Meet the USG candidates: directors

Baylee Sweitzer, Reporter

Director of governmental affairs 

Undergraduate Student Government elections for the 2022-2023 academic year opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday, March 22 on the USG election website and closes at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 23. This year, there are twelve candidates competing across seven directorship positions. 

Jessie Starkey

Freshman political science major Jessie Starkey is a current member of USG’s Governmental Affairs and Sustainability committees. 

Q: What is your platform?

Jessie Starkey is a candidate for Director of Governmental Affairs. (Courtesy of Undergraduate Student Government)

A: I currently serve on the Governmental Affairs Committee and Sustainability Committee. I have learned a lot about how Undergraduate Student Government works. When we went on an advocacy trip to the State House, we advocated against the passing of House Bill 327. It showed me how much of a difference we can make, at any age, in our political system.

Q: Why do you want to be elected?

A: I grew up in a small town where there was very little acceptance or non-biased information, so I know what it’s like to not have your voice heard, and I don’t want anyone else to feel like that. Also, I feel like our student body is always told to be very involved with what’s going on in our government, but it’s really hard to get access to that information to be able to be an active member and vote. Many students want to, but it’s really confusing when you try to look for information or it’s hard, especially on a local or a state level.

Q: What changes are you looking to enact?

A: I want to get the student body more involved in our government and help inform them on what’s going on in the U.S. I want to hold tabling events and use social media to connect with the student body to help them see what’s going on and have that information easily accessible, as well as having tabling events for voter registration because a lot of the time it just slips your mind or you push it back, but if it’s right there in front of the student body, then they’ll be able to access it.

Trevor Walton

Trevor Walton is a candidate for Director of Governmental Affairs. (Courtesy of Undergraduate Student Government )

Current Senator for the College of Arts and Sciences Trevor Walton is a junior political science major. Walton also works as the membership coordinator for the May 4th Task Force and president of the Kent State Speech and Debate team. Before his current term, Walton worked with the directors of governmental affairs, Ethan Lower last year and Erik Gomez this year. Current USG Student Body President Chazzlyn Jackson endorsed Walton’s campaign. 

Q: What is your platform?

A: 2020 has unveiled a lot of underlying threats to our democracy–like our elections’ integrity, legislative limitations towards student voting rights and the spread of misinformation–showing overall, people don’t understand our electoral systems. I want to help combat that. I promise to write resolutions to condemn legislation that limits students’ right to vote. I will also advocate for student-employee wage increases and fair employee rights all-around. I also want to make Kent State’s civic engagement free and fair.

Q: Why do you want to be elected?

A: My passion for this position is very specific. I grew up in a very low-income area, one of the only gay person in town, and am a first-generation, Native-American, independent student. So many times, I felt like I didn’t have a voice. It’s important that everyone has a voice at the ballot box and votes their voice too.

Q: What changes are you looking to enact?

A: I am looking to promote voter registration through First-Year Experience and through Kent State Votes voter registration drives. It’s really important to me to promote civic engagement and also to help get legislators to come speak at the May 4th commencement.

Director of marketing and communications

Juliana Buonaiuto

Juliana Buonaiuto is a candidiate for Director of Marketing and Communications. (Courtesy of Undergraduate Student Government )

Junior marketing major and Vice President of Marketing for Alpha Phi Juliana Buonaiuto is the current senator for the College of Business Administration. Buonaiuto is a member of the Kent State American Marketing Association which allowed her to work as a marketing and promotions assistant for Kent State Student Media August 2021 to January 2022 and as a marketing and public relations intern for University College January 2021 to January 2022.

Q: What is your platform?

A: My platform has three main points. First, I want to implement paid social media advertising during election season, Homecoming, election season and Flash Fest to increase undergraduate student body participation. My second is to organize, email and direct message blasts to promote allocations for individual students and student organizations. So that’s in order to allocate student organizations and students money in order to go to individual conferences, develop themselves as leaders and better their organizations. And number three is to create a USG code of ethics to maintain professionalism as an organization on social media platforms.

Q: Why do you want to be elected?

A: I want to be elected because I want to serve the undergraduate student body in the way that it’s served me. Being on USG has been such an amazing experience for me. It’s developed me as a leader. It’s provided me tons of opportunities and I want to give those same opportunities back to the student body and I want to be able to represent them in the best way I can. And I know that I have done a good job representing the student body this year and I want to continue doing that and being their voice on USG.

Q: What changes are you looking to enact?

A: A huge change I want to enact is promotion during election season. So during election season, one of our biggest issues is voter turnout and voter participation among the student body. And they are the students that we represent. We represent the student body and we want them to be able to vote for us in those elections and to make those decisions as to who is going to represent them. I want to implement paid social media advertising in the Kent State bubble, so I would basically form a bubble around Kent State on the paid social media advertising.

Rebecca Wasson

Rebecca Wasson is a candidate for Director of Marketing and Communications. (Courtesy of Undergraduate Student Government)

Senator for the College of Architecture and Environmental Design Rebecca Wasson also serves as vice-chair on the Committee on Health. She is endorsed by current USG Student Body President Chazzlyn Jackson.

Q: What is your platform?

A: Student to student-leader accessibility. I really want to make our peers feel like they are part of USG, like we’re an equal playing-field. I think a lot of times student leaders have this reputation for being above or better than their peers, but that’s really not the case. I also want to increase in-person and online engagement through different social media tools. If they don’t know about our different programs or services, our different initiatives then our engagement is lower because they don’t know about it. Also, I want to expand our marketing team this year.

Q: Why do you want to be elected?

A: I’m passionate about USG. Honestly, I didn’t know much about the inner workings of this university, but I’ve always been a leader at heart. I’ve always been a part of advocacy. I like being an advocate for my peers, but I’m also interested in social media and interested in content creation. I like graphic design and that is part of this role. I think that advocacy and engagement with students is the most important part of the role, but graphic design is a part of the role with a lot of our content creation. I have the passion for it, which is really why I want to be Director of Marketing and Communications.

Q: What changes are you looking to enact?

A: Expanding our marketing team, having two or three people part of the marketing team that really allows us to put a dedicated focus into our different streams of communication with students and also make sure that we’re putting out our best communication for students. We’re working on a newsletter right now to tell people what we’ve been working on and what to look forward to. Also, using social media like TikTok and moving our Instagram in a bit of a different direction.

Stephanie Akhigbe

Stephanie Akhigbe is a candidate for Director of Marketing and Communications. (Courtesy of Undergraduate Student Government)

Senior architecture major Stephanie Akhigbe served as the marketing coordinator for Koonce Hall Council and was on the editorial board for church-based Next Magazine.

Q: What is your platform?

A: I want to push the KSU Mobile app. I work at the information desk so I get to hear like all these questions daily, ‘Where do I register for classes? How do I find my classes? How did the bus routes work? How can I check my student account balance?’ and most of those questions are easily answered by having the app and knowing how it works. And it’s just crazy to me how a lot of people don’t know it exists. I also plan to help with the USG newsletter, which I think would be a good tool to push the app as well.

Q: Why do you want to be elected?

A: My first year here, I was the Marketing Coordinator for Koonce. So I’ve done marketing on a smaller scale, so I can do that through USG. The overall experience of running for student government just seemed like fun. I thought to myself, ‘OK, let’s do that again.’ Sometimes I think, ‘Really? Can I do this? I’m going to have to talk to people.’ But, this whole experience is the reason I’m doing it in the first place. I want to try and do something I wouldn’t normally do–run and talk to people. So, I’m going to do this and I’m going to go, ‘Good job, Stephanie, you did it.’

Q: What changes are you looking to enact?

A: I am an international student from Nigeria, and when I first got here, I was told about the KSU Mobile app and it helped me a lot. I don’t know why they don’t do this for like students that are here, but the app will tell you which routes you need to take to go to where. I want to push for the app so more people can know about it and use it, too.

Director of student advancement 

Jayden Rhodes

Jayden Rhodes is a candidate for Director of Student Advancement. (Courtesy of Undergraduate Student Government )

Sophomore mechatronics engineering technology major Jayden Rhodes is the current senator for residence halls. Rhodes also works as a student success leader and member of Academic Diversity Outreach.

Q: What is your platform?

A: I am a first generation, multiracial, LGBTQ college student and I really think that including those voices in USG is necessary. I can use my privilege of looking very white, even though I’m half-black, to make sure that student voices are heard when I’m having conversations with administration. Also, I believe in second chances–that’s one of my key values. I feel like it’s very scary to go to the Office of Student Conduct and be like, ‘Oh no, what’s going to happen?’ Making sure students are getting second chances when it comes to Student Conduct, it’s scary, but it’s not the end-of-the-world.

Q: Why do you want to be elected?

A: I love hearing everyone’s voices and hearing their opinions, even if I don’t agree with them and seeing different perspectives in different communities on campus that I might not be involved in. Even if I look like the person who’s not going to understand you or not going to relate to you, I definitely will. I will listen to you with open ears and an open mind and take your opinions and your perspective into consideration.

Q: What changes are you looking to enact?

A: When students go to the Office of Student Conduct, they have the option to have a judicial advocate who’s there with them. I would really love to continue that work in that advocacy, but expand the program.

Niko Magda

Niko Magda is a candidate for Director of Student Advancement. (Courtesy of Undergraduate Student Government )

Niko Magda is a first-year sophomore biology pre-med major. Magda works as a freshman intern for USG and an EcoRep on the Residential Engagement Council. Current USG Student Body President Chazzlyn Jackson endorsed Magda’s campaign.

Q: What is your platform?

A: I want to increase exposure to the Center for Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services and overall connect students to campus resources. The big point is to create a culture of care through my work, to make campus feel safe, to make students feel included and to feel like they’re heard.

Q: Why do you want to be elected?

A: In our day and age, we often turn a blind eye to people who are in danger, and I want people to stand up for each other, no matter the circumstances. People should be getting the support they deserve. I want to be an advocate for them, and I want to see that they get the support they need through SSRVS. I feel like I can do that, help them by connecting them to the services they need.

Q: What changes are you looking to enact?

A: I want to incorporate learning about on-campus resources into the First-Year Experience curriculum. We are learning about very necessary resources, but only for extra-credit. For extra-credit in FYE I had to find the Women’s Center, LGBTQ+ Center and SRVSS. FYE is a very easy course to pass. So I didn’t really need it. No one else did either, but people should be learning about these centers on campus. So I would like one to implement that into their curriculum next year.

Baylee Sweitzer is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].