By Sam Phillips
Youngstown State University students voted to appoint an international representative to the Student Government Association on the homecoming ballot. The move would add diversity and a global perspective to the SGA body.
According to Ashley Orr, president of SGA, the representative wouldn’t have voting power, but they would have the chance to promote new ideas and help solve issues.
“At the end of the day, we do a lot of advocacy through the administration — that doesn’t take a vote, it takes a leader. So we really want to help develop an international student into a leader, so that their voice is heard on campus,” Orr said.
Jacob Schriner-Briggs, executive vice president of SGA, said that the idea came from a conversation with Gabi Gessler, executive vice president of SGA’s student life committee. They discussed how college can be especially difficult for international students and realized having an international student on the body could be beneficial.
“It would bridge the gap between international students and the institution itself. If they had any questions or concerns or weren’t sure about certain things, having a seat on SGA would give them access to students who do know the ins and outs of YSU,” Schriner-Briggs said. “We just thought it would help the integration process and help them more smoothly transition to being a student at YSU.”
Gessler said attending the International Coffee Hours at YWCA inspired her to encourage their participation.
“Most of these students who have come abroad for this opportunity are of some of the most brilliant and accomplished at the university,” Gessler said. “In order for this University to provide opportunity and growth for each and every students’ capabilities, it is imperative that each and every voice be heard.”
Orr said during the four years that she’s been a part of SGA, there’s never been an international student on the board. To recruit possible representatives, she and Schriner-Briggs will promote the position at the International Student Association meetings and the weekly International Coffee Hours SGA sponsors. The Center for International Studies and Programs will also assist in recruiting students.
“The CISP is going to be very instrumental in promoting this position. They have offered to send out an email to all their international students studying at YSU with a link to the application,” Orr said. “Then, once we get applications we will start the interviews, like we do for all representatives.”
Schriner-Briggs said each college has a certain number of seats, depending on the number of students enrolled in that college. Students must acquire enough signatures on a petition to be on the ballot. Then, students in that college can vote for a representative.
“[We want] to help international students get on the body because it’s complicated enough for students who attend here on a regular basis who know the culture,” Schriner-Briggs said. “We didn’t want to put more on the plate of an international student than we have to. We wanted a system where we could help them get access to us.”
Ahmed Silver, an electrical engineer major, is interested in the position. He said an international student representative would help SGA fully understand the issues and needs facing the international students. He said he would like to see the creation of “International Day,” where students get to display the customs and food from their home country.
Orr hopes international students will be encouraged to run as representatives for their college in addition to representing the international students.
“The reason we created this position where you’re a non-voting member is to generate some of that initial interest, to make them aware that this is an organization that is really open to them,” Orr said. “If we can help the international students become acclimated to the organization, then that will be one less barrier when it comes time to run.”
She said having an international student on SGA is an advantage for everyone, not just the international students.
“It really aligns with [the] University’s climate right now. I know the University is trying to expand its international student population right now. It’s very important. People need to have global perspectives. So, I think it will help not only the international students but SGA too,” Orr said. “This is a really cool opportunity for us to expand our diversity.”