Q&A with Sarah Godlewski, Student Government President

Posted: March 25, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Editor’s note: This weekly question-and-answer column appears every Thursday in the Daily Gazette.

By Megan McDonnell

Sarah Godlewski
Sarah Godlewski
Photo by Evan Cantwell

Can you give me an overview of the responsibilities of Student Government president?

I think the responsibility of the Student Government president is to make sure he or she is actively communicating between the students and the administration. You are the voice of the students, but it is the administration that is able to help you get things done. I think the position is basically what you make of it. What committees you want to form, where you want the focus to be, and what kind of relationship you want with the rest of the Student Government is all placed on the individual president. There is a lot of flexibility within the position.

Besides this office, what other activities are you involved with on campus?

I’ve been involved with peer advising–I’m a senior peer advisor for the Project Peak program. We go camping with freshmen a week before classes start and then we move them into the dorms to help them transition into college life. They also have a course with me for the semester that I cofacilitate with a professor. I am also involved with a sorority–I’m an Alpha Phi and I was the scholarship director, so I was in charge of making sure sorority members were keeping up their grades and academics. I am a co-leader for an alternative spring break. I have been involved for four years with the Traditions Committee; we help try to establish tradition at George Mason. I’m also on the president/provost advisory council where I help advise the president and the provost on what’s going on with the students. I’m also involved with Virginia 21, a bipartisan political organization, which helps work for youth in higher education.

What is your role in Virginia 21?

As student body president, I sit on a steering committee of all the student body presidents within the commonwealth who are at public universities. We look at various issues and take stances. For example, our most recent stance was on whether or not we should support the resolution in Richmond to have a faculty member sit on the Board of Visitors. We made a decision, as a steering committee, to support it. Besides that, we are always going down to Richmond for fundraising. I’ve been to Richmond four or five times, lobbying delegates and the state Senate, talking to the Virginia caucus, speaking with Governor Mark Warner about various educational issues, working with resolutions, and getting more money for George Mason and for higher education in the commonwealth as a whole.

What are your goals while you are in office?

[Vice President] Katie [Hall] and I came here with the goal that we didn’t want Student Government to be a secret anymore. We built a strong relationship with the Student Government as a whole, working with the Student Senate and other entities within the university. We’ve really worked with the council of umbrellas and various other organizations. There are numerous separate groups around campus, but we try to encourage them to actively work together. I think we have done a fairly decent job.

In addition, [what’s going on in] Richmond has always been one of those issues that no one knows about, and students are consistently complaining about tuition and financial aid. We are actually going down there, going to the source, and doing something about it. Richmond has been one of our forefront events. We are not just talking about going to Richmond or maybe writing a letter here or there–we are actively engaged. I’ve talked with the northern caucus twice; we are getting our name out there and letting people know that Student Government is participating.

What is your favorite part about being in office?

Probably working with the students; I’ve had such a great experience with them. All of the students have been so supportive; they are always encouraging and connecting. If they have a problem, we work together to make a difference. I think that they have the same mentality that I do–they want to make George Mason an even better university.

What are some important issues or challenges facing your office?

I think the number one challenge is budget concerns. We are dealing with how we are going to afford this and that. For example, Katie used her computer from home and she installed it here because we couldn’t afford to buy her a computer. I had a computer donated in my office from another business because we don’t have these supplies. There are all these things we want to do for the students but we are not getting the right resources to do them. It is not necessarily that we don’t have the ideas, it’s that we aren’t getting the funds to implement them.

Are there any new programs you would like the university community to be aware of?

The biggest one is probably transportation with the Patriot Express that runs Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. We have had great feedback from it, but it’s unfortunate that we are dealing with budget constraints so it’s not consistent. We’ve been working with Senior Vice President Maurice Scherrens on looking at the budget, and other issues with Reid Herlihy, vice president for facilities, on how we can make certain programs more effective.

We have also worked on the national student exchange program where students can exchange anywhere within North America for in-state tuition as long as they are a member of the program. You could go to Hawaii, for example, for up to a year and pay the same in-state tuition you would here at George Mason. One of the other issues we are looking at is extending the drop period. We have worked with the Faculty Senate and the Board of Visitors and they have seemed supportive. We are the only university within our peer institutions and within the commonwealth that has only 5 weeks to drop a class, while other universities average between 9 and 10 weeks.

Is there any other information you would like to share?

I have been an active part of Student Government for more than four years now, and I’ve never seen a group of students who were so dedicated as a whole to improve this university as I have this year. These students are here working until 2 a.m. writing letters or proposing resolutions. They never once asked themselves, why am I here? They have a drive to do it. George Mason is one of the only universities that don’t reward their Student Government members; most universities have tuition reimbursements, parking, or early registration for class. I think that shows that the drive here is nothing like other universities. We are part of a unique, but positive, experience.

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