2016 Student Body President Candidates Preview
This week, the five candidates for Student Body President for the 2016-2017 school year are releasing their platforms and will begin campaigning for the demanding position. Jonah Ortiz ('17), Megan Ristine ('17), Dorea Slagle ('17), Patrick Thomas ('17) and Katherine Thompson ('17) represent various segments of the King’s community, but all of the candidates for Student Body President seek to reinvest in the school that has shaped their lives. I sat down with each candidate to discover more about their King’s experiences and unique qualifications. Read on for introductions to your candidates for Student Body President.
House of Churchill — Politics, Philosophy, and Economics
Ortiz never planned on attending King’s and didn’t “fall in love” with the institution until his sophomore year, when he realized he was “getting a great education.” Ortiz, now president of King’s Debate Society, said he believes that “King’s is what higher education should look like.”
The school’s problems (“even something you love can have problems”), paired with encouragement from fellow students and former presidents, convinced Ortiz to pursue a run for SBP, a role in which he hopes to grant students “a stake in their own government,” create an environment “in which students are actually engaged with the politics of their school” and end the gap between “what students experience at King’s, and what members of the Council experience at King’s.” These goals come at the end of a year of research on Ortiz’s part, a year during which he studied meeting minutes, constitutions and bylaws, and also conducted meetings with various leaders at the school.
When asked about his defining qualifications as an SBP candidate, Ortiz mentioned his success as president of the Debate Society, through which he’s managed a budget larger than all other organizations combined, hosted and organized tournaments with more than 200 students and worked with members of the administration. He also said his unique experience at King’s gives him the ability to “be accessible and be the people’s advocate.”
House of Queen Elizabeth I — Business Administration and Management
Like Ortiz, Ristine expressed a deep love for King’s, crediting her House and its upperclassmen for pouring into her and shaping her experience at the school. She also mentioned her job in the President’s Office, where she works alongside Drs. Gregory and Kimberly Thornbury, as an opportunity to “get [the Thornbury’s] vision of where they want the college to go.”
That vision compelled Ristine to run for SBP. “It’s such an opportunity to latch onto [that vision] and work to take the school to the next level,” she said of the role, adding that the SBP is someone who “comes alongside and gathers the student body to rally behind where the President of our college is taking the school.”
In addition to her unique relationship with the administration, Ristine also noted her exceptional relationship with the student body. During her sophomore year, she served as Helmsman for QE1, a role in which she enjoyed creating community and drawing students in. Lastly, Ristine cited as a particular blessing the intentional friendships she formed as a freshman, which she said will help her campaign.
“Having friend groups in a lot of different areas of the school has been fulfilling for me, but it’s also given me a good read on where the student body is and where they want to go,” she said.
House of Truth — Media, Culture, and the Arts
Slagle’s decision to run for Student Body President hinged on a question. “When I look back at King’s,” she said, “what do I want to say I gave to it?”
She spoke to the importance not only of the leadership roles she has held at King’s (Slagle previously served as President of the King’s Players and Associate Helmsman for the House of Sojourner Truth), but also of the opportunities she’s had “to take a step back from leadership and ask what it means to be someone who follows someone else.” Slagle hopes to embody those lessons as SBP, pledging to fight for the student body and convey who King’s is “in a very genuine way.”
Her experiences as a leader and as a servant are ones Slagle believes will empower her candidacy. As the current President and former Artistic Director of the King’s Players, Slagle has taken the group from being one of King’s newest organizations to being 75 percent self-sustainable, and is producing the New York premiere of Charles Strouse’s musical, A Pound in Your Pocket, next weekend.
Slagle’s work ethic and dedication to the school are qualities she also thinks will resonate, considering that she began her education at King’s online, working 50 hours per week, and relies on “loans, scholarships, and working really hard” (Slagle currently works three jobs) to finish her education. According to Slagle, the “Student Body President is going to have to fight for the school. And I think I’ve defended the school in my own life.”
House of Reagan — Politics, Philosophy, and Economics
Committed to George Washington University since his sophomore year of high school, it was sheer coincidence that Thomas, walking back from Battery Park on a trip to Manhattan in March of his senior year, looked up and to the right (“not up and to the left, unfortunately”) to see the King’s logo above 56 Broadway. After almost three years at King’s, Thomas is certain he made the right choice, conveying gratitude for the community “that held me to an agreed upon standard and forced me to be vulnerable and to admit my own brokenness,” adding that it “shaped” him.
As Student Body President, Thomas hopes to “steward the school humbly and faithfully” as he manages the cabinet, leads the Council (“a Student Body President can only achieve as much as the Council is willing to achieve”), advocates for the student body and articulates the mission of the school to potential donors. He believes he can inspire students, faculty members and supporters alike with “a concise understanding of where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going as a student body.”
As the only SBP candidate currently serving on the Council, Thomas, President of the House of Ronald Reagan, stressed the unique experience and leadership that “has prepared me to be in this position,” also citing his jobs in admissions, student services and faculty assistance as roles that lend him credibility. Thomas looks to build upon that credibility as SBP, both in his own life and in student government as well, and to encourage ownership and vision in the student body.
House of Thatcher — Politics, Philosophy, and Economics
‘Lost’ is the word Thompson uses to describe herself during her first year at King’s.
“I didn’t really have an established direction, I didn’t know what my convictions were, and I didn’t know what kind of community I wanted to be in,” she said. Thompson, who entered as a first year sophomore, shared that through the school’s community, which has “been willing to challenge me to question harder, to think about things on a deeper level, to engage in both intellectual and emotional culture,” she’s found convictions and faith.
The shift in Thompson’s life encouraged her to run for Student Body President: “The very least I can do to give back is return the favor with some of the ideas that I have,” she said. Thompson, who describes herself as “a nice mesh of Calvin Coolidge and Margaret Thatcher,” seeks to be an efficient manager and a creative and empathetic force for the school and its organizations. She especially hopes to empower student leaders to “be autonomous leaders and to feel the duty and the weight of what they have on their shoulders.”
As Scholar for the House of Thatcher and special events assistant in the alumni relations office, she also believes her small say-do gap will give her credibility.
“I deliver in hard work. I’m the person you will see sitting here until 2 a.m. working on a project if it needs to get done. Public service isn’t sexy,” she said, referring to Parks and Recreation heroine Leslie Knope, “but we do it because we get to do small, incremental change in the lives of others while doing it with a team that we love.”