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Interview with SGA candidates Collin Sullivan and Chiamaka Ugboh

What would be your first priority, if elected? How would you accomplish it?

Collin: I think that we talked about this during the debate a lot. I think our first priority is getting as many people involved as we possibly can from day one. We think that this means getting people involved on issues or problems that we see on campus and identifying how to come up with solutions and recruiting new members that way. Chiamaka is an Orientation Peer Advisor and she’s really going to be leaning on that experience to help bring in those new students. I’m a commuter and I’m going to be working with commuters to make sure they’re more involved because that is an area on campus that is very difficult to get people to stay involved because you come on campus and then you go home. We would need to figure out a way to work with commuters to identify problems that they want to contribute on. So from day one our biggest priority is getting more people involved.

Since you have previous SGA experience, how do you think that plays into your advantage?

Chiamaka: It gives us experience. We understand how SGA works and we understand the faults because we’ve been in SGA. We understand that there are certain problems that need to be addressed, and because we have the past experience we’re able to go and hopefully become VP and president and execute those faults that we see.

Collin: That and, like, being in different capacities helped as well. Chiamaka was the First Year Ambassador so we have insight into what that program is and how it should look like. I was a part of the Communications Department before I became Senator and now I’m Assistant Speaker so I think that between the two of us we have seen — we’ve pretty much seen everything between the senate and the executive branch. We’ve both done some time at Finance Board, going to meetings. So we know the organization really well. We know its strengths and we are able to identify how to improve upon its weaknesses.

What is the one lesson or skill you learned during your SGA experience, and how will apply it in your administrations?

Collin: I think building relationships goes a really long way and that means between members that are involved in SGA, but it means with administrators as well. If you want to get things done on this campus, you have to have a really good relationship with the students, faculty, and staff. That is how change happens, and change happens through having really, really strong relationships. So that is one of the biggest things that I’ve learned and it sounds so simple but it’s actually really difficult to build a really good relationship.

Chiamaka: And building on relationships is pretty much what I was going to say in terms of what I’ve learned is collaboration. This kind of goes hand in hand because you can ge t– not saying that one person can’t get something done — but when you have a team – and that’s what we have right now — you can really accomplish a lot, and with collaborating people are bringing out their different perspectives, bringing out new ideas, and you’re just able to really get stuff done because you have the help from others. So that’s one thing that we’ve definitely learned.

How did you come up with the CARE acronym for your campaign?

Collin: We didn’t. We worked together with our team of 15 people and it was some serious brainstorming. We all sat down and we had a conversation about “okay, what do we care about?” What are the things we want to change on our campus? And we noticed four words that we could kind of come up with together and I think someone on the team – I don’t remember who it was – someone said, CARE? And someone else came with “Together, we will.” Chiamaka and I were there facilitating the conversation, adding our own thoughts occasionally, but really we were there listening to what everyone else was thinking and trying to synthesize it to come up with the plan. And that’s what we did.

Most other tickets listed specific ideals and initiatives in their platforms. Can you list a few of yours, and how you would achieve them (for example, extended library hours, weekend programming, expansion of the Baltimore Collegetown Transit Network)?

Collin: We have a document full of potential initiatives that we want to do, so for communication one of the things – and I talked about this during the debate – was that we want to make sure that we have “office hours” but they’re not in the SGA office, they’re out and about in the UMBC community. For accountability one of the things that we want to do is at the beginning of every semester, every single body needs to come up with actionable, quantifiable, goals and those goals need to be released to the public and SGA needs to be held accountable for completing those things. For respect, that is one that we’re still trying to hone in on. We’re starting to look at diversity more and figuring out what we can do with diversity but we’re working with a lot of people about what are some good initiatives that we can take.

Chiamaka: I just wanted to say that I think it’s great also that we do have specific initiatives and we’re definitely going to do [that]. But one thing that I truly love about our platform is the whole communication part because I think it’s very important that we connect with the student body because, yes, we’re doing all these great initiatives so we need to. But in the beginning we need to make sure we’re having conversations with the student body and making sure the initiatives we’re doing truly represents what the students want because that’s very important and having conversations with the student body and communicating with the student body and continuing on the forms that we’ve done already but making sure that we’re making it on a larger scale so we can get more student feedback is very important.

You said that you two did not work alone in your platform. Why did you get a 15-17 person team to work on a platform with you? What was beneficial about it? Were there any issues that came with so many people working on it?

Collin: We have a total of 17 people, including Chiamaka and myself. So, again, I think we talk a lot about how important diversity is to us. There’s a lot of diversity in a lot of different ways in our team. You have people of different majors, people of different backgrounds, people of different walks of life, people of different skin colors, people of different religions, people of different sexual orientations, people of different gender identifications. That was so critical to us because I can only relate to one kind of person. Chiamaka can only relate to one kind of person. So I’m not going to say I’m for diversity and not have a team that is diverse in every way possible.

Let’s focus on Communication. What issues with communication do you see in the current administration?

Chiamaka: So, personally for me, I think SGA, because of past administrations, has also had a tainted reputation. I think that SGA does great work, yes, but you also have the student body that — there’s a disconnect — with seeing SGA and the student body and SGA where it’s the student body, so there should not be a disconnect. It should feel like everyone walking around undergraduate should feel like they’re a part of SGA and they’re a part of making change and they’re a part of making UMBC a greater or better campus and I think there’s a complete disconnect in terms of — you have people in SGA who are doing great things, but are there initiatives that are truly representing what the student body wants?  I just think it’s really important that whatever SGA is doing, we are really representing the student body. I strongly believe that we need to make sure we’re hearing students’ concerns and making sure that we’re doing what the student wants.

In what innovative ways will you expand the SGA’s reach?

Collin: So one of the things I love to do is to learn from other universities. What are they doing well and what are they not doing well? So I’ve already done this already with work when I came up with the Appeals Board — I contacted 10 different universities across the nation, and they were our peer institutions, they were other institutions in USM, and I made the Appeals Board by looking at them and saying: okay, what are they doing right, but more importantly, what are they doing wrong? And how can we make this right for UMBC. And I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that; about looking and seeing what other institutions are doing and figuring out: what are their strengths, what is UMBC’s spin on this, and how can we make this even better for us?

Do you think there are accountability issues with the SGA at present? What would you do to fix them?

Chiamaka: I think in any administration you have people who say they are going to do something and then it doesn’t happen. That’s just really how life goes, people say things and sometimes it doesn’t get implemented through time; something happened, but I think a great idea that Collin and I have is that as an administration, we kind of put it out there what our goal is so that way students can hold us accountable. I think that’s just one of the ways besides the SRC that we can really do that.

Collin: I think, though, that we have already done a lot to make accountability better and we’re not interested in regressing. We’re only looking to how to make things better.

How would you expand accountability measures for the SGA? Do you have any specific ideas in mind?

Collin: In terms of actual measurement, I think that there needs to be response into, responses from the SRC, I think the norm that has been made this year is good but could be made even better, like what do you do with someone that gets their half stipend. Because it needs to be beyond the conversation, conversation is good, it’s critical for long term success, but there should be something else. So, I think we’re taking steps in the right direction.

In your election page, you say: “SGA has been so focused on personalities, scandals, and drama.” Can you elaborate on that? Additionally, what would you do to improve it?

Collin: I’m not sure how much more I want to elaborate on that. I think my point that I’m trying to make is that the focus has not been on the work. The focus has not been on making things happen. I think the focus has been on the drama, and that’s not okay. That’s not what the student activity fee goes towards. It goes to making things happen.

Chiamaka: I would touch on once again, SGA does great things. The drama just sometimes hides that. People don’t see the great things that students in SGA or students anywhere are doing, because drama hides that. In any organization, we’re doing great work, and when drama comes people just focus on the drama and it’s sad and unfortunate that people don’t know what people are working on a and doing for the students because they just only look at the drama.

Collin: So we just want to remove it. Not have it. We don’t care, that’s not the focus. The focus is what we can do to make this place better. That is the overarching question that we are constantly asking ourselves.