History was made on the Illinois State University campus when students elected the first all-female ticket to the Student Government Association.
Elections were held on April 3 and for the first time in ISU history, three women including Student Body President Samiat Salebo, Vice President Jada Turner and Chief of Staff Hannah Woody will head SGA’s executive branch.
Rebuilding the Nest
Through their campaigning process, Salebo, Turner and Woody stood by their “Rebuilding the Nest” theme and they plan to continue to stand by it through their term.
“We have come together from different backgrounds and we have come together to make SGA an inclusive place from everyone,” Turner said. “This year is probably going to be the most diverse the association has been and there’s some things that we want to change.”
“When we say we are rebuilding the nest, we say we are rebuilding it with positivity, with transparency and with new fresh ideas. Making SGA the place that you want to see.”
Turner said one of the changes they hope they can make is increasing collaboration efforts with other student organizations.
“We don’t want to solely be SGA, we want to reach out to other organizations such as members in Greek life and athletics,” Turner said. “We want to get more voices in.”
“We want to start working with the Diversity Advocacy Organizations and start building relationships with them and collaborating with them on initiatives.”
Woody said that they hope they can work along with the university to see the multicultural center through.
“We also want to push the university for the multicultural center. We know that there’s committees formed and there are initiatives underway so we don’t want to step on toes but as the voice of the students, that’s something that we need to make prevalent ‘this is what we want’.”
Woody also expressed the importance of making sure that all students are heard on campus.
“We want to give organizations the space to have their voices heard,” Woody said.
“We don’t want to speak for the students, we don’t want to step on their toes, we want to speak on behalf of the students so we’re going to ask what they want to see done and what they want to see improved. We are advocating for all students.”
“Diversity at State” is a slogan often used by ISU.
Salebo expressed that it’s important to make sure the institution stands by what they say they do.
“We want to make sure that ISU feels more inclusive to everybody. That’s something that I want to implement and make sure that ISU follows through what they say about diversity,” Salebo said.
“We talk a lot about diversity but we don’t actually make up a lot of efforts towards it. We
think that SGA as a body can make students feel more welcome at ISU and feel they an succeed. No matter what background they come from, just make sure that they are succeeding with the resources and all that ISU has to offer.”
Woody said that they hope they can help keep ISU accountable by making sure that policy and trainings are being followed.
“We also want to have a lot of accountability for the university, I know Samiat has talked about wanting to sit in on diversity trainings because we’ve noticed how there’s trends where teachers, faculty and staff make students feel uncomfortable and they shouldn’t,” Woody said.
“We also want to work on policy, we know that there’s policy in place for academics the week before finals and it’s not followed. ISU says that it prides itself and values diversity, but really when it comes to it, it’s not.”
Salebo thinks that SGA can do a better job of delegating the information from ISU administration to the student body.
“We want to make sure we are not the only ones hearing about some of the things going on at ISU. There often isn’t clear communication between the administration and the students and I think that’s a big problem that ISU has,” Salebo said.
“As a student it’s kind of hard to know what is going on unless you are in those spaces and us being in those spaces, we want to make sure we can tell students what is going on.”
Salebo said she hopes she can use her role as SGA president to motivate other students to reach out for help and feel inspired to accomplish their goals.
“Being the first female ticket doesn’t feel real because ISU has been around for a long time and just knowing the first time that there’s an all-female ticket, I never thought this would happen,” Salebo said.
“This was not given to us, we had to work really hard to get into this position and I just want to empower others and I want to inspire others. I hope people will use us as a resource because when I say to contact us, I really do mean that. I want people to know that we want to talk to them and we want to know what we can do to make a better change.”
Turner expressed that she hopes her position as Vice President will show other minority students that they have a support system.
“You have someone who is going to listen to you, you have someone who looks like you and now they’ll know to not let anyone tell them they can’t do something. You have us as a resource if you need anything just come talk to us.”
Salebo is the first black woman to be elected as SGA president.
She expressed that it is important for her that she was able to make history.
“Seeing people that look like you in higher up positions is not very common especially when you are a woman of color,” Salebo said. “We are used to seeing people that don’t look like us and that is just the way that its been historically.”
“Just knowing that we broke through barriers to get here is amazing. It wasn’t easy by any means but we did something that someone else couldn’t do in the past. Its important to let people know that things are changing and you can do it too.”