CATHOLIC VALUES COLUMNIST
Emma Vansuch isn’t letting a lack of formal Student Government experience stop her from running to be next year’s president.
Vansuch, a junior resident assistant in Sts. Louis and Elizabeth Halls, has teamed up with fellow RA Patrick O’Brien to form one of two tickets running to be next year’s Student Government president and vice president. She says that despite not previously serving on Student Government, she and O’Brien bring a talented team with a unique perspective to the election.
“I think we have a bit more full perspective of the campus than someone who puts most of their college career into Student Government directly,” she said in a phone interview Sunday. “We think … it’s good to have fresh eyes (and) fresh energy.”
Vansuch and O’Brien are running on a platform of three promises: expanding the university’s counseling center and services, extending hours for the J.C. Williams Center and installing a fruit smoothie machine in Antonian Hall. Additionally, the Vansuch-O’Brien platform includes goals such as more options at Antonian for special diets, extending gym hours and funding the Nurse to Nurse program.
“We don’t want to over-promise on anything,” said Vansuch on the distinction between her platform’s promises and goals. “We wanted to make sure that the things that we’ve promised, we really were able to pull through on and able to give our full attention to. The goals that we have, in general, are probably a little less researched and a little less thoroughly planned out but definitely things that we are aiming to do.”
Vansuch said mental health is by-and-far her campaign’s priority because “it’s a huge issue that’s not being taken care of well enough by enough people” on campus.
As a first-year resident assistant, Vansuch said she encountered the mental health crisis head on. She said that over the past school year, she had to call 911 for at least three of her 43 residents who were struggling with suicidal thoughts. Each of those residents indicated that they had attempted to go to the university’s Counseling Center and had to be placed on a waitlist instead of being seen, she said.
“Everything is underfunded, understaffed, and (mental health) is just not getting the priority that I think the level of crisis demands,” Vansuch said. “(This isn’t) just numbers, these are actual people that we … talked things out with and sat with through things like suicide watch.”
While the university has never recorded a completed suicide, Vansuch said it’s just a matter of time, which is “something that (O’Brien and I) in good conscience don’t feel we can sit back and just kind of watch happen.”
If elected, Vansuch said her administration’s “real goal” regarding mental health would be getting people off the waitlist, although she didn’t say exactly how that would happen. Additionally, she said Student Government will lobby the administration and the Counseling Center to make student mental health a university-wide priority with a greater portion of attention and to expand in-person counseling services to the Gaming study-abroad campus, where only counseling via video calls is available.
Nurse to Nurse funding
Vansuch noted that nursing students make up a significant portion of the university’s student body; in fact, her running mate, O’Brien, is a nursing major. She is proposing that Student Government supports Nurse to Nurse, a nursing student mentoring club, financially, especially with the expenses related to purchasing uniforms for the students’ clinicals.
“It runs a few hundred dollars to buy (nursing students’) stuff,” Vansuch said. “We don’t want that to ever be like a really big stressor for the nursing students. … Some are fully capable (of purchasing their uniforms) but others really struggle with finding the money for that.”
While Vansuch didn’t have an exact estimate of the cost that such a program would run, she said it would depend on if Student Government would fund costs for all nursing students or if it would be on a case-by-case basis.
“(The cost) shouldn’t be too bad in the grand scheme of things,” she said.
When Vansuch and O’Brien selected their cabinet, they wanted people on their team who were passionate about the “Putting People First” slogan the pair had chosen to guide their campaign. Additionally, they looked for people who had the experience and competency that could make up for Vansuch’s and O’Brien’s lack of Student Government experience.
“We worked really hard to make sure that our team has a lot of experience, so that if there’s anything specific where experience plays a big part, which it can, we want to make sure that we’re backed by (our team’s) experience,” Vansuch said.
Like their opponent’s campaign, the proposed Vansuch-O’Brien team includes justice nominees, a move not many campaigns have taken in previous elections. However, they chose to only put forth two candidates, leaving two more positions open if her campaign wins, Vansuch said — flexibility that would allow freshmen or other qualified students to join her team in the fall.
Vansuch’s proposed executive and judicial members are as follows: O’Brien, vice president; Joseph Suess, treasurer; Mary Bridget Dillon, internal auditor; Hope Mercugliano, secretary; Theresa Uhlenkott, public relations liaison; Alex McKenna, executive assistant; Mary Ann Cortese, chief justice; Julia Post, justice; and Arianna Rodriguez, justice.
Vansuch said she wants her campaign slogan — “Putting People First” — to be the guiding force of her presidency if she wins.
“We’re running based entirely off of needs that we see,” she said. “There’s no personal gain or motivation in any real way for any of us. It’s in many ways very service oriented.”
Vansuch said she plans to give her campaign’s promises full attention to ensure their effectiveness and feasibility, especially mental health awareness and support. That issue was what led her and O’Brien to consider running for Student Government in the first place, and she said she hopes to help readdress how the university handles the issue.
“We’re here to make sure that the people are being advocated for through Student Government,” she said, “and that the people’s real needs are being met, particularly through the counseling service. I think it really just kind of comes down to that, that we’re in it for the people.”
For more information on the Vansuch-O’Brien campaign, visit facebook.com/vansuchobrien20/.