The following interviews were with Chandler Alberda (President for the 2019-2020 year), Aubrey Wilson (VP for the 2019-2020 year), Chris Wood (Parlimentary) and Mattie Miktika (Junior class rep)
What are you excited for as you step into your new position next year?
Wilson: I haven’t been on the executive board yet, so I’m excited to see how this side of college works. I haven’t been able to see the administrative side of it, so I’m ready to learn and grow as the college grows as well. Alberda: I have been on the executive board for a year now, so I’ve kind of gotten comfortable in my position. Being the president, there’s no one else above me. It’s literally me and our advisor, Dean Frost, working things out, so that’s definitely going to push me to discover different ways that I lead, what I’m gonna be passionate about and what I’m gonna want Congress to help me with. That’s exciting, just because I don’t know what’s gonna come up and what will be on our plate next year. Like Aubrey said, we’ll be growing with the college. And our new President Scogin, is going to bring new ideas and change, and a huge part of that is getting students on board. Our sole job is to connect students with administration, and [Scogin] hasn’t even met most of our students yet, so that’s going to be something really exciting about our term specifically. He’s new, so are we, and it’s all going to be this time of getting to know each other while also improving campus. I think there will be growth in a lot of different areas for sure.
In your personal words, what does Student Congress do to represent the student body?
Wilson: Looking at our student conference as a whole, many different people groups are represented on campus. Each residential hall has a rep, as well as each class. We have a diversity and inclusion representative, as well as someone on exec board whose sole job is the diversity and inclusion officer. It’s to see the different people who speak up in our meetings, who have opinions, to see their one voice come to Congress and to think of how many voices they represent. Alberda: What is also really interesting is the meetings we have with boards, and the board of trustees and administrators who don’t get to interact with students a lot in a day. Their only view of student opinion is what we represent. So they’re constantly asking in meetings, ‘What do you think of this?’ I don’t think a lot of people understand that Student Congress has that voice, and that in every single decision that the college makes there is a member of Student Congress there to speak the voice of the students. More often than not, they’re the one student in that room who has the floor. It’s a really cool opportunity, but it’s also very important on our part that we are good representatives who understand how students are really feeling so we can represent them well in those situations.
What has brought you the most satisfaction out of your roles in Student Congress?
Wilson: For me, I think it’s the vast amount of people you meet in Student Congress, whether it’s congress members or faculty. It’s the one organization on campus that unites a lot of campus, but in a small manner, and you can’t really find that anywhere else. Alberda: In years past, we’ve been the most diverse group on campus, because of the different amount of ages, races and involvement on campus. There are so many cool parts of this. One of my favorites is hearing the different perspectives. I think everyone has a different opinion, and the minute you give someone else the chance to speak theirs, it opens the whole floor to a perspective you’ve never even heard before. It’s really helped me look at life and situations differently, as well as my involvements. Even if you may be feeling one way, someone else may be feeling an entirely different way, and their voice is no less important than yours. When you’ve been working on something for so long, and you’ve been talking with faculty and students, and get it figured out, and when people are finally saying yes to you: that is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
What about Student Congress has changed your perspective of Hope College?
Wood: It’s definitely opened my eyes to a lot of issues I hadn’t considered before. For example, they had us read a book called “I’m Still Here” by Austin Channing Brown over winter break, and that book outlines a lot of experiences that a person of color experienced in her daily life. It just kind of opened my eyes to a lot of people’s experiences that I would have never thought of as a straight white guy in a middle-class family. So it’s been really eye-opening in that sense and in a lot of other ways. We’ve had 95 Stories come in and talk to us about a petition they’re trying to get through to the Board of Trustees.We also had Dr. Brown from the Center for Diversity and Inclusion come in to teach us about the trends at Hope and how they’re shifting, Like statistics on how welcome people of color feel on campus and how they’re shifting recently. I think for personal growth it has taught me to be a lot more organized than I was before and a lot more to-the-point .That’s mostly been through trying to voice my opinion in Student Congress meetings as well as trying to rewrite the Constitution.
What would you like to the student body to be aware of?
Miktika: I would say take advantage of your representatives and tell them the things that you want to be better about Hope. We can approach so many people, but if the campus isn’t fully reaching out and stating concerns that are realistic and that they want to help change, Congress representatives can step up but so can the student body. If they really want to see change, then not much can be done. Take who you vote for seriously. We want a diverse group, both from organizations and different pockets of campus. When ballots come around every year, I wouldn’t just bank on who you know but bank on their experiences, what they want to do within Congress, how much experience they have, those sorts of things. Treat it like it’s politics! That’ll make change happen.
What has surprised you about Student Congress?
Alberda: I would say heated arguments. Different opinions can cause conflict, obviously. I remember my first year sitting down at a meeting, and all of a sudden we brought up something that a lot of people felt very differently on, and it was just back and forth, what do we like and not like. There can be people in the room who don’t see eye to eye whatsoever. But it’s important to hear both sides and then make a decision about what’s going to work best on our campus. Wilson: I’d also have to say the wide varieties of opinions and how strongly people feel about their opinions. Everyone feels like their opinion is the way to go, yet everyone still respects those who don’t have that same opinion. To see them all come to the table was the biggest surprise.
What experiences/knowledge will you bring with you as you transition to your new role?
Alberda: Most of the entire time I was in Congress, Jason Gomory (19’) was leading. He has shown such great leadership and a new way of becoming the Student Congress president and what that looks like in terms of relationships with faculty and staff. Working under him for so long will definitely have an impact on how I run Student Congress as well. I have to thank him for his leadership. I’ve learned a lot, and now I’m excited to do it on my own. Wilson: Watching Jason take on pretty much every role at Hope College, Chandler and I will just try to step into his shoes and take over as much as we can and fill in that role, doing as he did by connecting with administration but also with the students. Alberda: Something I think Aubrey and I will bring to the table that’s really different is relationshipbuilding within Congress. We both value social interaction a lot, and we want to be able to even though we do have to get down to business and have a lot of work to do [we can] still have fun and get to know each other.