For the first time in the long history of the College of William and Mary’s Student Assembly elections, an undergraduate student and a graduate student are running together for SA president and vice-president.
Presidential candidate Sarah Rojas ’10 and her running mate Ryan Ruzic J.D. ’11 say this combination is one of their fundamental strengths.
“We want to bring together the passion of the undergrads with the experience of the grad [students],” Rojas said.
Rojas, a government and black studies double major, has served in the SA senate for three years and was chair of the Senate Public Affairs Committee.
She is also an active member of several other campus organizations including the NAACP and the Inter-Sorority Council.
Ruzic explained that Sarah’s experience as a committee chair has allowed her to develop relationships with other student leaders, the administration, members of the Board of Visitors and officials in the Williamsburg community, which would facilitate their communication with groups outside of the SA.
“We didn’t approach these groups for the first time before we ran … there’s already mutual trust,” he said.
Ruzic brings executive experience to the ticket — he served two years as president of the student government at the University of Illinois where he earned his undergrad degree in political science and English literature.
He was involved in student government throughout his four years there, and he has served as a senator, representing the law school, at the College for one year.
Both Rojas and Ruzic say that their passion for the College community can be seen in their involvement in activities outside of the SA.
“We’ve demonstrated this by being part of [other student] organizations long before running,” Rojas said.
Rojas describes “revamping the Student Assembly’s connection with students” as the main focus of their campaign.
They want to increase contact between the SA and other student organizations by sending ambassadors from the SA to student organization meetings. Because these groups receive their funding from the SA, she says it’s important to maintain constant communication.
“We don’t want to step on any toes,” Rojas said, “but we want to be a resource [for these groups].”
They also plan on posting weekly YouTube videos updating students on what they are accomplishing.
“These videos are intended to keep ourselves responsible to the community,” Ruzic said.
Both emphasized that they intend to collaborate with a variety of student organizations. Rojas described ways the SA could be more of a resource to the Greek community.
Through working with the Council for Fraternity Affairs and the ISC, Rojas and Ruzic believe the SA could improve as both a source of funding for events such as the annual ARC Carnival, as well as advocating on behalf of special-interest housing issues, which typically affect Greek-Life.
Their strategies for promoting a greener campus also rely on collaboration.
Rojas and Ruzic have met with members of SEAC to develop a plan for bringing a recycling program to graduate student housing and to finalize a campus-wide recycling contract, which Rojas said would save money for the school.
They also want to work with Dining Services to expand efforts in bringing local and organic food on campus.
One of their immediate projects will be collecting contact information for sexual assault response resources, such as the Sexual Assault Peer Advocates, printed on the back of all student IDs.
“Sexual assault awareness and prevention is a big passion of mine,” Ruzic, who was a member of the University of Illinois’ men’s sexual assault education group, said.
To increase campus safety, Ruzic and Rojas plan to improve lighting on campus and post contact information for sexual assault response resources in local bars.
They will also propose ways to increase attendance at sexual assault education programs.
“We want to make sure every student at the College has attended an Every Two Minutes or One in Four presentation during orientation,” Rojas said.
Rojas and Ruzic are looking to make changes off-campus as well, both in town-gown relations and with the rest of the state.
“This is a major year for student relations in Williamsburg,” Rojas said.
They said that they intend to work with the City Council to reform the three-person rule and to increase student participation in city elections.
Working with legislators in Richmond is also a priority for the candidates, especially through increasing involvement in “Road to Richmond” and the College’s Richmond internship program.
“We want to make William and Mary have a presence in Richmond,” Rojas said.
Rojas and Ruzic stress that their combination of experience and passion for the College community will allow them to connect the SA to the students it represents.
“William and Mary needs a Student Assembly that’s in touch with the students,” Rojas explained. “[We] know what the issues really are.”