Being sworn into office as student government president stands as a tremendous accomplishment that one should feel very proud of. After you campaign, winning the election not only feels like an incredible honor, but it provides you with experience in leadership and teaches you valuable skills needed for any profession. Gabriela Dos Santos, a senior double majoring in criminal justice and global studies with a double minor in political science and honors, currently fulfills this position for Sacred Heart University (SHU).
Keep reading to learn more about Gabriela’s experience as Student Government President for SHU and what she has planned for the rest of the semester:
1. Who/What inspired you to run for office?
GDS: I don’t think I can say a single person inspired me to run for the position because it was a whole board kind of effort. Last year I held the position of Vice President of Judicial Affairs and many of the board members thought I would be a good fit for the position, so my application was the outcome of lots of discussions.
2. What positions did you hold on Student Government before being President (if any) and what was that experience like compared to being President?
GDS: As I mentioned, I was the Vice President of Judicial Affairs on the Executive and the roles are completely different. As the VP of Judicial Affairs, I didn’t have a board to delegate tasks, plan events, etc. The only overlapping skills are to be very organized and diligent with paperwork and keeping track of our attendance on multiple occasions.
The position of President definitely humanizes Student Government as a whole a lot more. I get to discuss ideas with my board, evaluate what would be best for our campus, interact with the SHU community, etc.
3. What are your daily duties and responsibilities as President?
GDS: The main duties I have as the president are to ensure that each board is doing what they’re supposed to do, to oversee the overall needs of our campus and execute some of the events the board deems beneficial for the campus community. Mainly I ensure everything is running smoothly and that everything is being properly executed with the proper organizations involved.
4. What kinds of events did you plan?
GDS: I cannot say I personally planned any event because every event Student Government puts together comes from a group effort. Some of the events the Executive board put together were some trivia nights on our campus Pub, some “Get to know Student Government” kind of events. Usually we leave it up to class boards to focus on academic needs and mental health for instance, since they’re much closer to the target population. The class boards know better which events to put together and how/why they’ll be successful ones.
5. How was the election process? Did you do any sort of campaigning?
GDS: Our election process is very straightforward here at SHU. Even though some procedures will change with the passing of our reviewed constitution this Spring, when I was elected the process consisted of a video statement, filling out an election package and campaigning, very simple. Campaigning was by far the most entertaining part because it was the first taste I had of simply starting conversations with people and trying to understand how I could be able to help that person.
6. How do you balance being Student Government President, Classwork and any other obligations you have?
GDS: I’m quite involved on my campus, on the daily I usually balance running on SHU’s D1 Cross Country and Track & Field teams, being a Resident Success Assistant in one of our sophomore halls, being the president of the Pre-Law Club, being a Chi Omega sister and the President of the Order of Omega (our Greek honor society), working a part time job off campus, among some smaller clubs which I don’t hold a leadership position at.
I usually rely a lot on communication— I’m constantly informing people of status updates on some issue or moving meetings around my classes, etc. The most effective method for me to stay on top of everything is to create a huge spreadsheet that has all of my due dates and work off of it as much as possible.
7. What is the best part of being Student Government President?
GDS: The best part of being Student Government President is by far seeing the changes happening on campus. It’s a particularly hard job if you take into consideration that every person you know will give you something on campus to “fix” whether they’re staff/faculty or students, so being able to see changes really happening and some groups of students enjoying the change, definitely makes up for the number of hours I put into this position.
8. What is the hardest part of being President that people may not realize?
GDS: I think that the hardest part of being Student Government President that people may not realize is dealing with the criticism. As much as any President can try, we cannot be perfect everyday and unfortunately one single mistake will definitely be talked about. It’s like a fishbowl concept, there are eyes everywhere you go and everyone can see you, which can be a little stressful sometimes but every now and then you get some really great advice too.
9. If you could be remembered for one accomplishment during your time as President so far, what would that be?
GDS: I believe that the greatest accomplishment during my time as President is the new constitution my board and our advisor put together. I wouldn’t say this is my personal accomplishment because even though as President I had to spearhead the movement, this could have never happened without the amazing leaders of Student Government.
But we did have an entire constitution review this year and fixed a lot of loopholes we had on the previous one. The new constitution reshaped our entire organization for next year and I honestly think it was a great set up for success.
10. What do you hope to accomplish in the spring semester as Student Government President?
GDS: In the spring semester one of the most important things to me is to make sure that the class boards get to host some events for their respective classes like we did last semester. From our position, we can only just hope that the pandemic situation improves as time goes by, so being able to simply host socially distant and online events is already a plus for us.
11. What are your career goals and will having been President correlate/help you with your future career? If so, in what ways?
GDS: I plan on becoming an international attorney and hopefully work for the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court at some point. The position of President has taught me much more than I thought it would. Not only was I able to improve my organizational and social skills but I also learned how to fully understand a person from a different perspective, a more holistic perspective. The position of President can be really fun but I also got to know people much better simply from checking in with them or following up on something.
12. Do you have any aspirations to run for any political positions after graduation?
GDS: I have always been interested in politics and actually will graduate with a minor in Political Science and a major in Criminal Justice, but I don’t think I’ll be running for any political positions right after college. I am currently in the process to apply for Law School so hopefully in a few years I’ll be running for a position.
How to Run for Office:
3 Helpful Tips from Gabriela
Tip #1— “Make sure you listen to what people are telling you. It’s very very easy to think that you’re an accurate representation of the school you attend, but you most likely are not. So make sure that you’re actively listening to the issues people bring to you and use that in your campaign.”
Tip #2— “Trust yourself. I hear very often that people did not run for a Student Government position because they thought somebody else was going to win, but you gotta give yourself a fair shot and really try at least once because if you never try then you definitely know you’re never getting it.”
Tip #3— “Talk to plenty of people. You want to make sure that your campaign is going to reach most people in your school and that they will remember your name during elections so don’t be afraid to reach out to some people you don’t usually hang out with or make some new friends to spread the word.”
How to Contact Gabriela:
Email: [email protected]