Let’s talk about elections. Not those relating to the federal government, but the ones on our college campuses. A lot of schools provide what’s called a student government in which students elect who they want for a particular position. The highest position of them all? You guessed it, president. Being elected student body president not only allows for the potentially long-lasting change you want to see happen in your school but serves great preparation for students interested in becoming politicians themselves after graduation. I interviewed Taylormarie Capoziello, an alumna of St. John’s University Staten Island campus who majored in legal studies with a double minor in communications & theology on her experience being a former president of Student Government Inc. during the 2019-2020 year.
Read to learn more about the inside scoop on what it’s like being student government president and Taylormarie’s personal experience with the position:
Q: Who inspired you to run for office?
TC: I don’t believe any one person inspired me to run for office. When I ran for my first election it actually wasn’t even my choice, one of the outgoing seniors told me I should run and that I needed to have a speech ready for that day. That moment truly changed my life and put me on a path I didn’t know I wanted to be on. When I chose to run again, it was to ensure that SGI was running the proper way and giving back to the students of St. John’s in every possible way.
Everything that I set out to accomplish in every position I held was always for the benefit of the students. The reason I remained inspired to run for positions was to ensure that the voices of the student population were being heard, even if all I could do to help with their issues is to hold the microphone while they spoke.
Q: What positions did you hold on SGI before being president and what was that experience like?
TC: Prior to holding the Presidency, I was Vice President for the 2018-2019 academic year and Resident Senator and Parliamentarian for the 2017-2018 academic year. Every experience I had within SGI was extremely rewarding and I learned a lot through them. In my previous roles, I learned how the organization worked as well as the most important roles and duties of all the organization members.
Serving under two separate presidencies was influential in learning how to properly serve as a president myself. As Vice President, Resident Senator and Parliamentarian, I did not have as many duties as I had when I was President, but that doesn’t mean that those roles were any less important. SGI runs like a machine; all the parts need to work properly and together in order for tasks to be accomplished.
Q: What are your daily duties and responsibilities as president?
TC: My duties varied from day to day depending on what events were happening and what my personal schedule looked like. A lot of my responsibilities happened before the semester was fully happening. Allocating budgets to recognized student organizations, ensuring that all events were planned and other things like that. Allocating budgets was definitely one of my most important tasks, which I completed with the help of the Treasurer, Vice President, and two Senators.
We aimed to give organizations proper funds for events and materials that we thought were important to running their organization successfully and efficiently. I had meetings with the Vice Provost and the Dean of Student Affairs ensuring student voices were being heard and asking for updates on what was being done to accomplish what students had asked for if the requests made were feasible.
Q: Since you were president prior to COVID, what school events was SGI responsible for planning?
TC: SGI is responsible for planning a plethora of events throughout the school year. We hold the Opening Year Barbecue, Autumn Ball, Commuter Week, and the End of Year Barbecue, among many other events throughout the year. Each senator in SGI plans events tailored to their position whether it be a lecture or a lunch or an event with giveaways!
My favorite events of the year are always the Opening Year Barbecue and Autumn Ball. Opening Year Barbecue sets the tone for the school year. In my opinion, it’s a great way to meet new people and catch up with old friends while enjoying great food and music on the Great Lawn.
Autumn Ball happens right before Thanksgiving break and it’s a great way to celebrate being almost done with the semester. Ironically, the Autumn Ball we planned while I was President happened to land on my birthday, which made me enjoy it even more as the running joke was that it was my birthday party. There is nothing better than getting dressed up with your friends, grabbing a date, and dancing the night away!
Q: How did you balance being SGI-SI president, classwork, and any other obligations you had?
TC: While being President I had a full class load and worked two part time jobs, in addition to being a member of the President’s Society. It was definitely hard to balance while trying to maintain a healthy social life, but I am very thankful I was able to do so as well.
Before campus was closed for the Covid-19 outbreak I was only on campus twice a week in the spring semester. I needed to be very diligent with my planning and make sure that I had enough time in my schedule to do all the things necessary within those two days. It was definitely a hectic two days, but I am so grateful to have had the experience before going virtual for the rest of the year even though it was very stressful.
Q: What is the best part of being President?
TC: My favorite part of being President was all of the networking that I was able to do! SGI umbrellas over all recognized student lead organizations so there was a lot of interfacing with other student leaders of various organizations. It was amazing to be able to connect with a variety of students who all had amazing plans and goals.
I was able to attend various university events and meet different alumni who had also been in Student Government Inc. as well. It was amazing being able to hear stories about what SGI was like when they were members and how they operated.
Q: What is the hardest part of being president that people may not realize?
TC: When I became President of SGI, I needed to step back from other things that I wanted to do to be able to ensure that SGI was my sole focus. I stepped back from other organizations that I was interested in so that I did not have any bias when making decisions on budgets or anything else. It was very important to me to be able to not be impartial to any organization and look at everything equally.
Unfortunately, some will still say that there is a bias when there isn’t. Something that was really hard for me to come to terms with was the fact that you can’t always help your peers and that some things are out of your control. I always wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing for the students as a whole, but sometimes the issues they wanted fixed went above SGI’s heads to administration.
Q: What’s it like being president on the Staten Island campus since it’s smaller than the main one in Queens?
TC: SGI in Queens and Staten Island are differently structured so it is definitely different on both campuses. Staten Island’s SGI is a lot smaller and since the campus is smaller we do events on a much smaller scale. Where Queens is catering to thousands of students, Staten Island is catering to a few hundred, a thousand at most. I definitely am thankful for my smaller SGI and my smaller team; I feel like we were able to make a lot more connections and it was an all-around amazing experience working with my entire team.
Q: What are your career goals and aspirations, and will having been president correlate with your future career?
TC: I am currently furthering my education at Hofstra University’s Law School. I definitely think that being President helped me to gain skills helping me with my education, but I wouldn’t say that it specifically correlates with my future career. I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was a young child, so I am happy I am closer to making my dream a reality. Being President taught me many skills that will help me in my career such as how to properly manage my time and how to conduct myself in a professional manner 100% of the time.
Q: If you could be remembered for one accomplishment during your time as president at St. John’s University, what would that be?
TC: Right before the Covid-19 outbreak, I started holding information sessions for elections which would have taken place the next month. However, given the closure of campus for the semester and all classes going online, I needed to find a solution quickly. I was able to run the first fully online campaign and election process.
We have used an online server and database in the past, but people were still able to use paper ballots to vote as well. This year everything was run remotely and fully online, it was such a relief when it was finished. Given that my year was cut short I did not get to accomplish all the things I set out to do, but it was an amazing year, nonetheless.
Q: Do you have any aspirations to run for any political positions after graduation?
TC: At the moment I don’t have any aspirations to run for a political office. I don’t think that politics is something that I would like to make a career out of. One day that might change in the future, but for now I hold my SGI experience very close to my heart, thankful for it every day. Being President of SGI was enough politics for me for a lifetime!
How to Run for Student Office:
3 Helpful Tips from Taylormarie
Tip #1—Don’t be afraid to run! A lot of people think it’s intimidating but I promise it isn’t at all, just be yourself and have ideas about what you want to do.
Tip #2—Utilize your connections! If your friends are in different organizations than you are, have them help you campaign so you’re reaching different voters than you originally would have. It can be as easy as posting an Instagram story or mentioning you in passing at their next meeting.
Tip #3—Don’t forget to have fun! That is the most important part about running for student leadership. It’s not something that’s meant to stress you out beyond belief or have you in tears if you don’t win. Have fun with running and your campaign and (if you’re not a senior) you can always run again next year!
How to Connect with Taylormarie:
Email: [email protected]