“Your Vision Our Mission” was Cortez Whatley and Rachel Brill’s winning campaign slogan and they still stand firm on it as Student Government Association student body president and vice president, respectively.

This administration is different. Most campaigns use their last names such as former SGA administration McCann and Brock. Using their first names – Cortez and Rachel – was an open, inviting, friendlier approach to students. They also are reaching outside UCF into the Central Florida community.

Cortez is a senior majoring in public administration and legal studies. Rachel is also a senior in the Interdisciplinary Studies program with a minor in nonprofit management. Rachel had an interest in student government in high school and got involved with VUCF when she came to UCF. Cortez joined UCF College Democrats the first year and quickly understood how SGA worked. They both served on the SGA Senate and knew each other professionally and personally. The decision came to run for SGA president. “I saw an opportunity to give back to the university that has given so much to me personally,” says Cortez. “In this position, it is probably one of the very few that a student has the opportunity to provide services and open up pathways and doors for students coming after him- or herself.”

Cortez was asked how he selected Rachel to be vice president: “I was looking for a complement and I believe that is the best way to look for a team member. Rachel has different leadership abilities and talents than me… together we make a strong team. . . Many times candidates are pulled together based solely on experience, not necessarily on how well they know each other.”

Their slogan came about not only by listening to fellow students but their vision boards used during their campaign. Students were invited to write changes, improvements and what they would like to see on campus on the boards. Cortez said, “The vision boards became a guideline, more of a living document that will continuously be grow and expand.” They plan to continue to set up vision boards throughout their term.

“We have a different look and role in Student Government,” says Cortez. They are working on community-based initiatives such as the Knights Campus Kitchen project to donate leftover food from the Student Union or Markeplace to homeless shelters. In addition, they will visit high schools to talk to students about college life, motivate them to prepare for college now, and most of all to inspire and instill that they can go to college. “Students relate better to people who are just a little bit older than they are…especially since we’re still in college,” says Cortez. Some students may not understand why this administration is working outside the UCF community. “These students are our future. It’s not only an investment to UCF but the community as a whole in which we are a part of . . . Our scope is very broad under this administration.”

Other initiatives include:

  • Advocating to reduce the cost of textbooks by introducing eTextbooks that may save 40-70 percent off of the cost of printed books. In addition, Knights Helping Knights has a textbook exchange where a student can bring in a textbook and get credit for another.
  • Expanding the university transportation with KnightLynx to Downtown Orlando area at night, free to UCF students for their convenience and safety. Rachel says, “We are still planning on the days and times.” In addition, they plan to implement a new initiative, a Holiday Shuttle Service System that would travel from main campus to the Orlando International Airport during Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks.
  • Expanding Study Space (currently in the Arena) to Ferrell Commons. This study space will have multiple computer stations, free printing, tools for studying and accommodations for individual or group studying. The space will also be convenient for Academic Village residents
  • Expanding fall’s Diversity Week working with the Office of Diversity Initiatives and/or the Multicultural Student Center and introducing a spring semester Diversity Week.
  • Making Regional Campuses a priority for providing SGA services and engaging those students with main campus events such as Spirit Splash or similar events at their campuses.
  • Opening the north side Recreation and Wellness Center’s expansion to Knights Plaza and looking to keep the facility open 24 hours to accommodate students with unconventional hours or early class hours.
  • When Cortez was asked if there was an area that he would like to see changed in SGA, he said “As a whole, SGA is in a good place. . . Maybe see more professionalism [attire]. . .Students asking to receive funds have to dress up and present professionally, I think we should do the same thing.”

    When asked if they foresee any challenges, Rachel said, “We are bringing a lot of new ideas and initiatives forward and I don’t see nothing we can’t overcome. While we were campaigning, some students said we had exciting ideas, others said, ‘that’s not going to be possible.’ – It’s people getting over the mindset that we can’t. . . We have to prove them wrong. It should be that they know we can and this is what they are going to do.”

    Cortez-Rachel is stepping out-of-the-box (UCF) and into the Central Florida community. This administration sees beyond the horizon, the future. They are dedicated to students and plan to make the students’ vision a reality.