Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

SGA Vice President Garrett Gowen making history

Cade Belisle/Collegian

Since Elementary School, University of Massachusetts senior Garrett Gowen has been interested in history, instilling in him a passion for the past and politics.

“You can’t just shake off something that you’ve wanted to do since second grade,” he said of his disciplines in history and political science, adding that his interest in history has been “longstanding” and his passion for politics “plays a more contemporary part” of his life.

Gowen, of Sandwich, currently holds the first-ever vice presidential position in the University’s Student Government Association, an organization he has been a part of for four terms. He previously served as Orchard Hill Area governor, two terms as Orchard Hill Senator and Chair of the Finance Committee.

Gowen, who is “tentatively” associated with the Republican Club, said his political role model is former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a British politician known for her uncompromising conservative politics, and has a portrait of her hanging above his office desk.

“She models a certain type of conservative value I support,” Gowen said, adding that although he admires Thatcher’s “resolute firmness,” he doesn’t bring similar political values into his role in the SGA.

“It’s importance to stress the nonpartisan nature of the student government because our political value, in context, is students,” he said.

For Gowen’s term as vice president – a 30 to 40 hours per week paid position, he said – Gowen said he is focusing on “a broad-based campaign to open communication and collaboration. They sound so simple, but they’re never done.”

Moving forward, he wants to focus on communication.

“To these ends, I am seeking to open up the channels of communication within SGA, between the agencies and subsidiary organizations … through increased communication with constituents and the administration,” Gowen said on the SGA website. “I find that we are at our most successful when we build a collaborative team.”

Gowen said that although he doesn’t think there is much student interest regarding his organization, the general student sentiment is changing in favor of taking notice of the SGA.

Campus Perspective SGA from Daily Collegian on Vimeo.

Gowen discussed how the size of the University plays a role in how effective it is to communicate directly to the majority of students.

“A larger population also gives way to a larger segment to those who don’t care … it’s difficult to pull meaning” out of 12 percent voter turnout, he said, referring to last spring’s election that only about an eighth of the student body participated in “the annual groaning of elections,” he said.

“It’s an on-going battle, and I think the majority of campus just doesn’t care unless there’s an issue,” he said, adding that last year’s Residential Life initial firing of the peer mentor position allegedly through email was a hot topic on campus that generated an increase in awareness of the SGA.

There is an abstract “The Man” concept surrounding University administration, floating around the general student body, Gowen said, and that the SGA is working on “trying to assert more student voice in administrative process.”

“Size is a problem, and we need to readjust how we connect with students. I think that starts with opening up communication,” Gowen said.

One way Gowen said he is trying to close the gap and improve communication between distanced administrative processes and students is by restarting the SGA coffee hour, which was “consumed by the chaos of the first few weeks of school,” he said, and encourages students to drop by the SGA office to speak with representatives.

Regarding his goal of collaboration, Gowen said he would like to see more of it in the SGA Senate because “there’s not enough of it.” He said that collaboration “at its most basic, it is a large source of man power for events and help, in its highest sense.”

Gowen said he also would like to improve collaboration between the University, the SGA, and students. He also said UMass needs to realign some of its objectives in better favor of students’ interests.

Gowen said he hoped to expand the discourse in weekly SGA meetings to topics other than managing the budget, because “outside of that, broader goals don’t tend to come up,” he said.

“I personally think the institution should be focused on broader affordability and accountability,” he said.

And though he said his “broad goal” has been to pursue realignment in the SGA in terms of student sentiment and University relations, Gowen said it’s “not going to happen in a year,” but he wishes to “lay the foundation.”

“You need to agree in the interest of students,” he said.

As for his status as a student, Gowen said that even though he is a senior, that isn’t going to change after graduation.

Gowen is intending to apply to the UMass Higher Ed or Secondary Education program for graduate school, saying he wanted to stay in the region as well as the state to be closer to his mother, who is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system and is living in his hometown of Sandwich, along with his father.

“Staying in the state is definitely helpful, for me and for her,” Gowen said of his plans to remain at UMass.

He said it wasn’t politics, but teaching he wishes to carry on with after his last year of undergraduate studies.

Chelsie Field can be reached at [email protected].



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