Four pairs of candidates running for president and vice president of the University of Indianapolis’ Student Government Association were announced recently, according to an email from Senior Associate Dean of Student Life and Leadership Steven Freck on April 4. The inaugural, 2023-2024 SGA election is scheduled to run from Monday, April 17 to Thursday, April 20, according to Freck’s email.
According to the April 4 email, the 2023-2024 SGA candidates are:
- Presidential, Stephano Ibarra Shishido and vice-presidential, Erick Cavazos
- Presidential, Harley Avery and vice-presidential, Bryce Logan
- Presidential, Abigail Wittenmyer and vice-presidential, Kelli Thomas
- Presidential, Marliss Winfrey and vice-presidential, Cesar Rivera
Each pair’s campaign statement via the Office of Student Affairs can be found on the “Student Activities” page on the MyUIndy website.
Ibarra Shishido and Cavazos
Ibarra Shishido is a sophomore business management major and Cavazos is a sophomore sports management major. According to Ibarra Shishido’s mission statement, he wants to promote communication between students, faculty and administration.
“I feel like UIndy needs a change, a bigger change,” Ibarra Shisido said. “…[With past administration] I felt like we needed more support and engagement in the facilities, engagement with food [and] engagement in security.”
According to Ibarra Shishido, enhancement in security and food quality is one of the improvements his team plans to make at UIndy. Ibarra Shishido said he was in a car wreck two weeks ago and was two blocks away from campus, but when he called UIndy Police, he was told the department did not cover the area where the wreck occurred. Additionally, part of the team’s plan to enhance food quality on campus includes increasing the value of a meal swipe.
Cavazos said Ibarra Shishido’s driven personality, Ibarra Shishido motivating him and the two being swim teammates were reasons he decided to run for vice president.
“…He has a very motivated, hard-working [and] driven personality, more than anything,” Cavazos said. “And so he just motivated me to do it more than anything. Because of his motivation, I was like, ‘You know what, let’s take a crack at it. Let’s do it.’”
According to Ibarra Shishido, if he were to be elected, appointing a cabinet for SGA will include members from the other running tickets who did not obtain the seat.
“…[We would] see which one is the best candidate for the different roles that we have,” Ibarra Shishido said.
Ibarra Shishido said if he and Cavazos are elected, he wants to increase connection and transparency between students and the administration.
“This is teamwork,” Ibarra Shishido said. “… I think what motivates me more [than anything] is to be the students’ voice.”
Bolstering campus community and experience, according to Cavazos, will involve making UIndy memorable for students.
“I just want to ensure that incoming classes [and] even students that are currently finishing up their years still get an enjoyable experience of being a part of the community, being involved with events going on, just having fun and having that experience of remembering the school in a positive view, ” Cavazos said. “… We want to just really give them the proper experience they [students] deserve. We’re a private college; We have a really good following, and it’s just going to get bigger and bigger as the years go by. So more than anything, me and Stephano [Ibarra Shishido] really want to hammer in students being heard and getting what they want.”
Ibarra Shishido said he also wants to improve students’ experience at UIndy.
“I’m a commuter,” Ibarra Shishido said. “I don’t live on campus. I don’t get much of the experience that most students get if they live on campus. So reaching out to those individuals and helping them just experience a better college immersion just being …[is] like the biggest goal we have.”
Avery and Logan
Avery is a junior political science major with a concentration in pre-law and Logan is a junior international relations major. According to their official campaign statement from Student Affairs, their primary goals are to create better transparency and communication across campus, create safer walkways and focus on inclusion, access, support and community involvement.
Logan said that the reason they focused on transparency between the faculty and students at UIndy was because he and Avery noticed that communication has lacked in the years following the COVID-19 pandemic, especially regarding safety on campus.
“With our campaign and us running for president and vice president, we’re looking to establish a better line of communication between faculty and students…,” Logan said. “Even within our friend groups, or just looking through the UIndy app, there’s always been a concern regarding safety, security and transparency, because it seems like sometimes we’re kind of left in the dark with certain things. We want to just be able to bridge the gap between those two.”
Avery said that it is important to them that minority groups are protected and that students’ situations are taken seriously, regardless of their background, what they believe or who they are. She said that they want to make sure everyone knows their rights and that those rights are protected.
Logan said the parts of their campaign they focused on the most were chosen because they affect his and Avery’s lives the most. He said that being around these issues so often has shown them that there are things the campus can improve upon.
“So often I’ve heard so much about it, that putting ourselves into these leadership positions to have discussions with the vice president [and] president of the university, the dean, the faculty and staff UIndy Police [and being] that voice for our community here is imperative for the success of UIndy students as they go through their four or five years here and making sure they feel welcome and safe, and that they feel like a family,” Logan said.
If elected, Avery and Logan said they will choose their cabinet members from people that are not just their friends, and they have already spoken to some of the people they would look to elect.
“We’re really looking for people that are eager to be on campus, too,” Avery said.
Logan also said that they hope to make the cabinet diverse in order to properly represent the student body. He said that it is important to include people from different majors other than political science and international relations because not every student is in those majors, but their voices still need to be heard.
“ … We want to pull all types of ideas coming from different areas because those people are what make and constitute the student body of UIndy,” Logan said. “And if those voices aren’t heard, if we’re not hearing from, you know, the nurses, we’re not hearing from the engineers, is it truly a student government if it’s not composed of those who are part of the student body?”
Wittenmyer and Thomas
Wittenmyer is currently a junior theatre and communication major with a minor in political communication. She has a background in leadership through theater. Wittenmyer said she wants to make UIndy “more accessible and open for more opportunities for everybody,” which primarily starts with “a voice for students.”
Thomas is a senior theatre and sociology major who is planning on becoming a graduate sociology student at UIndy next year. In the past, she has served as the president of the Black Student Association and in other various leadership roles on campus. Although she has a history as a leader on campus, Thomas said she felt like she was “hitting a wall there as far as making real change happen,” at UIndy. Thomas said she sees SGA as an opportunity to uplift students’ voices and initiate change at the university.
The pair is primarily concerned with fostering community and recognition for students at UIndy, according to Thomas, which starts with listening to the student body’s feelings. Thomas said the two feel—and have seen through sociology research—that several groups of students on campus lack a sense of belonging and appreciation on campus. They are also focused on connecting students directly with university administration, Thomas said, to bolster transparency, accountability and communication on campus.
“It’s all about getting in the room [with administrators],” Thomas said. “It’s making sure that our administration, our leaders in this institution, are hearing us and sharing, as well as if we have updates, we’re gonna give them to the student body. We’re gonna make sure that they’re heard and they understand what’s going on.”
Wittenmyer said she has put a lot of thought into who they will choose to serve in their cabinet if the pair is elected.
“…[Choosing our cabinet] would just be a lot of forward-thinking of who, like Kelli [Thomas] said, ‘Who isn’t in the room right now? Who isn’t being discussed?’ and then bring them in,” Wittenmyer said. “Most prominently those people and then also just our biggest pillars on campus, who affects the class the most. So, we’re talking about student leadership, so probably RSO [Registered Student Organization] representatives, which immediately affect the students and the people…”
The two said they are “strong partners” because they have shared goals and values, but each of them also bring different perspectives to the table. Wittenmyer said both Thomas and she want to embody the university’s motto “Education for service” through SGA if they were elected.
“Kelli [Thomas] and I really value every student here, and their needs and their wants and desires,” Wittenmyer said. “And I just can’t emphasize enough about how much I want to build this campus up to be a welcoming and really open space.… We’re both such passionate people about people.”
Winfrey and Rivera
Winfrey is a senior with a double major in nursing and psychology and Rivera is a senior international relations major. Both Winfrey and Rivera will be graduating in December 2023 and if elected, plan to train their cabinet to take over after they graduate. As part of their platform, Winfrey and Rivera said they are passionate about the student experience. According to their official campaign statement, they believe college should be the best years of your life and that the university’s leadership is dedicated to providing that experience.
“We decided that we have to be the change that we want to see,” Winfrey said. “We’ve been here for a while and we’ve seen the different transitions of campus life: how it went from being fun to not fun, from being COVID[-19] to not COVID[-19]. We’ve been here through it all and we are very passionate about making change. Since we’ve seen it all [and] we know how things work, we decided that we want to go forward and really be the voice of the students that we wish that we had after the government [Indiana Student Government] dissolved prior.”
Prior to running for the SGA election, Winfrey was formerly the president of the Black Student Association and Rivera is currently a part of the Hispanic Latinx Collectivo. Additionally, Winfrey and Rivera have been involved in several changes around campus as members of the Student Experience Committee, according to Winfrey. This group focuses on safety, dining and housing. As members, they have met with administration within those areas of campus life and worked to implement changes that students have brought to their attention, Winfrey said.
The work Winfrey has done with this committee resulted in season racks in the dining hall, input on the upcoming dining hall renovations, discussions about increased police presence on campus and ultimately helping students flourish on campus, she said. Rivera said this experience has made them fit for leadership roles.
“When I first got here, we didn’t have any Office of Inclusive Excellence,” Rivera said. “And throughout the past three years, we’ve built this office [OIE] and established Juneteenth, Slay Week [and] BelongSpace. And along with those establishments, we were able to become better leaders. And I feel like in order to have a good leader, they need that leadership experience. And we definitely both have that.”
Winfrey and Rivera’s platform focuses on creating a bridge between the campus community and administration, according to their official campaign statement. A part of this includes plans to build a campus forum, similar to a town hall, where students can voice their concerns directly to the different sectors of the university, Winfrey said. These forums will most likely include university police, dining services, residence life and the president’s office, she said.
“I believe that if students can identify who’s in charge, who they need to talk to, and build those relationships, things will get done a lot faster,” Winfrey said. “It’s a very expedient process when you have connections in place. Relationships are so important. That’s a big part of the community here. I feel like we’re so estranged, that we want to take any opportunity we can to build community, but we’re really big on fun, unity and community.”