Hope’s Very Own Capitol Hill: A Look at Student Congress

It’s no secret that Hope College’s Student Congress is the backbone of productivity around campus, but many students do not realize just how much Student Congress has done to change campus for the better. 

Student Congress is Hope College’s student voice and representation. It allows students to share their opinions on issues and to find solutions. Hope’s Student Congress is composed of many different branches. At the top are the leaders of Congress: the President and the Vice president. Below them, Congress splits into several branches that split into even more. One of the highest branches is the Executive Board, which consists of the President, Vice President, Chief of Staff, Controller, Chief of Assessments, and Chief of Culture and Inclusion.

 The Cabinet is another branch, and it is the head of the General Congress. General Congress has 81 members in total. Other branches of Congress include the Academic Affairs Board, the Culture and Inclusion Committee, the Assessments Committee, and the Appropriations Committee. Students who are members of Student Congress are also eligible to sit on campus governance boards. These boards are composed of mainly faculty but have a few student representatives. Together, these committees and boards strive to enrich life on campus and to find ways to meet every student’s needs. 

Kate Kalthoff (‘24) is the current President of Hope College’s Student Congress. When explaining what she likes about Congress, she said, “I think as a Hope College student, it made me realize pretty quickly how unique Hope is in realizing that administration does care and takes the word of students pretty seriously. I think far more seriously than even some other colleges from what I can tell.” Kate went on to explain that as President, she sits on Hope’s Board of Trustees. She is able to meet with the board and present to them as a representative of the student body. 

Hope’s Student Congress has many plans to improve campus and student life. The Academic Affairs Board has been pushing for American Sign Language to count as a second language credit. They have met with staff and faculty to discuss the matter, and are working on a solution. Congress has also been busy trying to create a long-term and short-term medical leave policy, due to the number of students who have had frustration with this issue. One of the more exciting things that Congress has been working on is an ice skating rink. They have been communicating with the city of Holland to provide a public ice skating rink that would be available for students to use. 

Congress has been working hard to make things better for Hope students, and it has already accomplished many goals. An accomplishment for the Culture and Inclusion Committee this year was including DAR staff and faculty in its shared governance positions. This adjustment has allowed more students to be represented so that their needs can be met. Other recent improvements from Congress include implementing a campus shuttle over the summer for students who stay at Hope during the summer season. Congress has also been persistently working with administration to improve parking and dining experiences. After many discussions with faculty, a parking initiative was implemented, which allows students to park in staff and faculty parking lots overnight and on the weekends. A few weeks ago, Congress held a town hall to inform students of the new changes to the FAFSA. Congress was able to ease students’ worries about the process of filling out the FAFSA by answering any questions and concerns that students may have had. One of Student Congress’ more visible accomplishments is the new furniture that has been placed near the Kletz. Congress is also working on getting new furniture for other parts of the Bultman Student Center as well.

Members of Student Congress strive to be able to build relationships with students and faculty that they may not usually talk to. Sara Cerda (‘24), Chief of Culture and Inclusion, said, “I would also say that because of Congress, you get a lot of networking opportunities, especially with people you thought you wouldn’t have a relationship with.” She frequently talks with administration to build relationships with them, which is not always an opportunity that all students have. Ethan Adams (‘26), a Sophomore Class Representative, said that he was able to build a relationship with his mentors who pushed him to do more than he ever would have. He also said that it is easy for students to build relationships with administration, as they are very approachable and easy to talk to. 

Congress offers a variety of ways for students to voice their concerns. Throughout the school year, Congress has sent out many assessment surveys in order to hear about what needs to be improved on campus. It is important that students fill out these surveys because they allow Congress to see what improvements students want to see happen on campus. Another way that students can get involved with Congress is by attending General Congress meetings. These meetings are open to all staff and students, and they are held on Monday nights from 8:15-9:15 in the president’s room in Graves Hall. Student Congress hopes to see you there! For those who are unable to attend the General Congress meeting but would still like to voice their concerns, a form can be found on the Congress website where students can submit their questions or concerns. Each hall and residential area also has a representative, and each class has at least one representative. Students are encouraged to reach out to their representatives if there is a matter they would like to bring to Congress. 

Students can reach out to members through office hours as well. Many of the top positions of Congress have hours where these members are available to talk to students about anything they may need. Eric Alsgaard (‘25), the Chief of Assessment, said, “It has been really awesome to know where to refer people if they need information to things that I don’t immediately know. The informational network of Hope College is just groundbreaking, and being a student voice in that has just been so rewarding, to see change and to be able to help other students as well when they have questions.” Mariah Shaver (‘24), the Chief of Staff,  said, “Our favorite thing to say, which really encapsulates all of the General Congress functions, is that we’re a liaison between the students and the administration.” Hope’s Student Congress has a variety of ways for students to voice concerns because they truly care about what students want and need. When talking about her experience in Congress, Mariah said, “I think it’s kept me connected to the students here at Hope, and it’s taught me a lot about communication skills, organization skills, how to reach people in potentially unseen places.”

(Featured image: Hope College Student Congress Facebook page)

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