Melissa Westbrook and Jacob Kahn became the official Student Government Association Student Body president and vice president, respectively, on May 9, 2013. They oversee a budget of $18.8M.
SDES: What goals did you set for yourselves when you first came to UCF?
Westbrook said, “The O-Teamers talked about us being the Ultimate Knight, I always wanted to be that person…to be the best Knight I could be, helping other people, and doing well in school.” As president, she says, “I just try to remain humble.” It is important for students to know that they have an open door policy; students can talk or email them anytime. Westbrook-Kahn are willing to meet and work with students, not just showing up and making appearances at events. “You will see us working behind the scenes as well.”
Kahn’s mom inspired him to get involved at a young age. It was a matter of finding his “niche” at UCF beyond the classroom and “where I would grow as a leader and person.” Kahn held various positions in SGA since he was a freshman. “One of the things that attracted me to UCF is how strong the student voice is here and how SGA can make a big impact on the Student Body.”
SDES: How did you both get together to run for election?
They knew each other since their freshmen year. Not just through their involvement in SGA, but they had the same mentor, Kersti Myles, diversity initiative specialist education, Multicultural Student Center. Through Myles, they met and have been working together through the years. With both their SG background and knowledge, they felt they were the most capable to be president and vice president.
Their platform covers an array of issues pertaining to academics, campus life, health, sustainability and an expansion of opportunities for students to work on. “We’re really get-it-done type of people,” says Westbrook. ”We are distributing the work; each cabinet member has 3-4 platform goals.”
One priority is the locked-in tuition contracts which they are working with the Florida Student Association. “This will take a great deal of effort,” says Westbrook, but students will benefit financially because tuition is always rising.
Students can visit the Activity and Service Fee website to view budget expenditures, but it is challenging to comprehend. Westbrook-Khan are creating a reader-friendly version to “help students understand where the money is going.”
SDES: What is your “pet” project?
Interesting response from Westbrook, she says her pet project is a “surprise and it will be revealed in spring.” She gave SDES no clues. . .
Kahn’s pet project is the “BigBelly,” solar trash compactor. The BigBelly harnesses the sun’s rays for 100 percent of their energy needs, has five times the capacity for trash as traditional bins, and can alert collection vehicles wirelessly when the receptacles are full. “Other universities have seen success and have placed them campuswide,” said Kahn. SGA will be placing BigBellys at the Student Union and Recreation and Wellness Center.
Westbrook-Kahn has brought back a hybrid of the former SGA position, Health and Safety specialist. “We are making our own decisions and developing habits that we will have till the day we die,” says Kahn. “It is really important to shape them now.” SGA is partnering with Wellness and Health Promotion Services, Recreation and Wellness Center, and the Health Center to advertise their services as well as increase the awareness on certain issues such as diabetes, eating right, exercise, and sexual health. SGA is also working on a free breakfast in the Student Union.
In addition, they are working with the provost to transition strong minor programs such as Women Studies into majors. Kahn said, “We want to make our school more unique in academic areas. What can we offer to set us apart?”
Other platform items include:
For a full list of platform items, visit: ucfsga.com/.
“Ultimately, I want this year to mark when SGA broke down the proverbial ivory tower that some students find SGA leaders to reside in,” said Kahn. “This will be a year where students will feel we are one with the student population on campus. After all, we are students first, and it is something everyone on campus needs to see.”
Westbrook said she is not a person who sees challenges; she just works through what needs to be done. Many years ago, she came up with a personal quote that still resides with her here at UCF: “Don’t dream for yourself, envision for the masses.”