Class of 2020 President Kelsey Vita ’20 has served in Student Assembly for three years. Now, Vita hopes to be elected as SA president to represent the entire student body and enact policy-based change on campus.
Vita selected current SA Senate Chair Ellie Thomas ’20 as her running mate. Thomas likewise believes that by fostering an environment of communication and accessibility within SA, meaningful and tangible change can be enacted alongside the administration that helps the College’s student body.
Both Vita and Thomas have worked on a variety of bills and served on several different committees throughout their time on SA. Vita is an executive liaison for the senate and is responsible for updating the senate on executive plans at each meeting. She also is the chair of the Student Rights Committee, where the committee is currently creating a student bill of rights.
Vita is currently working with the College’s chapter of Amnesty International in order to make the campus more accessible to refugees. She has been the primary sponsor of SA’s Transgender Awareness Week for three years. Vita also spearheads the SA FAQ Week, which is designed to teach the student body more about SA. Vita has also worked with Undersecretary of Student Affairs Caleb Rogers ’20 to create the Student Residents Group, which works with the city of Williamsburg to voice student concerns and attends city meetings. Both Vita and Thomas co-founded the SA Title IX Committee, which has inspired much of their campaign involving Title IX reform on campus.
I would say that a lot of my priorities have been related to making sure that this campus is an accessible space for students of all different communities. In addition to making it safe, I think that connects to the work we have done with Title IX. Student rights [and] mental wellness is something that is also very important to me.
“I would say that a lot of my priorities have been related to making sure that this campus is an accessible space for students of all different communities,” Vita said. “In addition to making it safe, I think that connects to the work we have done with Title IX. Student rights [and] mental wellness is something that is also very important to me.”
Thomas was the chair of the Public Affairs Committee her sophomore year. Thomas communicated with the College’s Chief of Police Deborah Cheesebro from her sophomore year onwards to discuss campus safety, which is among her campaign’s primary initiatives.
Thomas has been part of multiple initiatives this year to improve safety at the College, including improving lighting around campus and installing rapid flashing beacons at relatively unsafe areas around campus. One of Thomas’ favorite bills she sponsored on this campus have involved interfaith harmony. Both Thomas and Vita have also worked on the Out of the Darkness walk, which promotes mental health and student well-being.
“It’s been such a growth experience for me this past year in just learning how to lead by listening and how to work with many, many people and senate, and kind of serve as the face of the senate,” Thomas said. “I’ve organized all of the meetings, all of the retreats that have happened, the bonding and tried to create an environment that’s welcoming for senators, especially the freshman so they feel comfortable.”
One piece of legislation Vita and Thomas are both proud to have worked on is “The . Act” that sought to provide menstrual products in women and gender neutral bathrooms around campus.
In addition to SA, Vita and Thomas are both active around campus through other organizations. They are both members of the Alpha Chi chapter of Gamma Phi Beta.
Vita is also an executive board member for the William and Mary Young Democrats, which she has participated in since her freshman year.
I think being a part of those political conversations on campus is really enlightening.
“I think being a part of those political conversations on campus is really enlightening,” Vita said. “It was an interesting time to be coming into campus as a Democrat because I think there was a lot of political polarization that we are still seeing today, so I think that has informed my work in Student Assembly because I think I felt like I had a responsibility to stand up for certain issues related to justice. I think that has informed my work but I know that at the same time when I enter Student Assembly I’m taking off my Democrat hat; I represent all students.”
In addition to Young Democrats, Vita is part of a women’s wellness group on campus called the International Movement for Resilience, Authenticity and Activism, which strives to start intersectional conversations about different women on campus. Vita discussed how her generalized anxiety has contributed to her desire of fostering safe spaces for others on campus so that students can engage in authentic and honest conversation. Thomas also has participated as a delegate for the Panhellenic Council, which oversees the College’s sororities and maintains safety standards among its chapters.
Thomas also started her own club called the Alexander Hamilton Society, which discusses informed policy and international security to foster debate on campus. She also serves on the committee for the 100 years of coeducation at the College as the student representative.
Vita and Thomas felt that experiencing the leadership of other strong women in SA helped them grow as both as women and as student leaders. They have also felt that the culture of the senate has changed, and that senators now forge more collaborative relationships with each other that benefit the organization’s functional operation.
“It’s been a privilege to learn and serve with other people,” said Thomas. “I know that I have had mentor’s in senate that I know have changed my life like Emily Grace Thomas and Alaina Shreves, and Annalise Yackow who just taught me how to be a strong female leader. I think finding my voice in that has been incredible.”