Meet The Student Government Executive Candidates

2020 SGA executive candidates. From left to right: Rose Ingraham, Molly Schantz, Alexandra Valdes, Alexandra Ibarria.

Gerard Albert III, Joshua Ceballos and Teresa Schuster/PantherNOW Staff

In anticipation of the upcoming student government association elections, PantherNOW sat down with the four executive candidates for the student government council at the Modesto Maidique Campus and asked them a list of questions about themselves and their platforms.

There are no candidates for the council at the Biscayne Bay Campus, so there are no interviews here from that campus.

The president of the Student Government Council at MMC sits as a voting member on the University’s Board of Trustees, the body that makes major decisions for the administration of FIU. We asked each presidential candidate how they would handle that role and speak to the trustees on behalf of the students.

Our questions also included what makes each candidate the best voice to advocate for students, how they would change SGA, and what their biggest priorities would be if they win. Take a look and get to know who you’ll be voting for.

Rose Ingraham

Running for: President- MMC

Party: Roar!

Senator At-Large Rose Ingraham has been in SGA since her first semester at FIU in 2017. For the past three years she’s held some position within the senate at the Modesto Maidique Campus and now wants to make the leap to presidency.

“So I started as an intern, probably the third week of school in 2017. I was a fresh freshmen,” said Ingraham. “I saw an advertisement for student government and I was already interested.”

In the role of FIU trustee, Ingraham said she wants to steer conversations towards student interests.

“It’s no secret that whatever administration’s goals and initiatives are tend to be carried out, so I want to be in that position where I can have a lot of control over what happens to the student body and improve the student experience,” said Ingraham.

In particular, Ingraham wants her administration to focus on prioritizing student communication, campus safety, campus affinity and advising reform.

As a senator, Ingraham pushed an initiative to add more lighting to campus dark zones where students may feel unsafe walking at night, and she wants to expand on those efforts if she becomes president.

“I have personally heard stories of students who have been followed or potentially attacked… where there was not adequate lighting. So I’m currently in conversations with the administration about how to fix that,” she said.

Ingraham also wants to create more of a presence for SGA and the administration on social media so students can be more aware of the services they provide.

A common thread among each candidate was a desire to change how advising works in response to growing student dissatisfaction with academic advising.

“The idea of wanting students graduating in four years versus actually doing it is where the disconnect is. A lot of that comes with advising,” said Ingraham. “So we could have group advising or be able to call to get an advising hold off.”

In preparation for her potential role, Ingraham hopes her reputation she’s built as a senator as someone who isn’t afraid to speak her mind will work in her favor as students know she won’t just bend to the administration’s will.

“I have this reputation as a senator where I vote no a lot when other people are voting yes. I tend to vote my conscience regardless of what other people’s viewpoints are,” she said. “When I sit in that chair… I believe that I will have the confidence and the ability to vote the way that the student body wants.”

Beyond SGA, Ingraham has other responsibilities on campus that drive some of her initiatives. She serves as a resident assistant in Parkview Hall and is a member of the Honors College.

As an RA and someone who has lived on campus since she started at FIU, Ingraham hopes to bring out voters from housing and push for their concerns.

“I really tried to try to cater my platform around not only including all students, but keeping housing students in mind,” she said. “ Our senator at-large candidate Ashley Nunez is extremely passionate about bringing pharma boxes to the residence halls. My vice president Molly wants to keep laundry free.”

Ingraham is the only candidate running for an executive position who isn’t part of a Greek organization. Her running mate Molly Schantz is a sister of Phi Mu, and her opponents are both in sororities. 

Historically, a large portion of student government at MMC comes from Greek life, and previous presidents have mostly been affiliated. Current SGC-MMC president Sabrina Rosell is in Delta Phi Epsilon, and the 2017-2018 president, Krista Schmidt, is her big sister in the sorority. The last president who was not in Greek life was Jose Sirven in 2018.

Regardless of her lack of affiliation, Ingraham says she wants to advocate for Greek affiliated students who have felt ostracized by the administration because of the Greek pause in 2018 and new rules controlling tailgates.

Ingraham says she’s visited several Greek chapters to hear their concerns and pitched ideas for how to change the school’s perspective on Greek life.

Alexandra Valdes

Running for: President-MMC

Party: Future Is You

Alexandra Valdes currently serves as the secretary of governmental relations for SGC-MMC. The cabinet position entails planning events that link students with members of local and state government.

Outside of student government, Valdes works for Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, at his district office in Hialeah.

“I feel that in my outside experience working with different legislators and political figures all over South Florida, I’ve learned that I want to bring the real world experience to FIU and make a bigger impact than I already have for the students,” she said.

Valdes is banking that her ability to communicate student issues to higher ups in the University administration and Board of Trustees will offset her lack of experience in student government.

She has only spent a year as secretary of governmental relations but has some events, including organizing FIU day on campus, under her belt.

“A big part of being president is being a Board of Trustees member and attending those big meetings with high figures,” she said. “I can hold my own in those kinds of meetings, translate the students wants and needs in an adequate level that they’ll understand.” 

Valdes also spent FIU Day in Tallahassee advocating on behalf of the University with other members of SGA.

She will rely on her team to help her hear from students. For Valdes, her strength lies in taking that message and making it heard to University administration and other key figures on the Board of Trustees.

“Having a great team is also something that can help execute a great presidency. So I think constructing a great team of cabinet members that understand what the students want is an important part of being president,” she said.

Like current SGC-MMC President Sabrina Leeloo Rosell, athletics are at the top of Valdes’ priority list and a way to increase engagement among Greek affiliated and non-greek students.

“Creating more incentives for students to want to come out [to games] I think is ideally the situation that we should prioritize to get commuter students out to these events,” she said. “If it’s more inclusive, you know, we can have those students coming out to spend time with Greeks at the sporting events and just creating a more inclusive University.”

While Valdes and her running-mate Alexandra Ibarria are both affiliated with Greek life, they say that their administration won’t just focus on fraternities and sororities but engaging commuter students also. 

“Creating that sense of finding something that they’re interested in doing. Working with [Council for Student Organizations] and StartUP FIU to push new organizations on campus that are not necessarily Greek that can benefit the student body,” she said.

One solution to the rift between University administration and Greek life is increasing housing for fraternities and sororities on campus according to Valdes.

A possible plan she pitched involved reserving one of the dorm buildings solely for Greek affiliated students. When asked about the feasibility of the plan, given the already long waitlist for on-campus student housing, Valdes emphasized that it was only an idea, but she wanted to expand on it with the Interfraternity Council at FIU.

Another priority would be addressing advising, which is something both candidates mentioned and offered possible solutions for. Valdes cited her own mentor and how the relationship has benefitted her and her career.

“I want to create a mentorship program in collaboration with the Alumni Association and the academic advising department available to all students of all majors,” she said.

Valdes says she wants to keep up the good work Rosell has started and her skills with lobbyists and legislators will help her, but overall it’s her passion for FIU that drives her.

“I’m very passionate about FIU and in the short years that I’ve been here I’ve learned that the things that we do as student government are really important for the school and a lot of people don’t know that,” she said.

Molly Schantz

Running for: Vice President-MMC

Party: Roar!

Housing Senator Molly Schantz never doubted that she could be the vice president. She’s suited for leadership, she said.

“Rose [Ingraham] asked me if I would consider running for vice president, and my real question was why not?” Schantz said. “I didn’t really have any doubts in my own abilities and I want to represent the voices of my students on a larger scale.”

Schantz has been in SGA since last fall. A native of Asheville, North Carolina, Schantz has lived on campus for the duration of her time at FIU and holds housing students’ concerns close to her heart.

She wants to work with housing administration to better publicize the resources they have for homeless students or ones in emergency situations who need assistance and a place to live.

As someone who lives in housing and is part of a sorority and SGA, Schantz is always on campus and is very involved. For commuter students unlike her, she said she wants to make them feel part of the community too.

“I enjoy staying here, I enjoy my involvements and all the things that I can do throughout the day. And we want to make sure that commuter students feel that same way,” Schantz said. “We want to… make sure that, you know, every student feels good about coming here every day.”

All the candidates are advocating for Greek students in an attempt to garner their vote. Schantz, a member of Phi Mu, said she wants to help mend the gap between Greeks and administration.

“The administration is constantly looking for what we’re doing wrong. And I do want to change that perspective, because we do so much good for our community,” she said. “I really do want to continue building a better relationship.”

Shantz said her biggest initiative would be to mandate that senators hold town halls where they can meet with students and get to know their needs.

“The one problem that I see is our lack of student outreach at times, we don’t always go where the students are,” she said. “A town hall is specific to students who have concerns or problems that they want to see fixed, and it would give them a space to connect directly with their senators.”

Alexandra Ibarria

Running for: Vice President-MMC

Party: Future Is You

Lower Division Senator Alexandra Ibarria hopes to use her experience in SGA to connect with students and bring attention to their concerns, increasing engagement and unity among the student body.

“I don’t want others to feel excluded,” Ibarria said. “I want each student to feel that FIU’s their home.”

After joining SGA in spring 2019, Ibarria became the chair of the Internal Affairs Committee last Fall. Her role requires her to ensure that senators are keeping up with their requirements, and she feels that it has taught her to see both sides of an issue and diffuse conflict.

“This is a family,” said Ibarria. “There’s no need for petty fights.”

She also wants to decrease conflict outside the SGA. Ibarria, a member of Phi Sigma Sigma, aims to bridge the gap between Greek and non-Greek students.

“Just because [Valdes] and I are a part of Greek life, it shouldn’t discourage other people [or make them think] that we are not going to represent them,” she said.

Ibarria, a second-year psychology major, describes herself as “very involved on campus,” having participated in Panther Camp and Roarthon as well.

Formerly a student who wasn’t involved and would leave campus immediately after class, she now wants to be an example for others, and believes that they should also participate more in campus life.

“It doesn’t matter what grade you’re in [or] who you are, what your major is, you can make a difference in this University,” she said.

To help students become involved, her initiatives include giving organizations more opportunities to introduce themselves to the student body, such as increasing the places allowed for tabling.

“I really want people to find a place, whether it will be in Greek life or in different organizations and clubs,” she said.

Ibarria refers to herself and Valdes as a “dynamic duo,” believing their campaign combines her experience working with FIU students with Valdes’s governmental expertise, which she said makes them the best choice for FIU students.

“At the end of the day, I personally want to make change[s for] the student body,” said Ibarria.

SGA elections are set to take place on Tuesday March 17 and Wednesday 18.

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