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Dillon In The House: SGA Pres Takes DC

What’s up everyone?! You may remember me as a once HawkTalk blogger turned HawkTalk blog director! As I spend the summer leading up to my junior year living in NYC, I wanted one last chance to blog to share my experiences with others, hoping to shed some light on what it means to be a part of Wagner. Be on the lookout for some posts where I share my experiences!

The first experience I want to share is my trip to the National Campus Leadership Council’s Presidential Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. At this conference, student body presidents from colleges and universities across the country gather to discuss major issues that affect college students.


In April, I was elected as the next student body president for Wagner College (exciting, right?!) and because of my new position, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about the national role a college student leader can play in the formation and implementation of policies on the collegiate, local, and national level. The conference consisted of 150 incoming and outgoing student body presidents from 120 campuses across the country. Some of the other New York schools represented were New York University, SUNY New Paltz, and University of Rochester.

The weekend began on Friday night with a networking reception. The room was filled with eager chatter from a wide variety of student leaders sharing their stories and experiences as campus leaders. I asked as many questions as I could and gained as much information as possible from some of the other student body presidents. My questions ranged from asking about executive board positions, to figuring out what type of leadership development that other Student Government Associations complete. Our networking evening concluded with a walking tour of the D.C. area, where we were able to take a laid-back look at some major monuments of our country's history.


The second day was focused on breakout sessions and workshops. My first breakout session was about creating inclusive communities on campus. While Wagner is diverse and engaged, there is always more that can be done to address inclusivity of everyone on campus. Through this workshop, I have decided to create a task force on campus, which will meet to discuss inclusivity, equity, and what can be done on our campus to ensure that there is comfort for all students. The second breakout session I attended was focused on addressing college affordability. While Wagner is a private institution and does not receive state funding, there are still many relevant legislative issues that affect Wagner students, specifically relating to FAFSA and Pell Grants. It was very interesting to hear from other student body presidents who work on a local, state, and national level with legislators to address state funding and other college affordability issues. I will be staying tuned to this topic and do the most that I can to ensure the Wagner student voice is being heard on the local, state, and national level.

We spent lunch hearing from Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan's 12th Congressional District, who is working with the current and previous student body presidents at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor to champion the mental health movement sweeping  across the nation. While sexual assault and college affordability are extremely important to college students, mental health awareness, understanding, and resources are all elements of this issue that are necessary. A lot of my work this year will be to ensure that there is awareness of the mental health resources that Wagner has and ensuring the stigma is removed.

In the afternoon, we attended workshops focused on some of our specific interests. I attended two on speech writing and fundraising. Through these sessions, I was able to learn more about two specific skills that are not only important for student leaders, but that I have quite an interest in. This foundation laid out a skill set that I will continue to develop.

I spent the evening with the Student Government Association Vice President of Civic Engagement Charlton Boyd, who was in D.C. interning for his state's Senator.

Sunday morning began with an early walk to the White House. There we were briefed by White House officials, and then had a collaborative session to create plans of action on how we, as students leaders, can champion key issues affecting college students on our on campuses and beyond.

IMG_6227_2The morning began with an update on the It's On Us Campaign. The It's On Us Campaign was started to recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault, to identify situations in which sexual assault may occur, to intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given, and to create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported. The White House, including Vice President Joe Biden, has been actively engaged in this organization and the mission behind it. Hearing from the campaign manager and assistant secretary for civil rights of the U.S. Department of Education, we were made aware of the continued fight about regulations and how we as students can work beyond awareness and more on policies and prevention.

Later in the afternoon, members of the White House Council on Women and Girls joined us as we broke out into sessions to communicate the specific needs of our campuses and hear from them on how the White House was addressing the issues that were important to our campuses. After this collaboration, we were tasked with creating a solid plan of execution with the other student leaders. The main theme of the various proposals was ensuring that policy at each individual school was in line with national guidelines, as well as creating a document that would outline the specific resources that each school has for victims of sexual violence. With the new school year starting up, I will be working with the dean of campus life to ensure that the Wagner policy is in line and that we can create a document to distribute to all students outlining the resources available to them.

Overall, through this experience, I was able to gain a comprehensive view of the role of a student body president as the position relates to off-campus work. That being said, I was also able to learn how to connect what is happening on a much larger scale to our campus. I believe with what I've learned and the relationships I've formed with other student leaders, I will be able to better serve the Wagner College community and ensure that our community is the absolute best that it can be.

*Please note that the opinions expressed in this post are solely my own.