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Q&A: Meet the candidates for next year’s Senators At-Large

Meet the candidates running for Senator At-Large positions 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. Instead of being accessed through myDrake, the ballot link will be directly sent to student emails when voting begins.

There are six Senator At-Large positions: academic affairs, civic engagement, community outreach, facilities and technology, health and safety, and university services. Each senator chairs a committee and has varying responsibilities. If elected, Senators At-Large are assigned a position by Senate.

 

Candidate Jada GruhnJada Gruhn 

jada.gruhn@drake.edu

Instagram: @jadagruhn4senate

Jada Gruhn (she/her) is a sophomore studying psychology and sociology.

 

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

My goals go directly back to my platform points: advocacy, inclusion, and integrity! I really want Drake students to know that their voices matter and they are being heard.

 

What At-Large position are you running for?

Health and Safety Senator

 

What experience has prepared you for this position?

I have been a part of Student Activities Board for my sophomore year as the Free Movie Friday Co-Chair. I was an event planner PMAC and a Blueprint for Success PMAC!

 

As a Senator At-Large, you would chair a committee. What would you bring to the table that will help that committee be successful in serving the student body?

I feel that I would bring many different qualities to the table such as creativity, teamwork and overall my commitment to Senate and the student body. All of these qualities are very important to me, and I feel that I would be able to serve my committee members to success with these.

 

How would you make sure you are aware of the needs of the student body?

One of the plans that I have in mind is to make public my office hours so the student body can come talk to me! I also would love to have a Google concern form for the student body so that they can fill out any needs, specifically for my At-Large position, if I were to win. Additionally, the concern form would be anonymous, unless the student wanted to have their name attached to the form!

 

Why should students vote for you?

I feel that the student body should vote for me as an At-Large Senator because I am truly passionate about the needs of everyone. I also am very committed to helping them with whatever they need and making sure that everyone is heard.

 

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

Throughout my years at Drake, I have steadily held a part-time job as well as being in different organizations on campus. I have had a lot of experience with making time for all my commitments, so I feel very strongly that I will be able to balance everything.

 

Candidate Elliot NelsonElliot Nelson

elliot.nelson@drake.edu

Instagram: @elliotnelson4studentsenate

Elliot Nelson (he/him) is a first-year studying public relations and marketing.

 

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

My goals for this position are to build an environment where Drake students feel comfortable voicing and advocating for their concerns. Because of how far-reaching the individual senators at-large reach, I want there to be open lines of communication between students and myself to ensure that I am advocating and pursuing paths of positive impact for students. While it’s related to the specific senator at-large position I’m running for, I plan to create open forums facilitating conversations between administration and students. This might be networking events or simply scheduled town halls where students and administration are able to discuss the entirety of the Drake experience.

 

What At-Large position are you running for?

Academic Affairs Senator

 

What experience has prepared you for this position?

The most applicable experience that has prepared me for this experience is my term as First-Year Senator this previous year. It’s given me valuable insight into how Student Senate runs and how I can be most effective in advocacy. In addition, it’s placed me in close proximity to administration, leading me to develop a relationship that I would be able to leverage for students’ needs in my future role. 

Another item of value is my academic involvement. Because I fall into different colleges for my majors and minor, I think I have a diversified and unique understanding of students’ needs across academic disciplines that could be valuable specifically to my efforts as the Academic Affairs Senator.

 

As a Senator At-Large, you would chair a committee. What would you bring to the table that will help that committee be successful in serving the student body?

I’ve gained knowledge of how to create a committee from my experience this past year as First-Year Senator. However, in terms of navigating, leading and facilitating meaningful conversation, I believe my involvement in other organizations like the Student Alumni Association and Carpenter Hall’s Executive Council has led me to develop an ability to work towards a common goal in a group setting. Historically, the ideas of my committee have helped shape all of my programming, and I believe I would continue to place an emphasis on an environment where all ideas and thoughts are respected and valuable.

 

How would you make sure you are aware of the needs of the student body?

I think conscientious listening is so incredibly important in being aware of the student body’s needs. By being a resource for students to share their opinions, concerns and thoughts, I know I can be a more accurate representation of the student body’s opinions. Accessibility of opportunity is paramount to me — I will actively engage with students, attend meetings and maintain open communication channels to ensure I’m getting all possible perspectives. 

 

Why should students vote for you?

I think the student body should vote for me because I am truly dedicated to being another vessel of communication to administration and the Student Senate. While I have my opinions and will advocate for them, I truly believe representation of the student body’s perspective supersedes any withholdings I may have myself. I will not allow personal and environmental deterrents [to] prevent me from representing the true response of the student body, which I think is necessary in representatives.

 

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

The simple answer is that Student Senate has, and will continue to be, a priority of mine. I am prepared to manage my time in a way that never runs into my Student Senate involvement, even if it requires me taking responsibility off my plate in other organizations. To conclude, I am committed to managing my responsibilities with integrity and enthusiasm, ensuring that I effectively serve as a voice for the student body while maintaining a healthy balance in my life.

 

Candidate Carissa PhanCarissa Phan

carissa.phan@drake.edu

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?

My goals for this position are to keep the student body updated on current events happening within Student Senate, and I hope to build connections with more students! I hope to build connections with students so they feel comfortable coming to me with any concerns or suggestions they have for Student Senate.

Specifically, for civic engagement senator, I hope to encourage more people to be civically engaged through holding events, possibly including meeting with political figures in the area. Especially around election time, I hope to promote the importance of voting in local Des Moines and national elections.

 

What At-Large position are you running for?

Civic Engagement Senator

 

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 helped me to build communication and leadership skills, allowing me to connect with many students on campus.

 

As a Senator At-Large, you would chair a committee. What would you bring to the table that will help that committee be successful in serving the student body?

I would bring my communication and leadership skills to chair the committee. I have been a PMAC and Blueprint for Success Mentor last year and am preparing to be one again for the upcoming year, so I have experience with communicating and leading a large group of students. I think it’s important to be open to accepting new ideas, and, as a chair of the committee, I would ensure that each student’s needs and ideas are being heard. I also would be excited to lead a committee that has the same interests as me! Specifically, for civic engagement senator, I would want to stress the importance of voting and staying civically engaged! I work as a legislative clerk for a representative at the Iowa State Capitol, so I would bring my knowledge of current events happening at the Capitol. I would also be able to talk about bills that affect the community, specifically us as students, and how we can offer our input to legislators!

 

How would you make sure you are aware of the needs of the student body?

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 should students vote for you?

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 mentoring 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 Student Senate and representing the students!

 

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 week, 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 Catherine PollardCatherine Pollard 

catherine.pollard@drake.edu

Instagram: @cat4senate

Catherine Pollard (she/her) is a junior studying law, politics and society and strategic political communications.

 

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

My goal with my position is to facilitate open communication between the student senate and the student body to accurately address the needs of all students. I am most interested in providing solutions for registered student organizations in lieu of large budget cuts and helping to ensure that students continue to have access to their extracurricular organizations.

 

What At-Large position are you running for?

I am waiting to share that information.

 

What experience has prepared you for this position?

I have a variety of experience that has prepared me for this position including serving as the Communications Coordinator for the Residence Hall Association, a Spirit Co-Chair for SAB, the Public Relations Chair for Drake Blue Crew and as a Violence Intervention Partner. I have also worked on a political campaign as a field organizer for Kimberly Graham for Iowa’s 2022 election campaign.

 

As a Senator At-Large, you would chair a committee. What would you bring to the table that will help that committee be successful in serving the student body?

I would bring my leadership skills and strong experience to the table in my committee. I would be best suited to serve the student body because I am able to balance many different issues and value active, open communication.

 

How would you make sure you are aware of the needs of the student body?

I would make sure that I am aware of the needs of the student body by properly serving my open office hours and finding even more avenues for the students to share their needs and opinions.

 

Why should students vote for you?

The student body should vote for me because I am very diligent, capable and experienced, but most importantly because I care about the success and wellbeing of the University and its constituents.

 

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

I plan to balance this activity with my other roles by using effective planning and scheduling skills. I believe it is important to be realistic about your boundaries — especially in a role as important as this — and I am willing and able to add this to my schedule.

Candidate Lila Khan-Gumm did not respond to an interview request.

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

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