Aidan Meadows, new president of the UCCS Student Government Association, sat down with Communique to talk about a “historic” fall semester, the importance of student advocacy and how, just days into the semester, SGA is already hitting the ground running.
I’m from Chicago. The suburbs of Chicago, technically. I should say that before I get called out on it. I’m a junior political science and psychology double major. I’m also applying to the accelerated Master’s in Public Administration, so I’ll start taking classes for that next semester and senior year, and then I’ll take one more year to finish.
2. You were elected during the spring semester. What were your initial hopes for SGA this year? Has the pandemic changed your priorities?
My vice president Rachel Cauwels and I ran on the belief that SGA has gotten into a rut: we come in, do club funding and then leave. Instead, we wanted to rekindle the relationship between students and SGA by really listening to students, hearing their problems and trying to fix them. We wanted to reach our branches out much further than they were.
That was the plan. And then COVID hit, and the world turned upside down.
We won the election and then a week later we got sent home. We were like, “Let’s celebrate! But also, I have to go pack.”
We went from planning all of these projects and ideas and events, to asking, “How do we recover from this?” So our focus this year will be all about students. It will be less focused on putting on huge events, and more on advocating for students to the campus administration.
As the administration figures out financials and logistics, we’ve been there to make sure that students’ voices are heard, and that their opinions matter.
Rachel and I spent the whole summer sitting in on recovery team meetings. We were there to make sure that as we transitioned back to school and instituted health guidelines, that student experience portion was still preserved as best as possible.
4. As Chancellor Reddy recently said, this is a “historic” semester. Share what it’s been like for you to return to campus this academic year.
When the pandemic hit, I was really down in the dumps. Our school shut down. We were kicked out. I was thinking, “This is going to change everything. This could throw off my entire career path. Is my whole degree plan going to be offset? Is there a gap year that needs to happen?” These are all very valid questions that every student had to ask, including me.
But as I started working with the recovery teams this summer, my whole outlook flip-flopped.
This year sucks. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. But I realized that this year is a chance to learn. Learning to deal with these issues and tackle this year is going to improve critical thinking skills, problem-solving, decision-making…all attributes that employers look for. This is just another big learning opportunity. This is just another obstacle that we’re going to figure out how to adapt to.
Now that students are back, we’re more able to hear about their concerns and frustrations. For instance, we heard almost immediately that the new campus shuttle route, which was updated because of COVID, was not working for our students.
Rachel and I were able to be on a call with [executive director of parking and transportation] Jim Spice. Those routes will now be updated to include stops that students needed. So, as we promised in our campaign, we’re hitting the ground running.
I’d say my leadership style very much rests on taking on a ton of different projects, and being a collaborative leader.
I take on as much as possible to get as much as possible done. But one thing I’m already realizing is that I don’t have to do everything – and oftentimes it’s best that I don’t do everything. It frees me up to focus on the projects that are important to me, and it allows others to do the same. And the work turns out better in the end.
We’re coming up on a really big election year. We’re handling a pandemic. Political and student advocacy has been a hot topic for a long time now, and already, I’m seeing more and more students getting involved. It’s amazing to see that students are noticing how integral student governance can be.
The university – whether it’s faculty members or campus leadership – will always take time to hear any student. But SGA opens those doors a lot faster. So that’s something I’m really excited about this year: getting a lot more students involved in student advocacy.
Meadows concluded with thoughts on the upcoming year and advice for fellow students.
“The pandemic is real and ongoing,” he said. “It is 100 percent true that the future is unknown. But that doesn’t mean that the campus isn’t thinking about it and planning for many different outcomes.”
“From an administrative side, it’s important to stress how much work is going into making this semester as successful as possible, and how much students are being taken into consideration. But it’s also important to stress that students should be getting involved, advocating for their concerns and getting in touch with their SGA representatives. To our students, I would say, ‘Don’t be afraid to let your voice be heard.'”
Meadows expressed that – despite a pandemic and a highly unusual academic year – he feels grateful.
“In a way, I am so thankful to be where I am in SGA,” he said. “I have a voice, and I’m able to make it heard. I no longer feel helpless – like I’m just a leaf blowing in whatever direction the university chooses. Because of SGA, we have a chance to advocate for students, and change the direction of the fan ourselves.”
To learn more about SGA, get involved or make your voice heard, visit the Student Government Association webpage.