The Student Government Association (SGA) has announced the winners of the Executive Board for the 2017-2018 school year. The President is James Whitfield, the Vice President is Angela Pham and the Controller is Jake Van Baest.
This election season differed from those in the past mainly in that a significantly smaller number of students ran for office. This year there were three candidates for vice president, but only one candidate for president and one candidate for controller.
On Wednesday, March 1, at around 8:00 a.m., the SGA election results were announced via email. The winner for president and controller were clear, but a runoff between Devin Walker and Angela Pham for vice president was called to order. Pham led the votes in the initial election, but the runoff was necessary because none of the candidates received over 50% of the votes. The re-election process took place between March 1 and March 3, when the polls closed at noon. Students were informed of this run-off via their APU emails.
Walker, a junior, double majoring in Business Management and Humanities, expected fierce competition going into this election process.
“We all enjoy each other, but I expected there to be tough competition,” Walker said.
When Walker found out there was going to be a runoff, he knew he was going to have to continue to reach voters through campaigning.
“There can be voter apathy, but word of mouth and social media helps me reach a lot of people,” he said.
Angela Pham, a sophomore double majoring in Humanities and Economics, won the runoff, with the final vote count of 434 for Pham and 332 for Walker.
“I honestly did not expect this [to be] going well for me,” Pham said. “I almost dropped out multiple times!”
Pham, along with her opponents, started Instagram profiles to campaign to the student body. Pham’s page was updated daily and even featured a picture with her and University President, Jon Wallace.
“Having the runoff was anticlimactic, but I think I did get a little more confident asking people to vote for me once we were in the runoff,” Pham said.
In her speech at the Student Government chapel held on February 24, Pham invited the student body to be a part of the “Phamily.”
James Whitfield, a junior physics major and theology minor, ran unopposed for SGA President, but that did not stop him from campaigning and taking his approach seriously.
“I wanted to introduce myself to people on campus and make sure that they knew I was running, that there was someone there trying to listen to them,” Whitfield said.
Whitfield is looking forward to building relationships with the administration and guiding the mission of the student government. But running unopposed did not cancel out Whitfield’s nerves regarding his new position.
“I’m definitely nervous. There’s a lot of responsibilities that fall on the shoulders of the executive team,” Whitfield said.
His intention is to keep some traditions, such as The Table banquet event, but is also looking to make some changes.
“I would love for us to have a consistent marketing face outside on campus. We have talked about being on Cougar Walk in order to make our faces known and understand the needs of the students.”
Like Whitfield, Jake Van Baest, a sophomore accounting major, ran unopposed for SGA Controller. Van Baest’s position is responsible for balancing check books, managing the budget and overseeing the credit card spending. Van Baest expressed disappointment because he had no one running against him.
“It would have been nice to have some more competition because the student body would look at my position as more valuable,” Van Baest said. “With more competition, it would have made the role feel more important, like I was more deserving of it because the student body doesn’t just have to settle, they actually chose someone.”
Regardless of the lack of competition, Van Baest is looking forward to his new leadership position.
“This is an opportunity to impact the student body…I’m hoping to make next year great,” Van Baest said.
The executive positions will represent the student body for an entire school year. Each candidate expressed certain personality traits that they would like the student body to know about them.
“I have a serious, business side, but I really do love adventure,” Whitfield said.
“I spend summers learning Arabic…and am always on the look out for Arabic speaking language partners at school,” Pham said.
“I do a lot more behind the scenes stuff, but I like to have fun and have human interaction,” Van Baest said.
Whitfield, Pham and Van Baest all shared a sense of gratitude and excitement for their new leadership positions.
Campaigning for senate positions will begin after spring break and students will be able to vote through their email accounts.