There’s more to the Student Government Association than just an executive board.
Most of the organization is made up of student senators who speak on behalf of the entire study body. However, students may not know what being a senator entails.
There are four kinds of senators: on-campus, off-campus, organizational and at-large. SGA senators take student concerns and translate them into legislation to try to make changes around campus.
Organizational Senator Cale Hansen said there are benefits to being a senator, both abstract and tangible.
“Some are more abstract, such as having a voice and say in university activities and gaining leadership experience that is transferable to any professional field,” he said. “Some are more tangible, such as the relationships you gain with administration, faculty and staff of the university and, of course, the relationships you make with fellow student leaders.”
With those relationships, Jake Peterson, an on-campus senator, said being a senator isn’t about the title. He said being a senator can be stressful at times, and there’s a lot of work to be put into the position. Even so, there are some benefits to it.
“The perks of the job is the feeling of humility when you fail, and the feeling of compassion and joy when you see your friends and fellow students becoming a little safer, and a little healthier, and a little happier because you decided to stand up for something,” Peterson said. “It is a harsh but true life fact.”
With the work student senators put into SGA, Alexus Torrence, an at-large senator, said the role is to be a voice and to make changes around campus.
“Being a senator is a wonderful experience,” she said. “My role in SGA is to help create change [and] represent the interest of students through things such as writing legislation.”
Because of the experience students gain from being an SGA senator, Katie Huston, an off-campus senator, encouraged students to apply to the position, even if it means taking on more responsibility.
“Students should apply to be a senator because of the satisfaction you get from becoming involved in student government,” Huston said. “Sometimes the process can be overwhelming, but the positives are many.”
Hansen said the things he's learned in senate will carry over to any job he gets.
“This role will help me in the future in many ways — professionalism, leadership, communications and transparency with peers and faculty,” he said.
Although Peterson is not returning as a senator in 2016-17 school year, there are still things he said he took away from his experience.
“I have discovered the skills for motivating and communicating my ideas to a group of people. I can now have the confidence in my ability to lead, communicate and argue my beliefs,” he said. “Some of my toughest opposition came from senate; however, I have learned such valuable skills in these leadership situations that I will be tapping into in the future.”
Without senators, many issues around campus would not be brought to the attention of those who can act on those problems.
Once a piece of legislation passes the senators in student senate, it begins to work its way through university governance when higher officials can start to look at the issues.
Torrence said it is her favorite part of the position.
“Being a senator shows you many behind-the-scenes aspects of Ball State. It allows you to see how many things operate and how they can affect you and other students,” she said. “My favorite part of being a senator is helping to make a difference in something, whether it is large or small.”