Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Question and Answer: SGA president/vice presidential candidates Sarah Nordberg and Stephanie Margolis are here to break barriers

Nordberg and Margolis want to help students build a better UMass

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(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

By Abigail Charpentier, Assistant News Editor

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Sarah Nordberg and Stephanie Margolis are running for Student Government Association president and vice president, respectively. Nordberg is a political science and economics junior with a minor in history and Margolis is a hospitality and tourism management and Judaic studies sophomore. Together, they are running a campaign based on breaking down barriers for students and building a better UMass.

Here is the transcript along with the audio recording of the question-and-answer interview in preparation for the debate on Monday, Feb. 19, 6-8 p.m. in the Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall.

What are some of the thing you are involved with on campus?

Sarah Nordberg: I’ve been involved in the SGA since I was a freshman. I started on the Ways and Means Committee, which allocates funding, went over to the Undergraduate Experience Committee and then formed the Academic Oversight Committee, which reviews academic policies. This year I’m the director of external operations where I make sure that we have students actually representing the students on campus to faculty and administrators in their meetings, which we did a sub-par job at in the past, so I’m happy to have been able to do that. I’m also a sister in Chi Omega on campus, I’m the vice president of it, and I attend UMass Democrats meetings.

Stephanie Margolis: I’ve been in SGA since the beginning of my freshman year as well. I started out as a special assistant for the Outreach and Development Committee and then I became a senator I think November of my freshman year and served on the Outreach and Development Committee, and then this year I’ve been serving as the chair of the Outreach and Development Committee, which focuses on outreach to the student body as well as development within the SGA and making sure we, as a community, are working well together. There’s been a lot of growth in that direction this year. Outside of the SGA, I am the president of Sigma Delta Tau, which is a sorority here on campus. I am also the president of the Student Alliance for Israel, which is a group that does Israel education and advocacy as well as just cultural events about Israel. I also am a Stand with Us Emerson fellow, which is related to Israel stuff, and I work with the David Project, which takes UMass students who are Jewish to Israel. I also am in the Club Management Association of America, which is like a hospitality group on campus. I think that’s it.

How did you two come together and decide to run together?

SN: A couple months ago I was thinking about the direction that SGA should be moving toward in the future and thought that I had a few ideas of things I thought I would want to do as president and was thinking about who would be able to do those things with me and that I thought would be able to move forward and be a powerhouse, amazing person to be my vice president and the first person I thought of was Stephanie. She’s absolutely amazing, she does incredible outreach for our organization and makes sure we have a lot of amazing people involved in the organization. She also gets stuff done like nobody I know. I talked to her about some of the visions I had for the student government in the future and listened to a few of the things that she was thinking about, that she thought the student government could really be doing better at and I think we both thought it was a good idea to move forward together and combat those things together.

SM: When Sarah asked me at first, I was excited and a little surprised, I think, I didn’t know I was on a list of people for something like this and after sitting down, we discussed everything we agreed upon, which is everything. So, it worked out pretty well and we were really excited to move forward from there.

What’s the platform you are running on?

SN: The platform we’re running on is breaking barriers to build a better future for UMass. We came up with this together because we think that students today at UMass and across the country face a lot of barriers that students haven’t necessarily faced in the past. Whether it’s tuition affordability, meal plan affordability, relationships with professors and advisors on campus. We hear lists of things that people struggle with on campus every day and we think that those barriers are things we can help students with. We want to work together to break down barriers that students are facing every day, whether it’s in their personal lives or in their academic lives or if it’s just something that’s going on on-campus that they’re seeing so we can help build a better future for UMass where students aren’t necessarily facing those barriers.

SM: One of things I’ve really keyed into is the idea of the bureaucracy that exists that holds so many students back from doing what they want to on campus. There is definitely a lack of engagement on campus to begin with, but if students who want to be engaged even don’t have the opportunity to do what they want to accomplish because of the bureaucracy and information not being streamlined to them, then that is a major issue that we want to focus on—rebuilding relationships between faculty, staff and students so that we can have students doing what they want here on campus.

How are you campaigning? Are you doing anything differently than you might have for other positions you’ve run for in the past? 

SN: Definitely we are just talking to as many people as possible. I’ve been reaching out to a lot of people recently about the things they’re seeing on campus, things that they like, things that they don’t like, things they definitely want to see changed. Because I think that in order to actively campaign for something that students want, you have to know what students really want. So, talking to a ton of people, working with some of the groups we’re involved in who have helped us grow as leaders and making sure that we are outreaching to as many people as possible on campus. I know I’ve run for senate in the past and you can only have your class vote on you for senate and I think this time around it’s definitely just making sure I’m talking to the seniors who already have jobs and are thinking off to the next thing, about the things they wished they’d seen in their UMass experiences and also the freshmen about what their incoming perspective has been like and things they’d like to see changed by the time they are seniors.

SM: This is definitely the biggest campaign I’ve ever been a part of because again, for senate it’s so minimal to your class, but I do think the one thing we are working on is our branding and really showing that we are individuals who are coming together because we want to build that future for UMass and the way we are going to do that is through our platform.

If you two are elected, what is the first thing you would do?

SN: One project I’ve been really excited about starting to work on is a donation guest swipe program.  I think that over the past year or so there has been an increase of awareness of hunger on campus and it’s something I heard a lot about and that’s something I started to see here on campus. Something we’ve been talking about is creating a program, hopefully with the help of UMass dining, where students are able to donate their guest swipes to students who might be in need of those swipes. Most incoming freshmen are on unlimited meal plans that have 15 guest swipes. I know as a freshman, I had two friends come to visit me that I used guest swipes on, and so if there is a way to donate, even part of those guest swipes to students on campus that can’t afford a meal plan or maybe are on a really limited meal plan and have run out of food. I think that’s something I really want to get going on because I think that would have a huge impact on many students’ lives.

SM: And we were actually reached out to by an organization that has been doing this on other campuses, so we are interested in looking into that organization a little bit more so that we can try and see if we can collaborate and bring them here onto campus to make sure students aren’t going hungry.

What are some things you like about your opponents?

SN: I think Tim Conceison and Jake Binnall both have great experience in the SGA. They’ve both been really involved in finance and have done some great work helping RSOs with the budgeting process and making sure they have the funding that they need and think they are really diligent in their work in that regard. Nat and Timmy are both incredible advocates for the issues that they are passionate about and I’ve really admired their work advocating for those issues, whether it be for affordable higher education or any of the issues they’ve been advocating for. I think they definitely do bring a powerful voice to campus.

SM: I agree with all of that.

What’s something different you can bring to the table that other candidates may not be able to bring? 

SN: Something I think we bring to the table is a mixture of those two strengths. I think we’ve both been involved in SGA, we’ve both been involved with student government leadership, and we understand how to get things done. We have relationships with administrators already, we know how to move forward with projects so there is no lag time as soon as we get there. But we are also passionate about a wide variety of issues that students are facing. Whether it be in their academic lives—I know I came from a portion of the SGA that is really academically focused—or for their clubs and RSOs for their personal lives. Education on sexual assault prevention, funding to clubs and RSOs, these are all issues we are aware of and are ready to advocate for and do something about the first day we are in office.

SM: Just to add on to that, I think something we have is the idea of what it really means to be a public servant and the idea that we are actually here to represent every student in the undergraduate population. It’s really important that we listen to what they want and not just have our own agenda regardless of what they want.

Do you have any additional thoughts or anything else you want to put out there?

SN: We are really excited for this campaign period. We are hoping to talk to as many people as possible and we want to hear about the issues that students are facing right now. So, if you hear of anyone who facing an issue, anyone who wants to talk to us, please reach out to us. We are more than happy to sit down and talk to you about the things you want to see change because like Stephanie said before, one thing that we’re bringing to the table is we do understand that this is a public servant job and that as SGA president and vice president, we are serving the people of UMass and I think throughout this whole campaign we want to keep it focused that way too.

SM: If you want to stay up to date on our campaign, you can like our Facebook page and you can also find our website at sarahandstephanie.weebly.com.

Abigail Charpentier can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.

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