Candidate Profiles: SGA presidential running mates hope to be a voice for students, advocates on their behalf

Casey McAnarney, Editor in Chief

With the elections of the UNC Wilmington Student Government Association around the corner and a tumultuous semester left behind for students, two presidential running mates hope to work to overcome these problems the university faces by being advocates for the student body.

Ottillie Mensah, current Sophomore Class President, and Austin Spivey, an At-Large Senator, are running mates hoping to be elected the next UNCW student body president and vice president. Mensah and Spivey find that their previous work in SGA and their passion for UNCW has prepared them for a possible tenure as student body president and vice president, one that they hope can bring about needed change to this campus.

“First and foremost, we want to address the issue of diversity,” Mensah said. “With the past election year, a lot of things were said and it just revealed the culture of our campus and how [the] administration does not really address the issue, [they] send out an email basically. And then that is it; you don’t really see the next steps.”

The issue of diversity would be a large topic to be taken on if Mensah and Spivey were elected, as Mensah posted recently on their Vote Mensah & Spivey political Facebook page about the importance of diversity and creating a welcoming environment.

“The way issues of race, gender, and sexuality are dealt with by administration does not deal with the root of the problems that consistently allow for these issues to persist,” the post read. “There is a lack of dialogue on our campus regarding the state of our diversity. As Student Body President and Vice President, Austin and I want to foster an environment where we as a campus can come together and have the much needed difficult conversations that need to be had.”

The post went on to explain how Mensah understands the importance of having a “diverse and inclusive campus.” She reiterated how working to create a more inclusive environment will ultimately make the entire student body better.

Besides the problems facing UNCW in relation to diversity, this duo also hopes to address the issues facing campus spacing.

“We are planning to grow our campus at a rate faster than which we can accommodate for,” Mensah explained, “and with that we need a lot of space. There are buildings that have yet to be renovated, the library being on of them, as well as Dobo, Bear, like the old, forgotten [buildings].”

Spivey also noted that as the university grows, they hope to work to keep the cohesiveness of UNCW as it grows.

“…with the size of the school, as it is projected to grow so much in the next few years, it is crucial that we don’t lose the cohesiveness that the school has now,” Spivey said. “The big hope is that we can improve upon it even more, even despite the huge growth of the school population in the next few years.”

And having worked in SGA, another issue that would be addressed is the issue of communication between SGA and the student body. In order to improve SGA, Mensah mentioned reaching out further into the student body to make students aware of what SGA does and can do for them.

“There is a lot of technology out there; we have a lot of student media sources, like The Seahawk. And partnering up with these mediums, like Hawkstream, TealTV and The Seahawk, [in order to give] them information to report on and broadcast out to the student body.”

Spivey noted that more transparency with their constituents would be a good thing for SGA, as it is important to to interact more with the student body at large and disseminate information through various outlets.

Ultimately, the largest issue Mensah and Spivey hope to accomplish if elected is creating a welcoming environment where each student can soar. The two want to make sure that, for years to come, UNCW can be a home for many through the work that they can do for the student body.

When asked how she hopes to improve UNCW, Mensah said by “creating an environment where [students] feel like they can excel. [I’m] not saying that they do not feel that way, but there are some students who transfer out because they do not find their place here at UNCW and we want to create an environment where everyone feels welcome and I just want to see UNCW grow and prosper.”

Mensah would love to come back to campus and see everything change: “the population of our diversity, the campus in and of itself, new buildings, the library being expanded, and parking being dealt with.”

Spivey mentioned hearing about students who do not have a realistic idea of how much this campus has to offer them, and thinks that a huge improvement to the school would be for everyone to find their place in a campus such as this.

“I know we have a lot to offer,” Spivey said. And he hopes to work alongside Mensah in order to make people feel more like Seahawks.

All of these issues are problems that Mensah and Spivey hope to confront if elected to these positions, and they believe that they will be able to work toward successful outcomes for the student body based on their experience in SGA.

“For me SGA, has always been my home,” Mensah said. “SGA is the first organization I joined as a freshman and, with that, I ran for freshman class president, was elected a senator and got into the position. I have seen the inner workings of SGA.”

Mensah said she has seen “the ‘goods,’ the ‘bads,’ and the ‘uglies,’” and that having this knowledge of the inner workings of SGA qualifies her to continue to work in the student organization.

“As freshman class senator and sophomore [class] president, I have worked closely with the current SGA president [Dan McCord] and I have seen what he has had to deal with and, with the past political climate of our campus, there is a lot that needs to be fixed,” Mensah said. “And I just want to aid in the fixing.”

Spivey decided to run for vice president mostly at the behest of Mensah, who thought Spivey would do well as vice president. Mensah said she would often see Spivey in the SGA office “always doing his work, being very charismatic and personable.”

When Spivey initially joined SGA, “It kind of blew my mind how much influence you have, how much of the campus you can touch as an SGA senator.”

Spivey feels as though he is qualified in that he has been in SGA and has “a lot of background in leadership settings,” and with “being a good communicator with large groups of people.”

“That is the whole nature of the game, making sure future generations can feel comfortable here and feel like they have a good environment here to study and learn and grow as students and as people,” Spivey said. “That is one of the challenges with SGA; people want immediate change, but there are a million steps and that goes along with knowing the “game,” knowing the process [of SGA].”