representing them. Overall, I want SJMC students to feel heard, and I seek to amplify their voices as senators.


What experience has prepared you for this position?

As a student, I have written articles for Drake Magazine, Drake Political Review, and The Times-Delphic. This experience has allowed me to develop an understanding of each of these publications and their process. Additionally, I serve as the VP of Communications for the Student Alumni Association, which has allowed me to gain leadership and event planning experience.


How would you make sure you are aware of the needs of SJMC students?

Constant communication with students is vital in ensuring that their needs are met. I hope to hold office hours that are accessible for the majority of students in the SJMC. Additionally, I plan to encourage members of the SJMC to reach out even when they don’t have anything to address. This communication will create transparency, accountability and actionability between myself and SJMC students.


Why are you the best person for this position?

My experience within the SJMC, combined with my passion for journalism, makes me the ideal candidate for this role. I am heavily involved with the SJMC family and have invested countless hours in improving the SJMC. I am not afraid to speak up and challenge authority figures if an issue arises, and I hope to advocate for fellow students.


How do you plan to balance this role with your other commitments?

As a typical Drake busy student, I have several commitments within the SJMC but intend to place senate responsibilities at the top of my list.


College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Candidate Ryan AmudsonRyan Amundson

Instagram: @amundson4senate
Ryan Amundson (he/him) is a sophomore majoring in pre-pharmacy.

What are your goals for this position? Are there specific issues you hope to address in this position?

My goal, if I receive this position, is to invest in the betterment of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and the students that make up the college itself. For one, I would want to have better intercommunication between administration and the students, as well as between the governing body of CPHS (Student Governance Association) and the students. Also, I would like to see more innovation within the college, meaning listening to students and faculty about their concerns or changes they may want to see. Lastly, I would like to make CPHS a more inclusive environment for all, where people can designate this area of campus as a safe space.


What experience has prepared you for this position?

I have worked with some CPHS admin prior to running for this position, as I was an Orientation Leader last summer. Through that experience, I was able to see once again the values that hold the college together and want to keep pushing these values to current students and the future students to come.


How would you make sure you are aware of the needs of CPHS students?

I think listening is the most important thing to be done. Whether that be from my peers or those above me or below me in grade level, listening and not being dismissive is the most important thing in order to have a cohesive, functioning, safe environment.


Why are you the best person for this position?

I believe I am the best for this position because I have the grit to take on the tasks that would be in front of me. I will do this position at full capacity, and I hope to bring some new things to the college that will make it an even better body of Drake University.


How do you plan to balance this role with your other commitments?

I think the biggest thing is time management. I would like to think of myself as someone who manages their time fairly well, and so I would carry that strength over to this position. I would have time blocked out to work on all of my commitments and make sure the tasks at hand are being done thoroughly and efficiently.


School of Education

Candidate Ben ConnollyBen Connolly


Instagram and TikTok: @ele.ben.tary

Ben Connolly (he/him) is a junior majoring in elementary education with a minor in leadership.


What are your goals for this position? Are there specific issues you hope to address in this position?

For the 38th session, I want to highlight the School of Education further by creating more opportunities for my peers to lead and teach in our two student groups (Kappa Delta Pi and Drake Education Association); partner with fellow senators, local schools and educators often; and engage in the community outreach and advocacy we are lacking as a school. So much of my work the past two years has been internal (i.e. hosting monthly programs, decorating the spaces and curriculum library and celebrating professors and students), but I am looking to engage more with the local community to share in the good work we are already doing. 


How do you plan to continue your work as School of Education Senator?

My peers in the School of Education are truly the heart of my senator role, and I will continue to build connections with them, invite them to programs [and] get them feeling excited and prepared to teach. Something I hope to continue as well is involving our faculty in the work we do and taking the time to appreciate them! Their support is hugely valuable in our small school.


What experience has prepared you for this position?

With three sessions of Student Senate under my belt, I am more than prepared to serve a fourth term! A unique experience this year for me was my role as Kappa Delta Pi president. KDP is our education fraternity, and it has paired seamlessly with my Senate role so I am able to connect on a deeper level with my peers and plan events for them! I also served as the head of the judicial committee on Student Senate this year, which has challenged me to tackle hard conversations with grace and patience.


How would you make sure you are aware of the needs of School of Education students?

Feedback is hugely important to me so I can meet the needs of my peers. To stay accountable in my role this year, I have held office hours for senate and Kappa Delta Pi weekly, created a feedback box at the front of the school for students to write me notes and delivered announcements weekly to my classes (and via social media) so everyone stays informed. These methods are all working well, so I will continue with them. Something new I would like to do next year is visiting the education intro courses so students know that I am a resource right from [the] get-go! 


Why are you the best person for this position?

I am the best person for this role because I have served three years already on Student Senate. I have been active in the Drake community and local schools, know all of my education faculty and peers by name and continue to look for growth opportunities for the betterment of the School of Education. I am such a team player, and that positivity carries me everywhere I go — to the classroom and beyond!


How do you plan to balance this role with your other commitments?

Senate is an organization I have been so bought into during my time at Drake, and it is absolutely a top priority for me. I will balance my student teaching and Kappa Delta Pi responsibilities well with this role. If anything, those two education opportunities will only enhance my senate work. I am familiar with this position inside and out, and I wouldn’t be running again if I wasn’t fully capable of tackling it for a third time.

There are no candidates running to represent the Zimpleman College of Business. John Dee Bright College Senator candidates Gabrielle Brooks and Grace Muelhaupt did not respond to an interview request. 

This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.


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