President Frances Watson
Frances Watson, a junior computer science major, took on the position of Student Government Association president for the Spring 2020 semester after her predecessor, Vrinda Deshpande, resigned. Watson had previously served as executive vice president since the beginning of last fall semester, and had been a senator prior to that.
Though there has not been a midyear change in the presidency in recent years, Assistant Director of Leadership and Governance for Campus Life and SGA Advisor Candace Martinez-Doane explained that the transition was not difficult; because presidents and executive vice presidents run on a ticket together, they usually share similar goals and ideas for their time in SGA. “I would categorize the transition as pretty seamless,” she said.
For Watson, the transition involved learning what her duties were in her new position, both in terms of “what people need from the president” as well as what her day-to-day responsibilities would be. Additionally, because she was moved into the office of president, one of her first tasks was to find someone to fill the role of executive vice president.
Along with participating in SGA, Watson is also a Center for Women in Technology scholar, and her studies within the field of computer science are more related to her work as president than you might expect. She cites her scrum master certification, which verifies that she is qualified to lead a team in agile environments for software developers, as requiring leadership and management skills similar to the ones required by her position within SGA.
“I think with that certification, I’ve been really able to spot the times in a meeting where I realize we need to take a pause,” she said. The certification, she added, has shown her the importance of “understanding the people in the room, understanding how to give them the room that they need to be productive and giving them the room they need to do that.”
Watson, who has not yet decided if she will be running as the incumbent in the upcoming SGA election, shared that her goal for this semester is to stifle the spread of misinformation on campus and to promote better communication of information to the student body. “There’s a disconnect between the narrative on campus and what is actually happening,” she said, citing discourse surrounding broken elevators on campus and how few people are aware of the fact that there is a plan in place to fix them.
The first step in addressing misinformation on campus, Watson said, is making sure she herself is well-informed: “Understanding everything that the school is doing on those issues is first and foremost. If I don’t have that information, I can’t distribute it.” She then plans to distribute information in concise, digestible formats, acknowledging that few students would be willing to read multi-page documents.
Martinez-Doane is confident in Watson’s ability to lead the SGA in the coming semester. “Frances, having come into senate midyear, really was able to navigate a group that had already been formed and find her place and space in that group, and then become known as someone who people could rely on,” she said. “She operates within a major and a field [where] there’s not a lot of people who look like Frances; there’s not a lot of black women within comp-sci. So, she’s had to develop a certain set of skills to be heard and to be treated as an equal, because she is. … I think that makes her a woman to be reckoned with.”
Executive Vice President Patrick Reid
Patrick Reid, a political science and global studies double major, was appointed to the role of executive vice president of the Student Government Association after the shift in the Executive Board left an opening during winter break. Reid was elected as an SGA senator in 2018 after being voted in by the student body.
At the time, Reid ran his senatorial campaign on an “active and engaged” student body, with a focus on police accountability. “That’s one of the most important things I was working on. It’s something that I would like to continue working on as Executive Vice President,” Reid said. “One of the things I’ve talked about a lot this week during my confirmation hearings was [that] we need to make sure we’re executing what’s already on the table. I think that there have been a lot of events planned and I want to make sure we can pull them off as successfully as possible.”
Reid was abroad in Dublin in the fall of 2019, where he attended University College Dublin, which meant that he could not participate in SGA last semester. “In both confirmation hearings, I spoke on [how] I recognize that I’m entering a space where I have to relearn things as well as stay on top of the game. What’s nice is that I’ve spent a lot of time over the past week meeting with people in the organization. I’ve had, probably like five meetings just this week, just to catch up.”
He stated that he feels that he is at a “significant disadvantage” due to the time he missed out on involvement in campus politics, but he feels that he is capable of taking on the challenges.
Because he was appointed to the Executive Vice President position, due to a vacancy during the middle of an academic year, Reid was not voted in by students this semester.
Instead, he was appointed by Frances Watson, who took over as the SGA President, and confirmed through hearings, but he says he has plans to work with the Senate to communicate with his constituency. “I have been elected before [as an SGA Senator], but one of the things that they’re working on in the Senate is revamping how they connect with the student body through office hours and through other means of outreach,” Reid said. “I really want to work with the Senate on [these issues]. They push us to make sure we’re representing the students, and we always encourage them.”
Reid believes the two most important issues affecting students on campus are improving accessibility and encouraging students to care about the census, which is coming up on April 1, 2020.
Correction: The caption for the header photo in the print edition of the article erroneously stated that the photo of Watson and Reid was taken in front of the quad, rather than beside the statue of True Grit.