Kaelan Reedy, Dawson Dutchak take reins of Student Government
New student body president and vice president, Kaelan Reedy and Dawson Dutchak, stand ready to help ‘reignite the flame’
Wednesday evening, it became official.
Kaelan Reedy and Dawson Dutchak were sworn in as student body president and vice president, respectively, during the last meeting of Student Government for the academic year.
Reedy, who is a senior pursuing a degree in political science, served as vice president during the 2020-2021 school year. Dutchak is a junior studying public affairs and human resource management. Both are passionate about serving their fellow students and creating a vibrant, inclusive campus.
Several hours before their virtual swearing in, UND Today talked with Reedy and Dutchak about their plans for the next academic year.
The below conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Only hours before you are going to be sworn in as student body president and vice president, how are you feeling?
Reedy: I’m very excited. The swearing-in ceremony is always really fun, because the new vice president, Dawson, will get to finish off the meeting and get the adjournment, and we’ll really be getting transitioned into the roles after tonight.
It feels really good. And it’s a really good way to end off our finals week. Since we have so much work in other areas, it’s a fun feeling to be finally stepping into the role that we’ve campaigned for so long.
Dutchak: It is definitely exciting. to finally get to move into the new role. It is going to be a little bit diminished, because we’re all going to still be in Zoom. So, we won’t get to actually physically pass the gavel. But it’ll still be very cool to be able to chair the rest of the meeting and get a taste of the year to come.
Why did you want to be president and vice president?
Reedy: I wasn’t 100 percent sure going into my vice president role, whether I wanted to go for a student body president run. And that was because I was a senior last year. I was going into a double major. And so I would have been able to graduate technically next semester. So, I wasn’t 100% sure if I wanted to extend that another semester and end up running.
But as I went through the year, I saw a lot of students and quite frankly, myself included, struggle through COVID-19. And all of the issues that came with that: from logistical and financial issues brought on by COVID-19, from struggles with online classes, struggles with mental health. It was a very tough time to be a student this year.
Dawson and I had experience with student government, we had experience representing our peers, and we had a really big drive to go forward into next year as strong as possible. I think that’s what students need after this year. And with all the problems everyone has had, I think next year is going to be absolutely pivotal for bringing back the student experience, reigniting that flame. Dawson and I just have that experience necessary and we’re willing to try and bring that back and just improve student life. And that’s something I’m just extremely passionate about.
Dutchak: We’re both pretty dedicated to serving students. We both get started in student governments and the association of residence halls and then advocating for students at the state level on weekends and NDSA. We’ve been doing a lot to try and represent that student voice. This is the next step, being at the forefront of student government. It brings a lot of responsibility and potential influence to change things for the better.
Tell us about your platform and major areas of focus?
Reedy: Like we’ve seen in a lot of campaigns, we like to separate our platforms into three categories. The first one is almost a symbolic piece of the platform. We call that “Spark the Spirit.” What that is, is going into next year, students are just drained right now. Students have been dealing with online classes. It’s something that a lot of people had trouble adapting to. Students have been just trying to survive COVID. They’ve been working jobs. They’ve been taking care of their sick family members. They’ve been sick occasionally. It’s really taken a toll on students here and our school spirit and our excitement as a university.
Going into next year, fingers crossed unless something bad happens over the summer, the University is planning on having a full opening. We’re planning to go back to normal or the new normal, as some have called it. And so our “Spark the Spirit” platform point really rests on the idea that we need to as a student government make sure we go full force into supporting a safe but still extremely fun, active student events, make sure that we put efforts forward to reengage student organizations. Student Government has a pretty substantial budget. We are focused on finding ways to financially support student organizations that might have fallen apart due to COVID or stop meeting. Overall, making sure that the University is an exciting place for students to be. Our Student Government can play a really big role in reigniting that area of campus.
Dutchak: A couple things that we are pushing for is a major focus on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. We created an ad-hoc committee this spring to go through and create some recommendations for things that we can do as a Student Government to better promote DE&I on campus to try and make our campus community is more equitable and inclusive. Next year, we will put those plans into action. That’s a really big goal of ours.
We also want to extend more connections to the community to get students into experiential learning like internships, cooperative education opportunities, projects. Internships also help with the affordability piece, because here, instead of just taking a class, if you can go work somewhere and get paid $15 an hour and get credit for it, that really helps a lot of students pay for school.
The University administration is also actively engaged in promoting diversity and inclusion. Do you see avenues for cooperation to bolster each other’s efforts?
Reedy: For sure. The idea of the Student Government ad-hoc committee was that it would be similar to the University’s taskforce on diversity and inclusion. We wanted to get a group of people together to identify where Student Government itself could improve in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion and where the student body itself could. Next year, I hope to improve that committee by making sure that we get to as many voices as possible around the University. I’d like the committee to be sizable enough that all people can feel like they have the opportunity to join in because it’ll be a very open committee. I want to ensure that the committee is ideally meeting pretty regularly because this is an issue that’s affecting the nation. This is a big concern for students everywhere.
Dutchak: We have a very good working relationship with the upper administration. President Armacost comes to our meetings frequently. We have a very close relationship working with the Vice President of Student Affairs, Cara Halgren. One of the recommendations that was came out of that task force the president created was to form an administrative university-level committee on diversity, equity and inclusion. Getting a student representative on that is going to be very important to us to make sure that at that highest level of conversation there are students at the table. At the end of the day, it’s students who are mostly being affected by these issues. That’s something that we’ve had a very good opportunity to work on with our administration in the past: to have students at the table to make those decisions.
Talking about that, Dawson, you are the only student serving on the University’s task force on the future of higher education. Tell us about that experience and how it may have informed your goals as a student body vice president.
Dutchak: That’s been a very, very cool experience: to be the only student in a room full of faculty and administration, and really looking past just the immediate issues of the campus and looking forward to what could the university be like in a perfect world and how do we get there. We are starting things now that will outlive us, as they say. And so one of the big pushes that came out of that is talking about how important experiential learning is. It’s become a major priority of mine through working with the taskforce.
I don’t think that there are any problems that are going to be 100% solved this year. Diversity, equity and inclusion, that’s going to be an ongoing conversation. Increasing experiential learning opportunities, that’s going to be a continuing conversation. Working on the taskforce helped me view Student Government in a slightly more far reaching way, beyond just what I can do this year, and more of how I can use my platform this year to start things that are going to continue to expand and grow and improve in the years to come.
The student union is going to open next academic year. How are you planning to activate the building?
Reedy: That’s one of the biggest excitements that I have for next year. Having the Union open is going to really change, in my opinion, how students interact around campus. It’s going to be the centerpiece for where students meet for academic reasons, for clubs and organizations. It’s something that students have very sorely missed in the last couple of years, We had Wilkerson as a sort of replacement for a lot of students. But that’s kind of out of the way except for students who live in the residence halls. And, it’s not a place that students really took advantage of.
Having that new Union is going to be really important towards reengaging that students spirit. Some of the administration is going to be working in the building. We will have our offices there, too. That’s really going to improve communication between students and the University too.
Dutchak: Since students have been cloistered inside for so long, I think that they’re going to react by being even more willing to go out and congregate with people now that they’re able to. The Union is going to be very well used. It is also going to be a great place to have speakers and workshops to bring new perspectives and new information to campus and to students.
It is not just a collaborative, fun space, but also an educational space where people can gather and talk.