For the Empower executive ticket in the 2019 University of Georgia Student Government Association election, its campaign platform is personal, aiming to bridge the gap between students and campus resources.
The candidates of Empower — Rachel Byers for president, Melissa Hevener for vice president and Nav Singh for treasurer — all have special experiences connected to the heart of their platform.
“I wouldn’t be here if we didn’t see room for improvement, or that there were gaps that students face where we really saw SGA being able to step in,” Byers, a junior political science and communication studies major from Monroe, said. “Really, I think it is an incredible way to advocate for students and actually allow that change to happen.“
As Director of Engagement for the current SGA administration, Byers said her role includes reaching out to student organizations regarding SGA and hearing their concerns through “listening tours.” If elected, Byers said she plans to expand these listening tours as part of their plan to “bridge the gap for underrepresented students.”
Hevener, a sophomore majoring in public relations and international affairs from Binan, Philippines, said the campaign’s mission bears a personal connection to her experience at UGA where she started as an international student in spring 2017.
“I know that I have a very niche, unique experience that may relate to and resonate with some students, but there might be some students who have a totally different experience than I did,” Hevener said. “[We want] to reach out to those people and partner with the appropriate offices on campus and ensuring that we have programming that supports those communities.”
Singh, a junior majoring in pharmaceutical science from Stone Mountain, said that through his involvement in organizations around campus he has witnessed a struggle faced by smaller clubs regarding funding and awareness of SGA sources for funding.
“One thing I’m trying to bring in with the treasurer role is having fairness included with it [by requiring] organizations to announce what funding they are going to get,” Singh said. “Some big clubs get funding from other sources, so it would be fine if they were to not get Small Club Allocations … A lot of smaller clubs could use that help.”
Singh also said he wants to amend the club registration process to promote awareness and include information about SGA funding sources.
Empower’s other platform points include working with the University Health Center to implement sexual assault bystander intervention, building effective partnerships with the LGBT Resource Center and other organizations promoting inclusion, adapting the parking priority system for student workers, including route direction in bus stop signage and strengthening mental health resources.
Empower is also seeking to provide access to free or discounted menstruation products and implement meal swipe donations, both of which are similar to initiatives being pursued by the current administration. However, the Empower team said it has its own methods for achieving these goals.
For meal swipe donations, Byers said her ticket envisioned students being able to donate unused swipes to the student food pantry and also allow students to redeem swipes from the food pantry at the dining hall.
Austin Gibbons, a junior majoring in political science and public relations, is working on the campaign. Gibbons said he was most excited about the campaign’s initiative to promote inclusion for transfer and international students, an area he feels no other SGA campaign has acknowledged.
For him, Empower is about more than just an election.
“Rachel, Melissa and Nav are more than just candidates,” Gibbons said. “They are friends who have been by my side throughout my time at UGA, and they are driven, intelligent, passionate leaders who engage with others and want to bridge gaps that students are facing on campus.”